For the welfare of his Ideal Commonwealth, Plato suggested a law which should provide:
“That the wives of our guardians are to be common, and their children are to be common, and no parent is to know his own child, nor any child his parent. . . . The proper officers will take the offspring of the goods parents to the pen or fold, and there they will deposit them with certain nurses who dwell in a separate quarter; but the offspring of the inferior, or of the better when they chance to be deformed, will be put away in some mysterious, unknown place, as they should be.”
In order to submerge the individual and develop ideal citizens, Sparta assembled the males at seven into barracks and intrusted their subsequent education and training to official guardians. Although such measures have been deliberately approved by men of great genius, their ideas touching the relation between individual and State were wholly different from those upon which our institutions rest; and it hardly will be affirmed that any legislature could impose such restrictions upon the people of a State without doing violence to both letter and spirit of the Constitution. Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 401-02 (1923), emphasis added.
The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations. Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925), emphasis added.
That some parents may at times be acting against the interests of their children . . .creates a basis for caution, but is hardly a reason to discard wholesale those pages of human experience that teach that parents generally do act in the child’s best interests. The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition. Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584, 602-03 (1979), citations omitted, emphasis added.
The liberty interest at issue in this case, “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children,” is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court. Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000).