Law and Liberty

Let’s say that a state passed a statute proscribing teachers from teaching reading in a language other than English until the student had passed the eighth grade.  Violation of the statute was a misdemeanor.  The state’s rationale was to assure that immigrant children learned English and assimilated.  In fact, the state declared that teaching immigrant children in a foreign tongue “was inimical to [the state’s] own safety,” adding, “the English language should be and become the mother tongue of all children reared in this state.”

Let’s further suppose that a teacher defied the law and taught reading to an elementary-school student in his native German.  The teacher was convicted and appealed, citing the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution: “no state . . . shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”  The state might then invoke the Tenth Amendment: Powers not delegated to the federal government nor prohibited to the states are reserved to the states or the people.  School curriculums are not areas of federal power, it would argue.

Let’s further suppose that the teacher’s appeals were unsuccessful, even at the state’s supreme court, which held that the law represented the state’s proper application of its power over the health and safety of its citizens. ...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here