Government Should Neither Finance Colleges Nor Dictate What They Teach


Administrators and students at the University of South Carolina have been critical of a state law requiring the school to teach the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, as Campus Reform recently reported.

Although history departments in liberal arts colleges certainly should teach students about America’s founding documents and principles, government has no moral right to force colleges to teach that subject or any subject—nor does it have a moral right to compel taxpayers to finance colleges.

The guiding principle of America’s founding—regardless of whether it was consistently implemented—is that each individual has inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, and that government’s proper role is to protect these rights. Owners of a school have a right to decide how to operate their school, just as students, parents, and citizens in general have a right to decide which schools, if any, they will apply to or support.

If university administrators and government officials wish to consistently uphold the guiding principle of America’s founding—the principle of individual rights—they must demand an end both to state laws dictating college instruction and to those forcing people to finance colleges. That would provide a valuable lesson for students there and everywhere.

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