A parent can look at the label on a juice box to decide what ingredients to allow into her child’s body. He should also be able to decide what ingredients a teacher puts into his child’s mind, but that isn’t the case in a growing number of public schools.
When Covid-19 brought the classroom into the kitchen, parents’ eyes were opened to some unsettling revelations, including that their children are being indoctrinated into critical race theory, and that some schools are secretly treating girls as boys and vice-versa.
Food labeling helps parents make informed decisions about what their children eat. In the same way, transparency helps parents make informed decisions about what their children learn. Yet some schools are resisting calls for transparency. Corporate media and teachers’ unions have inaccurately disparaged parents, but these critics are wrong. Here are three reasons why.
1. Children belong to their parents, not to the ‘community’ or the state.
Former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry infamously called on her viewers to “break through our kind of private idea that ‘kids belong to their parents,’. . . and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.” Her pitch was strikingly similar to that of Terry McAuliffe, former Virginia governor and chair of the Democratic National Committee, who said parents shouldn’t be telling schools what to teach.
This view of parental rights is at odds with parents’ fundamental right to direct the education and upbringing of their children. The U.S. Supreme Court recognized this in 1925 in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, stating, “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.”
As Professor Melissa Moschella writes, parental rights stem from the uniquely intimate relationship between parents and children. Children belong to their families, which are headed by their parents. Therefore, parents have the most direct obligation and authority to care for children until they are mature enough to direct their own lives. Until then, parents mediate a child’s relationship to the larger political community.
The failure to recognize that the family is distinct and relatively independent from the political community, and that parental rights are pre-political and natural rights, is not just wrong, but dangerous. Moschella notes Hannah Arendt’s observation that eliminating the intermediary structures between the individual and the state — namely the family and the church — is the essence of totalitarianism.
2. More schools are crossing the boundary line between education and indoctrination.
If schools just taught the “three Rs” (reading, writing, and arithmetic), parents would not suspect schools were undermining their values, beliefs, and authority. But, as parents in Albemarle County, Virginia, recently learned, some schools are indoctrinating students with so-called “anti-racism” ideology.
Instead of condemning all racism, “anti-racism” replaces one form of racism with another. Following “anti-racist” logic, Albemarle County schools used race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity to label students as “dominate” or “subordinate.”
Parents from five families of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds challenged the policy. The school undermined what these parents believe and teach their children — that all people are created equal and should be treated as such. The school even threatened to punish students for not supporting the policy.
Yet, as Judge James C. Ho of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit wrote in Oliver v. Arnold, “Schools should educate—not indoctrinate. Teachers can teach. And teachers can test. But teachers cannot require students to endorse a particular political viewpoint.”
Parental rights don’t end at the schoolhouse gate. Parents must be able to protect their children from policies that place burdens and privileges on them according to their immutable characteristics.
3. Backed by the Biden administration, schools are even engaging in unauthorized treatment of students’ mental health.
The U.S. Department of Education has promoted “gender support plans.” An official fact sheet instructs schools to maintain “confidentiality” for students who identify as transgender at school by not using the student’s birth name or “sex assigned at birth if the student wishes to keep this information private.” But there is no mention of notifying, much less involving, parents in such a consequential decision to adopt a new name and pronouns that correspond to the opposite sex.
The agency tells schools to support a student’s gender transition by using “a checklist of issues to discuss with the student or their family” (emphasis added). Without an explicit requirement that schools inform and obtain parental consent to treat the child as a member of the opposite sex, it is reasonable to assume that notification to parents is optional. The schools may also perceive parental notification as a matter that depends on whether the child views their parents as “affirming” of gender transition.
Schools’ use of “gender support plans,” like those recommended by the Biden administration, have shocked parents around the country. After learning that schools sought to hide their children’s emotional distress from them, they challenged these policies in Wisconsin, Florida, and California courts.
Alliance Defending Freedom recently informed Virginia’s Harrisonburg City School District that its policy of using different names and pronouns amounts to “a psychosocial treatment that will increase the odds of long-term persistence,” according to Dr. Kenneth Zucker, an expert in treating gender dysphoria in children. Up to 90 percent of children with gender dysphoria eventually become comfortable with their bodies if they aren’t encouraged to live as the opposite sex. Schools should not endanger students by hiding information from parents about their mental health or engage in unauthorized treatment of gender dysphoria.
Lockdowns allowed many parents to see the ingredients inside their children’s education. That prompted them to support laws that provide more transparency into curriculum and policies. Parents should be able to decide on the education that best suits their child and their family’s beliefs.
Too many schools are hiding crucial information. They must be held accountable through policies that require transparency, so parents won’t receive more nasty surprises.