Saturday, February 24, 2007

Federal judge says public schools can teach views opposite the parent's views

I think this is going to be a big deal.

Back in 2005 Tonia and David Parker of Lexington, Massachusetts, were upset to find the public school giving their 5-year-old son books promoting gay families.

Recently U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf ruled that schools are “entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens." The judge explained that other federal courts have decided that parents' rights to exercise their religious beliefs are not violated when their children are exposed to contrary ideas in school.

MassResistance! is an organization which has been working with the Parkers. They put the judge's complete ruling up on the web. MassResistance! makes the point:

"Wolf makes the odious statement that the Parkers' only options are (1) send their kids to a private school, (2) home-school their kids, or (3) elect a majority of people to the School Committee who agree with them. Can you imagine a federal judge in the Civil Rights era telling blacks the same thing -- that if they can't be served at a lunch counter they should just start their own restaurant, or elect a city council to pass laws that obey the US Constitution?"

Sarah Wunsch, an attorney for the ACLU, said:

"This is not a case about teaching about homosexuality. This is a case where Lexington sought to teach about diversity and about having respect."

I agree with Sarah on the first point, this case is not really about teaching homosexuality. The really important issue here is what are the rights of minorities and the rights of parents. In the past public schools have stayed away from teaching doctrine or pushing agendas. But now based on the ruling of Judge Wolf if the majority wants to teach that all Jews will go to hell, the minority can send their children to private schools, or homeschool, or try to elect a majority of people to the school committee. If the majority wants to teach that communism is good, the minority has little recourse. If the majority wants to teach creationism, the minority has no say what their children are taught.

The judge said in his ruling that:

"In essence under the Constitution public schools are entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy."

I have read the Constitution several times. It says nothing about public schools. At the time the Constitution was written there were no public schools like we have today. Public schools as they currently exist go back to a movement lead by Horace Mann. It is a huge reach to say that the Constitution supports teaching children concepts against the wishes of their parents.

I thought this was interesting - VirtueOnline reported "that the judge concluded that even allowing Christians to withdraw their children from classes or portions of classes where the religious beliefs were being violated wasn't a reasonable expectation." The judge wrote that

"An exodus from class when issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage are to be discussed could send the message that gays, lesbians, and the children of same-sex parents are inferior and, therefore, have a damaging effect on those students."

A better answer to this whole problem is public schools should not be teaching about homosexuality to 5-year-olds. And if public schools do address issues like this, parents should have the right to decide what their children are taught.

It is kind of ironic that this started in Lexington, a place where a shot was heard around the world.

The ramifications of this ruling will be felt for years.

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BlackTsunami said...

The school was NOT teaching homosexuality. Parker did not like that his son brought home a book that contained a same sex family household.

Sorry but gays and lesbians are parents too and many of them attend the school with Parker's son.

Parker wanted his son opted out even if these students talked about their families. The opt-out policy features issues of human sexuality, not families. When he was told this and told that he could appeal, Parker didnt want to. He wouldnt leave the school until he got arrested. and I might point out that the group with Parker, Mass Resistance, spread the lie that his son was beaten up because of his father's lawsuit. This was investigated by the school, the area assistant district attorney and the area department of social services and was discovered to be a lie.

Judy Aron said...

Sorry blacktsunami- but the school IS teaching homosexuality just as they teach our kids to have sex and take drugs. Kids are a captive audience being subjected to lessons that plant ideas in their heads to use drugs, to have sex and to experiment with same sex experiences, among other things.

This is unacceptable not because anyone is homophobic but because it does not have anything whatsoever to do with receiving an academic education.

The federal judge, in this instance, was merely reinforcing the current curriculum agenda of the pubic school.

Parents have only one choice here as far as I am concerned: there is no compromise... if you don't agree with government school curriculum you should pull your kid out of school and teach them yourself or place them in a program that is more in sync with your notions of education. Government education has deteriorated into indoctrination of social agendas and that is why our kids are uneducated an unable to add, read, or to think for themselves.r

In my opinion schools have strayed so far away from the purpose of teaching academics - reading - writing and arithmetic and instead have substituted all this globalism and social issues.

Yes gays and lesbians are parents too, but their issues have no place in an academic curriculum. If I were a parent of a government educated kid I would demand that class time be spent on reading and writing instead of worrying about gay rights issues.

Also Henry.. I think that the Constitution that they were referring to was most likely the State constitution which most likely does speak about education as all of them do have provisions regarding how to handle education in their state.

Henry Cate said...

