Parents’ Rights??? Which Ones?

Parental rights … sounds good, yes?  But … what it really boils down to in todays vernacular is the right of a few parents, or sometimes just one parent, to deprive all other children of the education they need in order to succeed in their lives.  Jamelle Bouie’s column from a few days ago is spot-on and paints a picture of an education system that is even further devolved that what we’ve had for the past twenty years or so.  HOW do we expect our future leaders to do a better job than the ones in the past, when we won’t even teach them about our history, won’t give them a chance to understand people who may not be just like themselves???

What the Republican Push for ‘Parents’ Rights’ Is Really About

By Jamelle Bouie

28 March 2023

You may have heard the phrase “parents’ rights.”

It sounds unobjectionable — of course parents should have rights — which is probably why it’s become the term of choice for the conservative effort to ban books, censor school curriculums and suppress politically undesirable forms of knowledge.

When House Republicans introduced a bill that would require public schools to notify parents that they are entitled to see course material and lists of books kept in school libraries, they cited “parents’ rights” as the reason.

“That’s what today is all about: It’s about every parent, mom and dad, but most importantly about the students in America,” Speaker Kevin McCarthy said. Several Republican-controlled states have either proposed or passed similar measures.

The official name of Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” law, prohibiting “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity,” is the Parental Rights in Education Act. And the state’s Stop WOKE (short for Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act, which outlaws any school instruction that classifies individuals as “inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” was framed, similarly, as a victory for the rights of parents.

“By signing this legislation, which is the first in the nation to end corporate wokeness and critical race theory in our schools, we are prioritizing education, not indoctrination,” Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said in a statement. “We will always fight to protect our children and parents from this Marxist-inspired curriculum.”

It should be said that this movement for “parents’ rights” in Florida has empowered certain parents to remove books, films, even whole classes that threaten to expose their children to material that might make them uncomfortable. In Pinellas County, for example, a single complaint about the Disney film “Ruby Bridges” — about the 6-year-old girl who integrated an all-white New Orleans school in 1960 — led to its removal from an elementary school.

In his successful 2021 campaign for the Virginia governor’s mansion, Glenn Youngkin made “parents matter” his slogan, and he has asserted “parents’ rights” in his effort to regulate the treatment of transgender children and end “divisive concepts” such as “critical race theory” in schools. His early moves included new history standards that removed discussions of racism and downplayed the role of slavery in causing the Civil War.

And at this moment, Texas Republicans are debating a bill — backed by Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — that, according to The Texas Tribune, “would severely restrict classroom lessons, school activities and teacher guidance about sexual orientation and gender identity in all public and charter schools up to 12th grade.” Texas parents, The Tribune notes, already have the right to “remove their child temporarily from a class or activity that conflicts with their beliefs or review all instructional materials.” This bill would further empower parents to object to books, lessons and entire curriculums.

“Parents’ rights,” you will have noticed, never seems to involve parents who want schools to be more open and accommodating toward gender-nonconforming students. It’s never invoked for parents who want their students to learn more about race, identity and the darker parts of American history. And we never hear about the rights of parents who want schools to offer a wide library of books and materials to their children.

“Parents’ rights,” like “states’ rights,” is quite particular. It’s not about all parents and all children and all the rights they might have. [Emphasis added]

The reality of the “parents’ rights” movement is that it is meant to empower a conservative and reactionary minority of parents to dictate education and curriculums to the rest of the community. It is, in essence, an institutionalization of the heckler’s veto, in which a single parent — or any individual, really — can remove hundreds of books or shut down lessons on the basis of that one person’s political discomfort. “Parents’ rights,” in other words, is when some parents have the right to dominate all the others.

And, of course, the point of this movement — the point of creating this state-sanctioned heckler’s veto — is to undermine public education through a thousand little cuts, each meant to weaken public support for teachers and public schools, and to open the floodgates to policies that siphon funds and resources from public institutions and pump them into private ones. The Texas bill I mentioned, for instance, would give taxpayer dollars to parents who choose to opt out of public schools for private schools or even home-schooling.

