This post is part of a series walking through the third volume of Abraham Kuyper’s Common Grace
The first responsibility of upbringing belongs to the parents. Blood ties convey this obligation. Parents, in this sense, have duties, not rights. (The latter belongs to God alone.) Any rights parents have derive only from their duties. Duty always trumps authority and right alike.
Once upon a time, parents did all the work of child-rearing, including gathering food. Now schools, states, church, etc, have divided the labor (especially for the rich, who bring in nurses and maids and use boarding schools). There is a “similar delinquency” among the poor who outsource daily care to the schools. (458) This makes parental control over who raises their children all the more essential. This family unity is essential for the nation as well.
Schools of course have the responsibility to be true to their own mission and to decide the details of education (which most parents are not competent to do). We could say the same about learning a trade–or, for that matter, about the job of the church. These are all supplements–not servants–to the family life when it comes to upbringing. Only the parents can pursue the true unity of particular grace and common grace in the family, though all other entities are obligation to do so as well.
We must also remember the general upbringing/special upbringing distinction (the former meaning our humanity, the latter meaning the specific job we’re trained for). Even “general” upbringing needs some specialization. Some start farther behind, others are ahead. This is not just a question of class, it involves character as well. Even gender can play a role here–woman’s education necessarily looks different from that of men.
Likewise some communities only have elementary schools, or they have multiple schools but one is better than the other. And so on. We are all equal in church and before God, but not in terms of education. (For example: the upper classes are often deficient in their religious training.)
Education must keep us up with the culture as well. All this is to say that general education is ongoing for all, including across classes. All this is to serve God.