BlackTsunami, the main focus of my post is not about the gay issue, but about the court ruling that public schools can teach views that parents are strongly opposed to.

Would you be happy if public schools started teaching about homosexuality in a negative setting? Are there other issues in which you would be upset if public schools starting teaching about?

I believe parents have the ultimate responsibility for teaching their children. For a couple hundred years the attitude in our country has been that parents are responsible for the overall teaching of their children. History often shows that when governments take over the teaching of the children, horrible things happen.

Henry Cate said...

Oh, Judy, thanks for the explanation about which Constitution.

Margaret said...

I don't know why anyone would be surprised by this. When people turn their children over to the government to be educated, they should expect that the government will educate the children in the way the government chooses.

Of course children need to learn about families that are different, including same-sex couples who raise children together. It is not unreasonable to think that parents would want to do this in their own way, and on their own timetable. Just one of the many reasons we homeschool - so that as parents, we (not the government) have control over when and how to talk about these issues.

Henry Cate said...

Margaret, to an extent I agree with you. In thinking back over the last fifty years of public schools, this doesn't seem like breaking news. There have been many instances in which public schools have taught views that were opposite what parents wanted taught.

One example is sex education. Most parents agree that children need to understand about sex. But public schools teach sex without any context. Many parents want their children to wait till marriage before having sex. Public schools just explain the mechanics of sex, with the unstated expectation that like animals teenagers will experiment with sex, and it is no big deal.

I have not followed the logic in previous court decisions, and so this decision was new to me in how it was such a blatent attack on the rights of parents.

Anonymous said...

In public schools, individual parents don't have the right to determine which books are on the reading list and which aren't, or what the curriculum is or isn't. That is indeed part of the deal you accept when your kids go to public school (as my child does). Public schools simply cannot customize the curriculum to meet each individual family's personal preferences.

If this Parker fellow is so offended by gay couples and their children, to the point that he wants to police the children's conversations and have his son removed from the class if the kids start talking about their same-sex parents, then Parker really needs to remove himself and his family from society at large and stop blaming the public schools for his obvious "issues" with the community he lives in.

If Parker is so morally pure, I wonder how he feels about divorced families. Should his children have their ears shielded if another child talks about his parents' divorce? Give me a break.

In Massachusetts, gay marriage is now legal. Gay couples have equal rights in our state. Children of gay individuals or couples have equal rights to everyone else's children. If schools are going to read books about different cultures and different types of families--and I think they should--then same sex couples should be included. (This should be the case even if gay marriage was not legal, in my opinion.) Add that to the fact that Lexington, MA reportedly has a fair number of gay couples living there--with children in the schools--and you can see that excluding these families from the discussion is patently ridiculous and discriminatory. Gay couples should not have to be whispered about, nor should they have to pretend to be invisible because some people are afraid to teach their children that gay couples exist.

On the subject of homosexuality, it is no more teaching homosexuality when talking about same sex parents than it is teaching heterosexuality when talking about opposite sex parents. You can't have it both ways: either teaching about couples is teaching about sexuality or it's not. Sexuality doesn't enter into the equation only with some couples. It's either there all the time or it's not. So which is it?

Henry Cate said...

I've responded to Anonymous in a post.

Sandy said...

I've been following this story with interest, and just wanted to note that according to
this article
in the Boston Globe, the judge was referring to the US Constitution, not the state constitution. Since the Parkers were arguing that the defendant's conduct violated their US Consitutional rights, and since the Judge explicitly states that "educators should reaffirm our nation's consitutional commitment to promoting mutual respect among members of our diverse society" it appears that the Judge was referring to the US Constitution.

Henry Cate said...

Sandy, thanks for the pointer to the news article.

This is from the same news article:

"In his 38-page decision, Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf of US District Court said that under the US Constitution, public schools are 'entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.'"

This is such a reach I just don't understand how a judge could mention the US Constitution and public schools in the same breath. Public schools are not in the constitution. The didn't even really exist until around 1850.

Jeremy said...

I know! My wife and I object to our kids being taught that slavery is wrong. If we sent our kids to a public school, they'd constantly be exposed to all this anti-slavery propaganda, and probably think badly of us for the fourteen slaves we have locked in the basement.

That's why we homeschool them and teach them that slavery is perfectly acceptable, just like homophobia and all the other perfectly reasonable forms of bigotry we privately enjoy.

If we parents can't indoctrinate our kids with our own crazy views of the world when they're most impressionable - or if those lunatic perspectives are going to be countered by some teacher in the classroom on the basis of their being insane - then I'm afraid civilization is bound to collapse.

Parents' rights over kids' rights, definitely.