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The Guardians Will Get Us

Posted by heyrandy on March 13, 2012

Mere Creatures of the State, William Ball, 1994

This book is about the court decisions that affect religion and education. These two areas are closely related. In fact, they are the same. It may seem odd to think so, but both areas are about life. Both are about teaching, and both are about things eternal. It also a book about things temporal: your children. Are your children mere creatures of the state? This is the big question that underlies the book.

Ball’s participation in many of these cases gives us the insider’s view. His position was with the parents, against what he thought was overreaching by the state. Ball tells us how the system is rigged against all plaintiffs. Huge administrative barriers are erected. Layers of bureaucratic resistance; rules, rules, and more rules to thwart challenges. The costs of fighting are enormous. So are the physical hazards. People go to jail. The Guardians, as Ball calls them (he gets this from Plato’s Republic), are ferocious fighters. They will hurt you for your own good. Send in the SWAT team: officer safety is paramount.

The most frightening thing about the book is Ball observation that the courts do not rule by fixed legal principle. Every decision is ad hoc. Everything can change with the next court decision. Common sense is not common in the courts. Legal precedent is meaningless. Written law does not count. The law is as certain as the wind: it always blows, but it changes direction without notice.

The book is about great victories, and erosion of precedent set by those victories. Nothing is permanent.

Ball does not address the larger question  of whether we do need a public school system. It is like the income tax: we don’t need it, but life is unimaginable without it.

Read Ball. It will help you understand what is coming from Guardians near you.

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