In 1996, Quinnipiac University law professor Stephen Gilles threw down the gauntlet to opponents of parental rights with a mammoth 98-page article in the University of Chicago Law Review entitled “On Educating Children: A Parentalist Manifesto.”. Mum laughing with baby .The purpose of this manifesto was to explain and defend Gilles’ concept of “parentalism,” namely, the idea parents should always have the right to make educational decisions for their children, except in those tiny number of cases where parents abuse the children..To argue his case for parentalism, Gilles begins by asking important questions. Who has the greater incentive to ensure the child’s best interests are considered, the parents or the state? And who has more at stake in the child’s long-term well-being, the parents or the state?.The answers to these questions are unmistakable..Obviously, the parents are much more concerned about the best interests of their children than any government official. As well, those parents have much more at stake in the child’s well-being than any government official..If the child fails to receive an adequate training in skills and values, it will be the parents who pay the biggest price through the lack of success in their child’s life. They will suffer emotionally, and they may suffer financially too by supporting the child’s living expenses..This is an important point of Gilles’ manifesto. As he puts it, “parents have better incentives to act in their children’s perceived best interests than do the state and its delegates and will consequently be, on average, more faithful educational guardians. We should therefore vest educational authority in parents rather than the state.”.Of course, this has implications when government officials want to use the education system to instill certain values in children..If parents have the ultimate authority over the education of their children, then they should be able to prevent the state from forcing its views on their children..With this in mind, Gilles writes, “parents’ educational rights include the authority to reject state educational requirements that subvert or clash with the values they are trying to instill in their children.”.Parental rights advocates and progressives agree young children are too immature to make important decisions about their future. Someone else must make decisions for them until they reach maturity. The question is, who should make those decisions?.Newborn babies can’t do anything for themselves and are completely dependent upon other people for their care and survival. They must be nurtured for a long period of time, and the nurture they receive will help to determine what kind of people they will become as adults..As Gilles points out, this has very serious consequences: “The nurturing and education children need will inevitably and profoundly shape their initial values and beliefs. The authority to conduct and control childhood education thus carries with it the ability to determine what conception of the good life shall dominate children’s formative years.”.Which conception of 'the good life' — that is to say, which worldview — should be taught to children?.Clearly, it should be the parents who decide. They are the ones with the greatest incentives to pursue the child’s best interests..Indeed, consider the biological connection between the parents and their child: “The child owes its conception to sexual intercourse between its mother and father, and its birth to the reproductive labor of its mother. Every cell of the child’s body contains a unique genetic endowment, derived from its mother and father, that determines many of its characteristics and affects most others. As against the rest of the world, the child is its parents’ ‘own.’”.Some people argue the state should be in control of educating children because parents cannot be trusted to properly care for them. There are a small number of cases where parents have hurt and abused their children..This being the case, progressives say, it is safer to put the government in charge. With educational authority in the hands of the state, all children will be safe..In reality, however, that’s not true..There are plenty of instances where children have been hurt and abused in government schools by government employees. Thus, removing parental authority will not eliminate instances of child abuse and neglect..Rather than punish all parents by removing their authority, it makes much more sense to punish only the few who violate their authority over their children..Parents care more for their children’s well-being than any government official ever will. Thus the authority over the children must remain with the parents..Gilles summarizes the view presented in his manifesto by writing “individual parents should be free to pass on their values to their children and to reject state efforts to try to inculcate contrary values through mandatory public schooling, curriculum regulation, selective funding, or other coercive means.”.This is the view he calls “parentalism.”.Parents’ rights have long been part of the western tradition of freedom. Progressives, however, want to strip parents of their rights in order to transfer increasing amounts of power to the state..Prof. Gilles has provided decisive argumentation refuting the progressives and defending our historic rights and liberties.