This is the third in a series of articles about key issues in schools and the importance of engaging in local school board elections. Here are the first, second, and third stories in the series.  

The Washington Post featured a ridiculous opinion piece titled: “Parents claim they have the right to shape their kids’ school curriculum. They don’t.” While the authors tell us they are not saying “that parents should have no influence over how their children are taught,” they go on to negate this with both the title of their piece and their arguments.

Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire are the authors of the op-ed. They’ve also written a book attacking people who want educational choice – rather than our current public education monopoly, dominated as it is by radical federal and state departments of education, teachers union leaders and teacher training colleges. Educational choice gives parents options, such as magnet schools, charter schools, voucher programs, online learning and homeschooling, allowing parents to choose the best educational fit for their children – not the state.

Schneider and Berkshire, on the other hand, believe that the state has ultimate authority in raising children. They point to those calling for parental rights in education and cynically describe them as doing this just to gin up voters to win elections.

They say that given the outcry about parental rights in education, “one might reasonably conclude that radicals are out to curtail the established rights that Americans have over the educational sphere. Yet what’s actually radical here is the assertion of parental powers that have never previously existed.”

Well, yes. Many parents and concerned citizens do believe that extremists are trying to curtail parental rights in education. The authors even deny that concepts from critical race theory are taught in public schools. And no, parental powers, including power over education, aren’t something new. They’ve existed for millennia in Judeo-Christian teaching and in law.

Schneider and Berkshire, who also write for other far-left publications like The Nation and New Republic, quote Jeff Shulman, from Georgetown University Law Center, who writes that the purpose of education is “to teach children to think for themselves” which “may well divide child from parent, not because socialist educators want to indoctrinate children, but because learning to think for oneself is what children do.”

Well, teaching children to think is good, but it’s not the only goal of education. And parents are deeply concerned because socialist educators do want to indoctrinate children into an ideology that will divide their children from them.

As we’ve pointed out here at The Daily Citizen, many parents are waking up to the reality that many schools teach a radical sexual ideology; have libraries and school classrooms with sexually-graphic and profanity-laced materials; teach children that they are either victims or racist oppressors; give a skewed, inaccurate history of America; and promote gender confusion to children as young as kindergarten.

Shulman also writes, and Schneider and Berkshire echo his false beliefs, that instead of parents having ultimate authority over the children, the state does. He dismisses hundreds of years of common law and U. S. court decisions that describe parents’ “sacred right” to the custody of their children.

He says, “What is deeply rooted in our nation’s history is the notion that the state entrusts the parent with custody of the child only so long as the parent meets his duty to take proper care of the child.”

Of course the state steps in when parents neglect or abuse children, but the state doesn’t own children and entrust them to parents. This is Marxist ideology at its worst – a denial of the goodness of marriage, family and parenting, in favor of the view that the family must be disrupted and dismantled to pave the way for a socialist utopia.

Schneider, Berkshire and Shulman have it exactly backwards. As the Supreme Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, “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.”

Parents have the fundamental right to parent their children – to provide for the care, nurturing, and moral and religious upbringing of their children – without unreasonable state interference.

It’s also a scriptural principle that parents, not the government, are responsible for raising their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

As we explain in our guide, Back To School – For Parents, even as parents have this foundational responsibility and right to raise their children, every single state recognizes in its own constitution that it has a duty to provide public education and every child has the right to be educated. That’s why states can have mandatory attendance laws for children.

The fundamental authority of parents is so powerful that courts have created a constitutional doctrine giving schools authority to make choices on behalf of students when parents are not present. This doctrine is called in loco parentis, a Latin phrase meaning “in the place of a parent.”

Parents should know that when they send their children to a public school, they give the school authority to act as a temporary guardian for them, taking on decision making, responsibility, and custody. This gives schools a lot of power over the education of children.

Sometimes parents’ rights to direct their children’s education and schools acting in loco parentis come into conflict, especially when the moral direction of education contradicts a family’s beliefs and values.

This is why it’s important to elect candidates who respect parents and understand that parents are ultimately responsible for children – not the state. School authority should not be used to abrogate parents’ rights or to create a wedge between children and parents.

While parents can’t micromanage what happens in their child’s school, and nobody is arguing for that, they do have the right to help shape what their children are taught – exactly the opposite of what The Washington Post’s opinion piece says.

This is done primarily at the local level, as they review curriculums and books, monitor school district policies, keep up with their children’s progress in school and vote for school board officials who share their views and values. Parents and other concerned citizens should vote for school board members who will respect parental rights and who will be responsive to concerned citizens.

Related articles and resources:

The Federalist

Focus on the Family’s The Daily Citizen

Gateways to Better Education

The Heritage Foundation


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