In a recent debate, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, declared, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” Evidently, he intended to signal his support for school boards and educators who contribute to his campaign and are themselves facing criticism from parents and public figures for a variety of issues, like mask mandates, teaching Critical Race Theory, and including overtly sexual content in their school libraries.
This triggered numerous rebuttals online from conservatives who were justifiably outraged by McAuliffe’s suggestion that parents have no real right to decide how their children are educated. On the contrary, they claimed, parents have every right to make decisions on their children’s education.
What is ironic about this argument is that prior to the past two years, no one would have questioned McAuliffe’s statement. Along with the police and the military, teachers were one of the most trusted professions in the country. Just as people deferred to the experts in other matters, they deferred to educators who knew what their students needed. The Onion captures this mentality brilliantly in the satirical article on “school-homing,” a reverse on homeschooling.
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However, after schools overreacted (and continue to overreact) to COVID-19, and after so many school boards and teachers’ unions adopted overtly Leftist, anti-Christian policies, parents are now taking greater control over their children’s education. If they don’t, the madness won’t end.
With that said, simply protesting blatant attempts to radicalize or corrupt students is not enough. As long as activist groups, teachers’ unions, and politicians continue exerting pressure on school boards and district leaders to act against the students’ common good, parents need to continue exerting pressure of their own. They can do this by not only speaking out in public forums, but also by taking back real ownership of their children’s education at home.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that parents need to homeschool—though there are good resources for those who do—but they do need to set academic and moral standards for their own children. This means creating clear parameters on the quantity and quality of their children’s moral and academic habits. This is often done in sports, where an athlete has a good idea of what their workout should be and what they should be able to do by the end of a season. This is also done in music, where musicians have certain pieces they need to perform and memorize, so they make a plan of how they should train.
Problems start occurring when parents leave it up to the school, even private Catholic schools, to set these goals and standards. Unlike parents, who want what’s best for their individual children, district leaders and their employees want what’s best for the collective. As such, they will set much lower academic standards than parents would and encourage compliant behavior instead of cultivating virtue. In most cases, the goal for any school, private or public, is to pass on students with the minimal fuss from anyone—the students, their parents, and even outside interest groups.
Of late, minimizing the fuss has meant endorsing Leftist ideology, forcing kids to wear masks, and even including pornographic books for students’ perusal. This shocks and angers conservatives, but not doing this shocks and angers progressives even more. This forces school boards and school leaders to take a side, usually the one with more money and influence.
Fortunately, parents can counteract both the low standards and the ideology by doing more at home. They should teach children to know what is good for them and what is not. If they end up wasting time in class and are subjected to indoctrination sessions, they should have the capacity and incentive to voice their concerns both to their parents at home and their teacher in class. The combined protest of a student and parent is far scarier to an administrator than a few conservatives complaining at a school board meeting.
As it stands, most parents assume their children are learning things at school, and most children lack the objectivity to judge their education as worthwhile or not. Therefore, the parent only finds out too late that their senior in high school who was acing all his classes and never getting in trouble actually reads at a third-grade level, can’t multiply or divide numbers, knows nothing about their faith, and identifies as a communist.
Besides inculcating values and setting goals themselves, parents can take ownership of their children’s education by cutting the cord. As the story of Daniel Ifresne illustrates, the screen is by far the greatest influence over children today. Ifresne, the son of Haitian immigrants, grew up in a rough part of Brooklyn. Yet, he managed to maintain a strong work ethic and hold onto his conservatism while his classmates all became woke and allowed their circumstances to define them.
Ifresne remarks that his classmates were all obsessed with their online identities and thus adopted Leftist ideology to fit in with their peers. Even though their parents took care to enroll them in a rigorous charter school and take them to church on Sundays, they were perfectly comfortable with leaving their children to be brainwashed for so many hours each day.
Parents need to realize that it is still largely in their power to reform their schools and pass on their values to their children. It is also important to realize that the informal learning at home is much more fundamental to their child’s education than the formal learning at school. If parents push forward on both fronts, the school and home, they can transform a situation that has enabled so much mediocrity and conformity into one that empowers individuals to become independent and self-reliant.
Knowing all this, conservative Catholic parents should take on McAuliffe’s challenge and become even more involved and provide even more input. For too long they have outsourced these concerns to unaccountable actors who have given into fear, ignorance, and laziness. It’s time to take back control of their children’s education and relearn what it is to exercise real freedom before compromised politicians like McAuliffe try to take it all away.
[Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images]