In English law parents are responsible for seeing to it that their children receive a suitable education. There are no plans to change this. (A surprising and paradoxical consequence is that if you send your child to a lousy school which fails to educate him, then it is you who are legally to blame rather than the school!) Many home educating parents feel that they should be left in peace to discharge this duty and that it is, essentially, nobody else's business how they go about it. Are they right?
The first thing to remember is of course that "my" child is not "mine" in the way that "my" car is. Nobody owns another person. If, to take a ridiculous example, I decided to join an Aztec cult and sacrifice my child to the Sun God, society would quite rightly intervene and stop me. Most would agree that this would be a good thing. I don't even need to go that far before society will step in. If I cut or even bruise my child, I can expect a visit from either the police or social services. If I leave a child alone in the house, fail to feed her, keep her warm, let her wander the streets, go out without adequate clothing, drink too much alcohol and many other things; society declares an interest. In a sense, "my" child belongs to everybody. What about education though? Surely that is a purely personal, family matter, of no concern to society in general?
Well, let us suppose that I raise my child to hate and despise black people. Or what if I taught her that members of other religions were evil and should be killed whenever they are encountered. I wonder what would happen if I were a habitual thief and allowed her to grow up thinking that it was alright to pick pockets and rob the neighbours? Perhaps I will let her grow up thinking that it is great to live on social security and never get a job. In this sense, the way that I raise my child can have a very serious impact upon the rest of society. I think it reasonable for society to take an interest in how I bring up my child if the result will be a dangerous or anti-social creature.
Finally, suppose that I avoid neglecting her or encouraging her to be a thief or a suicide bomber. What if I simply provide a cranky or inadequate education? Is that society's affair? Well, yes. If I don't teach my child proper values and train her to be a happy and useful member of society then other people might have to take care of her when she grows up. If she lives on benefits, cannot get a job because she is uneducated or perhaps has psychological problems which make her unable to function usefully in society, then all these things are a proper concern for the state. So I must conclude that the proper education of my child is not my business alone, but a matter which concerns the general good. If I do not educate her properly, then ten years down the road the tax payers of Britain might be obliged to support her. Society does have an interest in her education and it is not a purely personal decision how I go about fulfilling my duty in that direction.