Field of Science

Education and parental rights

There is an interesting discussion going on at WEIT, which began here, here, and here. It has also been addressed in several places (for example) on Greg Laden's blog as well as here at angrybychoice.

There is much interesting reading in the WEIT posts and comments, and I want to touch on one issue raised repeatedly in basically any thread on homeschooling. The idea of parental rights. Now I want to express from the get go that this is a complicated issue and that I do not have an immediate solution. But I will also say that the starting and ending point is flawed and wrong, but accepted because it is the status quo (and therefore must be a reasonable position).

The basic idea is that parents have absolute control of the educational decisions of their children (although many people would also like to have absolute control over the educational decisions of your children too). It's parental right. Thus, no matter how despicable it may be, there are numerous people who understand the truth of evolution, yet weakly shake their heads about children being homeschooled in creationism and agree it's a parental right. Some will go so far as to argue about freedom of expression (as if that is remotely relevant).

First, we should discuss what is a right. A right is a universal thing you are born with, it applies to everyone not just the few. Because of this, a right is something you may freely wield barring that this does not in turn impact the rights of others. The Declaration of Independence specifically notes the rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness at least for white Europeans. The Bill of Rights, the first 10 constitutional admendments, are familiar to most of us and include the freedom of speech (expression above) in #1 . It is worth noting that rights are not given to us by these or other documents, they are simply expression of universal truths.

Nowhere in the idea of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to I see anything akin to the parental right to educate children in any way the parent deems. In fact, I would argue that liberty and pursuit of happiness puts the onus on the parents to make sure they are acting in the child's best interest educationally. The bill of rights is also devoid of mention of parental rights in education. For those of you getting ready to use the "freedom of religion" card, stow it. Nowhere in these or many other posts have I seen the recommendation that parents not be allowed to teach whatever religious mumbo jumbo they want to their kids. Noone has requested that Sunday schools be banned, or children be prevented from attending church after school, or a church-sponsored school (as long as said school was actually educating the children).

Alright so do parents have the absolute right to educate their children in any way they see fit? I say NO, but first I want to get back to the idea of rights. This idea of parental rights is at odds with some basic ideas of a right. First, universality is out since parents have it and children don't. I realize this is a weak argument since children do not have many rights that adults do, but bear with me. However, this idea of parental rights is a right for one person (the parent) to impose a specific education or viewpoint on another (the child). So if a pastor tells a parent the book of genesis means the earth is 10,000 years old, they can teach that to their child as geology, lie about the actual facts, and even do their utmost to make sure that child is not exposed to the actual information or is trained to hate those who have this information. See that's protecting the parents right. But their right to do what? Do children have a right to an education about the real world they live in? If majors problems arise, do the children have the right to be educated in a way that best prepares them to address this problem (unless you really feel praying for rain is a solution or that Haitian great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren should be punished with earthquakes because their ancestors weren't good little slaves)?

Ok, maybe the evolution-creation isn't that important to you (and thus not important). Is it a parental right to educate that 2+2=5? That numbers are demonic? That reading is evil? Again, what about the rights of the child and the idea of the right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

If an adult wants to live an isolated terrified little life, fine. That is definitely their right. But I do not believe that gives them the right to crush other little lives to be similar. So, obviously I defer to the beneficial government to educate the children. Hell NO. The government should be trusted about as far as the electorate can throw them. Our government has one advantage (at least it does as of this posting), there are checks and balances. We can fire all the bastards and replace them. This is also a problem, because the ignorant and terrified, but vocal, minority has much pull in current politics and thus evolution has been under fire for 90+ years. But again I would not put this in the hands of an administration that supports warrantless wiretaps, prosecutorial immunity, and other clearly unconstitutional activities like the Obama administration (much like the Bush administration only less stupid sounding).

OK, I don't like parental rights, nor government control. What now? Maybe having a panel of experts (I know expertise is currently a bad thing in the US) in education and the area being discussed to devise curricula. Maybe we could look at what the National Academy of Sciences or the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences have done for science standards? Repeat as necessary using elite (another bad word) organizations in math, language arts, history, etc. These organizations working in conjunction with states or school districts could be a fruitful endeavor.

One final point on parental rights, wants the following admendment passed "The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right." This group is really opposed to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, which includes the following article:

Article 28: (Right to education): All children have the right to a primary education, which should be free. Wealthy countries should help poorer countries achieve this right. Discipline in schools should respect children’s dignity. For children to benefit from education, schools must be run in an orderly way – without the use of violence. Any form of school discipline should take into account the child's human dignity. Therefore, governments must ensure that school administrators review their discipline policies and eliminate any discipline practices involving physical or mental violence, abuse or neglect. The Convention places a high value on education. Young people should be encouraged to reach the highest level of education of which they are capable.

The problem being that allowing these rights to children may impact the parent's right to completely fuck up their children in any way they see fit (excepting the obvious physical abuse right, which we've decided is NOT a parental right.........anymore).

No comments: