Real Parental Rights
As is true in many aspects of current American politics, the right wing conservatives dominate the discourse on education. As is also true in other aspects of current American politics, it seems not to matter that they are wrong - terribly wrong - and are gradually unraveling the critically important institution of public education.
The assault is on two broad fronts:
The persistent efforts to privatize education through charter and voucher schemes, accompanied by defunding traditional public schools and diverting support to all manner of incompetent opportunists.
An overlapping campaign to bring more Christianity into publicly-funded education and remove any and all references to race, gender, sexuality and normal functions of the human body.
In service of these goals they have successfully captured the PR realm, with groups like the attractively named Moms for Liberty. Who wouldn’t love moms or liberty?
The most damage is being done with legislation at the local and state level. Right-wingers have taken control of school boards and many gerrymandered state legislatures. Once again, these zealots have seized the PR reins by using the inarguably appealing mantra of “parental rights.” What parents want their rights taken away? So, the significant body of laws and policies that already protect the rights of parents is being absurdly enhanced with laws and policies that give parents the “right” to dictate what books children can read, what bathrooms children can use, and what public health measures can be exercised. They also claim the right to micromanage curricula, thereby ensuring that a white, Eurocentric, Christian, heteronormative experience is enjoyed by all. Ozzie and Harriet are applauding from the grave.
We liberals and progressives have done a piss poor job of responding in kind. Lots of folks (like me!) opine passionately to minuscule effect, given that our readers are in the hundreds or, rarely, thousands. There are politicians and pundits who argue against the nefarious work of this loud, conservative minority, but we are seldom, if ever, on the offensive.
We too need slogans and initiatives with catchy names that capture the imagination.
Moms for Keeping Crazy Moms Out of Our Schools and Libraries
Parents for the Rights of Teachers to Teach Without Nut-bag Interference
Citizens for Keeping God Safe in Our Churches and Out of Our Politics
Parents of Black and LGBTQ Students Who Won’t Take This Shit Anymore
Then, if and when we can get the crazies under control, the parents in the majority can address the actual needs of children. What might happen if a grassroots effort gathered momentum and demanded that schools and school systems adopt this Bill of Rights?
Bill of Educational Rights
The undersigned insist that our school(s) and all teachers:
Recognize the broad consensus that early childhood education should be primarily dedicated to free, imaginative play.
Provide arts programming, recognizing that the arts are critical to all learning and to understanding the human experience.
Provide ample physical movement, both in physical education classes and in other ways, recognizing that exercise enhances learning for all children.
Exhibit, in structure and practice, awareness that children develop at different rates and in different ways; that strict age- or grade-level standards and expectations are meaningless or damaging.
Acknowledge the large body of evidence that long hours of homework are unnecessary and detract from children’s (and families’) quality of life.
Exhibit genuine affection and respect for all children.
Honor a wide range of personalities and temperaments.
Encourage curiosity, risk-taking and creativity.
Cultivate and sustain intrinsic motivation rather than relying on elaborate extrinsic systems of rewards and punishment. Eliminate letter grades and abolish all iterations of testing, all of which are just elaborate money-making schemes.
Understand that brain research supports active learning, engaging all the senses.
Understand that children are intelligent in multiple ways and that all these intelligences should be honored and developed.
Listen to each child’s voice, give her real experience in democratic processes, and allow her to express her individuality.
Know each child well, appreciate the unique mix of qualities each child brings, and never demean, discourage or humiliate any child.
There are many teachers and educational leaders who read this blog. I ask - challenge - any reader to argue with the Bill of Rights as presented. Each “Right” is based on developmental psychology, cognitive science and abundant research.
Why would we not, as a allegedly developed society, insist on this as a basis for our children’s education?