You may use your own reason when you say that compulsory education, or compulsory temperance, is good for certain people, and proceed to carry it out; but in so acting you disallow the existence of reason in those whom you compel. You have placed them in a lower rank to yourself, you retaining and using your reason, they being disenfranchised of it.
I sometimes think that, if I am a fundamentalist about anything, it is the basic public consensus of the American experiment, with the Bill of Rights as a central document. One of the oddities of the American consensus, though, is the strong statement in the Bill of Rights against a state religion, paired with the consensus that has developed since then in support of compulsory education. These are analogous issues. In fact, it seems to me that in the broad history of humanity, they would not have even been considered analogous. They would have been considered restatements of the same issue.
And, in fact, they really still are the same issue. Education has become the religion of the modern secular world. Education, or science, is certainly where we have public debates about what our national ideals are, today. In today's society, few will care how you rate the three persons of the trinity, or what your detailed beliefs about the Eucharist are, but you better be ready to defend your position on climate change, the effect gun laws have on crime, or the demands society places on women. And, we don't fight about how our propaganda gets disseminated from the pulpit to the pews. We fight about how it gets disseminated from the white board to the school desks.
In a free society, what exactly "education" even is is difficult to define, in much the same way that religion is. Is it going to the right services? Earning the right credentials? Knowing the correct things? Having a thirst for spiritual or material wisdom and intelligence? Is either one about living well in the world, or is it about having a depth of spirit?
Education is our religion, and so we have taken an end-around past our own ideal. We have imposed state religion/education on ourselves, even as we stand united in opposition to it. In that mess of potential definitions and goals for education and religion, public compulsion has the same types of effects, pro and con, in both manifestations of the issue.
I don't hear these problems being aired out in the public debate over education policy, so we keep pushing more and more support on our state religion, with predictable downsides. Ironically, not only are these downsides that we all explicitly understand, but we only understand them because we learned about them while we sat in our state churches (schools) learning about the Bill of Rights and how it has protected us from state religion.
I have seen this meme:
The same thing could be said about state religion, maybe replacing "stupid" with "immoral". None of us would find this meme convincing if we made that minor change. And, generally the reasons that it would not be convincing would also apply to public compulsory schooling. State religion, where it is treated as socially important, is a great recipe for moral stagnation and sectarian moral featherbedding. We shake our heads at countries that have powerful state religions who respond to moral stagnation and division by redoubling their commitment to it.
And, further, I think the way in which past problems with public education have been framed around the idea of desegregation takes the focus away from this problem. Desegregation was mostly a way to try to trick dominant groups into managing a functional school system for marginal groups. But, the problems of segregation were secondary problems. They weren't the cause. Segregation was effective because education was compulsory, because there were truancy laws and accreditation rules that forced marginalized groups of children into failing institutions. The idea that public education is the unquestionable vessel for escaping that legacy strikes me as..... well, questionable. And, the idea that education can be imposed on people is...well....stupid.
The sad thing is that with regard to religion, America is the prime historical example of people, freed from the religious controls of their homelands, engaging in a frenzy of religious experimentation and fervor. Would that we might trust ourselves enough to have such a frenzy of education. And what does it say about our respect for our fellow Americans that some of us think a knock on the door from the truancy officer is the only thing keeping us from "living in a country with a bunch of stupid people."?