Republicans Must Fight to Overcome Democrat Erosion of Parental Rights in Education & Beyond

March 28, 2023

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy briefs the press after the passage of the Parents Bill of Rights Act (3/24/2023)

What is in the bill? First off, this bill does not create any new law in itself, rather it amends and adds to existing law. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) of 1978 are amended to varying extents by this bill. So the argument that support for the bill ought to be rejected based on Federal government involvement in education is weakened unless the bill amounts to a drastic increase in Federal government control over education. That does not appear to be the case. This bill does not require or prohibit any specific curriculum or action regarding decisions on education or the administration of education. The bill only ensures parent involvement on what is proposed at local and state levels is not neglected and/or requires parental consent is given before specific actions can be taken concerning their children. The bill includes Section 301 – Rule of Construction, that specifically states;

“Nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize any department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system.”

Section 301 for the Parents Bill of Rights Act

We already have what critics call a “National School Board” at the Federal level. The bureaucracy that already exists exerts control over state and local jurisdictions which in turn influences the People and their children. This is done not only through the power of the purse and increased federal funding towards education but also directly through laws and bureaucratic requirements. Ending improper influence at the Federal level ought to be a priority but in the meantime we should not neglect attempts to rein in such control, or mitigate the negative effects of it. We can do this by protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, parental rights included (more on this below). A proposed amendment to this bill “to add a sense of Congress that the authority of the Department of Education (DOE) and the Secretary of Education to operate or administer any office or program related to elementary or secondary education should be terminated” offered by Representative Thomas Massie was ultimately voted down, but it did receive 161 Republican votes – a majority of the majority (Republican) Party. Massie himself, a long-time critic of the Federal DOE voted for the bill overall.

Department of Education critic Thomas Massie introduced an amendment to get votes on record regarding support in Congress for or against the Department’s general purpose

The bill requires parental notification, involvement, or consent in a variety of general and specific ways. It is obvious that many of the issues brought up in the bill are partisan in nature, that is, in general Republicans/Conservatives think one way about the issues, and Democrats/Progressives/Leftists think another. This explains the overall support or opposition to the bill, but it does not necessarily get to the heart of the matter. The essential question is – Who has ultimate authority over the direction and upbringing of children – the parents, the children themselves, or the state/school administration? Naturally there will be some necessary overlap (to secure other rights, to implement prudent plans, etc.), but in general, supporters of this bill will argue parents have ultimate say in most matters, as has been the historical understanding in America and in the Western tradition. Parental authority and duty to raise one’s children has been expressed in countless ways and spans cultural divides. Philosopher Immanuel Kant summarizes parental duty well in his book The Metaphysics of Morals. After painstakingly working to identify objectively-derived moral imperatives and describing the logical duties we have as rational beings to act in accord with them regarding ourselves and others, Kant describes the extension of all this to parental right;

“Just as there arose from one’s duty to oneself, that is, to the humanity in one’s own person, a right of both sexes to acquire each other as persons in the manner of things by marriage, so there follows from procreation in this community a duty to preserve and care for its offspring, that is, children, as persons, have by their procreation an original innate (not acquired) right to the care of their parents until they are able to look after themselves, and they have this right directly by law, that is, without any special act being required to establish this right…From this duty there must necessarily also arise the right of parents to manage and develop the child, as long as he has not yet mastered the use of his members or of his understanding: the right not only to feed and care for him but to educate him, to develop him both pragmatically, so that in the future he can look after himself and make his way in life, and morally, since otherwise the fault for having neglected him would fall on the parents. They have the right to do all this until the time of his emancipation, when they renounce their parental right to direct him as well as any claim to be compensated for their support and pains up till now.”

Immanuel Kant on parental rights, The Metaphysics of Morals

If we accept that parents have ultimate authority over the upbringing of their children, and we recognize that public education is in a way an outsourcing of part of this duty (for better or worse), it makes sense that good parents would at least wish to guide the direction of such learning and if necessary object to certain aspects of its administration with which they disagree. Obviously parents cannot micromanage every aspect of public schooling, but when certain issues are identified as controversial in nature, it ought to be considered reasonable that parents not in agreement be allowed to exempt their children from participation, find an alternative, or act to prevent certain behavior/actions deemed harmful. At the very least, parents ought to have the right to express their displeasure with such action at school board meetings without being criticized for it.

This bill allows state/local authorities and parents the ability to argue controversial and procedural matters either way. It does not make the decisions for them. It does not set curriculum or dictate budget expenditures, it merely requires parents and the public be able to access them and review them. The bill does not set learning requirements, rather it guarantees parents access to family engagement planning and notification when students fall behind on certain assessments. The bill does not say what can and cannot be discussed or by whom, or what books or materials are utilized, it only reiterates that parents have a right to know of, and review, such things.

Other aspects of parental right the bill addresses include the right of parents to receive information about all schools in which their child can enroll or transfer to within the district including charter schools; the right to obtain information about any plans to eliminate gifted and talented programs in the child’s school; the right to address the school board; the right to know about violent activity in the school, drug use, or weapons possession; and the right to know if school employees or contractors treat their child for bullying, cyberbullying, hazing, or address a student’s mental health, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, or instances of self-harm or specific threats to the student.

The more controversial topics such as gender pronouns and bathroom policy are likewise not forced by this bill either way, rather parental notification and consent is simply required. The bill states a parent has a right to know if a school employee or contractor acts to “change a minor child’s gender markers, pronouns, or preferred name” or “allows a child to change the child’s sex-based accommodations, including locker rooms or bathrooms.”

Another important aspect of the bill addresses the notion educational agencies or institutions can act as an agent of a parent without the consent of the parent, which would contradict the notion of parental rights. The bill places a prohibition on “educational agencies or institutions acting as agent of a parent for use of technology” and “consent for vaccination.” The bill also prohibits the disclosure or sale of student information for commercial purposes and requires parental consent for medical examinations or screenings.

Social media example of the Democrat mentality on parental rights in public education. While the Michigan Democrat Party attempted to walk back this post upon backlash, the slip is actually quite representative of their actual feelings on the matter.

None of this is in any way unreasonable. Why do Democrats oppose it so fervently? Their opposition is not merely an extension of the reasoning of the one Republican that thought one of the requirements would cause an undue burden and difficulties with implementation. Democrats have proposed and supported policy at the highest levels that upends and complicates much more than this bill ever could. Modern Democrats instead are bent on taking the “it takes a village to raise a child” mantra to the next level. In the Democrat’s mind “it takes a board of experts to raise a child.” Their “experts” know what is best, not parents. Their “experts” prefer allowing children to find “their truth” and they seek to guide children towards such a truth so long as it is in sync with their ideology. Any complications in the process of implementing their idea of the best standards and practices is undesirable and ought to be opposed “for the greater good,” parental consent included.

Parental rights are of a fundamental nature stemming from the same natural law principles as those upon which our country is founded. Opponents of such rights will infringe upon them or work to bypass them by any means necessary. The least we can do is recognize them and expect all jurisdictions to preserve and protect them when possible.

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