Conservative leader and former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich writes about the California court ruling that children – even home-schooled children – must be educated by credentialed teachers, saying it is an example of “Judicial Supremacy.” In his article he quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial calling the ruling a “strange new chapter” in the “annals of judicial imperialism.” Later in the piece he writes,
The decision represents yet another case of a special interest — in this case, the education unions and bureaucracy — using the courts to get what they can’t get through the popular vote.
This is yet another example of judicial supremacy: Rule by an out-of-control judiciary rather than the will of the people. It joins court rulings such as the removal of “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance on a long list of usurpations of the freedom and self-determination of the American people.
Lets take a moment to examine what Gingrich is really complaining about here.
Here’s how the American system of law and justice is supposed to work: We have a Constitution and we have laws that we are all supposed to follow by mutual agreement. And we have in place a judicial system for interpreting our Constitution and laws, again by mutual agreement. So when there is a dispute we take that dispute to the courts, and the judges rule according to the Constitution and laws. And then we agree to follow their rulings.
Newt Gingrich and the conservatives complain that this is “Judicial Supremacy” and “judicial imperialism.” Wow, this sounds pretty bad! But look at the meaning of these negative-sounding words. Isn’t “Judicial Supremacy” really just another way of saying that we agree to follow “rule of law?” When Gingrich uses language that casts a negative frame on the concept, isn’t he undermining public respect for the rule of law? Gingrich and other conservatives are happy enough with our American system when it works in their favor but when it rules against their agenda they launch another anti-government screed.
This post is not written in opposition to home or private schooling, but to point out the importance to all of us that we all operate under the same set of agreed-upon rules. At least in California, another agreed-upon rule is that our children should receive the best possible education. Article 9 of our California Constitution states that a good education is “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” The wording at the beginning of Article 9 is as follows:
A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.
To this end Article 9 describes how California will manage a system of free, public schools. And Article 9 makes it clear that to this end our children deserve qualified, “credentialed” teachers.
Once again, We, the People of California have decided that a good education is “essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people.” This is what we want. Just what is it that Gingrich and other conservatives want instead if it doesn’t involve qualified teachers providing education to our state’s children?
Note – Gingrich also criticized court rulings mandating the “removal” of the phrase “Under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. But this misrepresents what the courts ruled. The courts ruled that public schools cannot force children to recite this pledge. It violates our Constitution’s clause against our having a government mandated religion to make children repeat that this is a nation “under God.” It also raises a question of just what he does want our Constitution to say. Does he want the government to mandate that we follow a particular religion? His writings suggest this to be the case.