The controversy over the National School Board Association letter that prompted the Biden administration to sic the Federal Bureau of Investigation on concerned parents has shed a bright light, not only on the issue of parental rights in education, but also the left’s antipathy for it.
It’s hard to believe that anyone would advocate against parents’ rights when it comes to what their kids learn in school. Still, these rights are being eroded nationwide from all angles. It doesn’t matter what the Biden—or any—administration does to intimidate us; we must speak out and do what’s suitable for our kids.
Sadly, the movement against parental rights is becoming more mainstream every day. Last week, the Washington Post ran an op-ed declaring that parents “do not have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum.”
The op-ed frames the debate over parental rights in education as a wedge issue being exploited by conservatives to win back Congress in 2022. While it might help conservatives win back Congress, that doesn’t make it any less legitimate an issue.
But, according to the authors of the article, various laws that have been passed in red states as well as Glenn Youngkin making parental rights a key issue of his campaign gives the false impression that “radicals are out to curtail the established rights that Americans have over the educational sphere.” The idea that radical leftists are attacking parental rights in education is absurd, the authors claim, because, according to them, those rights “never previously existed.”
“This is not to say that parents should have no influence over how their children are taught,” the authors claim. “But common law and case law in the United States have long supported the idea that education should prepare young people to think for themselves, even if that runs counter to the wishes of parents.”
When do the interests of parents and children diverge? Generally, it occurs when a parent’s desire to inculcate a particular worldview denies the child exposure to other ideas and values that an independent young person might wish to embrace or at least entertain. To turn over all decisions to parents, then, would risk inhibiting the ability of young people to think independently.
As the political scientist Rob Reich has argued, “Minimal autonomy requires, especially for its civic importance, that a child be able to examine his or her own political values and beliefs, and those of others, with a critical eye.” If we value that end, “the structure of schooling cannot simply replicate in every particularity the values and beliefs of a child’s home.”
This is, of course, absurd. Parents send their kids to school to learn the basic skills and knowledge they need to function in the world—reading, writing, math, science, and history. We don’t expect to micromanage their education, but we don’t want educators politicizing education, which is exactly what is happening with Critical Race Theory. It’s one thing to teach students to think critically about historical events and view them from various perspectives. It’s something else altogether and unquestionably wrong to teach kids that white people are inherently racist and to racialize every aspect of our lives, the way CRT does.
For years now, the political left has had a monopoly on education, which means that kids aren’t being taught to think independently. Instead, they are taught political conformity by politically homogenous school systems that are neither balanced nor objective. (Speaking of objectivity, the authors of the article make the absurd claim that Republicans are making parental rights in education an issue as part of a grand political strategy to turn out their base while they also suppress the minority vote.)
While it’s easy to dismiss the authors as a bunch of tinfoil hat-wearing nutjobs, that doesn’t change the fact that denying parental rights in education is an increasingly mainstream position of the political left, who see their monopoly in education and their ability to brainwash kids being threatened by the Domestic Terrorists Formerly Known As Parents.