The culture war that conservatives are currently waging over education is, like the culture wars in other areas of American society, a cover for a more material and ideological agenda. The screaming over “wokeness” and “D.E.I.” is just another Trojan horse for a relentless effort to dismantle a pillar of American democracy that, for all of its flaws, is still one of the country’s most powerful engines for economic and social mobility.

Ultimately, then, the “parents’ rights” movement is not about parents at all; it’s about whether this country will continue to strive for a more equitable and democratic system of education, or whether we’ll let a reactionary minority drag us as far from that goal as possible, in favor of something even more unequal and hierarchical than what we already have.

15 thoughts on “Parents’ Rights??? Which Ones?

  1. Another (bunch of) nail(s) in the coffin of democracy. How anyone can go along with these draconian laws is beyond my understanding. I was taught in school to question everything, and this was long before the internet made it easy to research almost anything. Controlling what a child can learn does no one any favours. But Republicans are afraid of people who can think for themsrlves. So are a lot of so-called Christians! A good education is their worst enemy!
    My question: What is it about a well-educated citizenry that really scares them so much? Because they are scared! In fact they are terrified!

    Liked by 2 people

    • What is it about a well-educated citizenry that scares them so much, you ask? Good question … I suspect the answer is complex, but other than their fear of ‘other’, I really don’t understand it myself. They want to paint a perfect picture of a nation with no flaws in its past, but that can never be. Information is available at the click of a button, truth and facts are not hard for the curious-minded, as most children and young people are, to find. Perhaps they fear that their own children will turn against them for their racist/homophobic/misogynist views?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Even that does not explain their fear of education. To compete in this modern world one needs an education, or a silver spoon. I gyess a lot of Republicans had a sover spoon, so thought they didn’t need an education. I gurss that would make me scared, if all I knew was 1 + 1 = 2.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ah, but see … I think the ultimate goal is to ensure that most people are only qualified to run machines, push paper, count beans, or serve the public, leaving the high-end jobs and political power positions for only the wealthiest. That was certainly Betsy DeVos’ ideology when she was Secretary of Education and didn’t even believe that public schools should exist. Shove them all into mind-bending parochial schools and turn them into automatons.


          • I understand that part very well, because listening to Gary talk about his son’s lack of education in England that is ecactly what the Conservative government is trying to do there already. Educate the wealthy, and turn everyone else into wage-slaves. But they lack the insight to realize the wealthy do not necessarily have the ingenuity to produce the most intelligent of offspring. Eventually they will be a bunch of nincompoops who will dribble their inherited fortunes away, as the nobles of old have already done.
            But that’s okay with me if they inbreed with themselves. It might take a generation or two, but they will become unintelligent in the long run. Their wealth too shall pass.

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  2. Jill, this quote from Gandhi speaks volumes as does the article. Plus, not teaching American kids history and literature in an open fashion will hinder our country. We are already 23 and 27th in math and science in the world. Why not fall in rankings in other subjects? I am reminded of the high schooler, armed with a petition of 150+ Nobel laureates who sued the Louisiana school system for wasting his time in science teaching Creationism. Keith

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  3. ‘Comfort’ is an interesting concept. We all need it some of the time. When life is difficult I need the comfort of a hug from a friend, a message from a friend and maybe a mug or glass of something which is a treat, a piece of indulgent cake or a hunk of chocolate. But if I ‘treat myself’ to those every day, consume more and more of them, then I am in danger of becoming fat and lazy. As a temporary boost to let me regroup for the fray they are fine but not to excess or dependency. The same is true of thought. The comfort of talking to like minded people can be helpful and reassuring but we need the challenge of opposing views, people who make us think and argue our case (respectfully!).Is there a connection between the ‘obesity epidemic’ and ‘Do not disturb’ thinking?


  4. Pingback: Parents’ Rights??? Which Ones? | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

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