GOP is using ‘parental rights’ to end public education as we know it
The Florida Legislature would have you believe that it invented parental rights last year when it passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights. He does not have. Most of these rights have been on the books for decades. The scheme aims bigger: to continue the GOP’s assault and destruction of public education. Parents are weaponized to serve as mercenaries by a legislature that needs docile foot soldiers who have no idea they are being manipulated. Passing them off as heroes is part of the scam. The Parental Bill of Rights aims to bring out the worst in parents. He does a terrific job.
I’m not referring to the majority of parents who are too busy to attend circus-style school board meetings or harass teachers and principals. These majorities know how to trust teachers to do the job they are trained to do better than one or two parents. They know that it is the job of schools to open their child’s mind beyond the confines of the home.
Speaking personally for a moment: I have a modicum of education – clearly not enough to know not to use the word “minimum”, but enough to know that nothing I can do alone or with my wife could come close to away the variety and expertise of the dozens of teachers who have taught my two children in the schools. That I may have had differences of opinion or methods or even pedagogy with some of them is natural, and irrelevant.
We did a little homeschooling when they were younger. But at school, my children’s faculty was responsible, not me. I didn’t send them to school for more homes but – to quote the gospel according to Cleese – for something completely different. Metaphorically speaking, why limit them to one bookshelf when they could have an entire library, less metaphorically assuming the library hasn’t been raided by the school board’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice? . I trusted the faculty to do the right thing. If the teachers sometimes made mistakes, as I really hope they did (they didn’t disappoint), that was part of the deal. My children were taught by human beings, not Magic Kingdom animatronics. Trust was implicit the moment I enrolled them in school, as was my duty to store the chip on my shoulder in one of those countless self-storage facilities around town.
I’m pretty sure the majority of parents trust it too. Public education has its challenges, most of them coming from legislators. The occasional transgender bathroom, queer book or Black Lives Matter passage in an English textbook are not among those challenges. They are part of what works in schools. Unless you hear it from the loudmouthed minority of ignoramuses who suffocate their child’s intellect or identity at home and then show up at school to accuse anyone who might let a little in of air.
These are the parents to whom the GOP dedicated its Bill of Rights, the parents more interested in McGuffey-era doctrine than 21st century education, the parents who glorify the three Rs while calling for the books to be banned, whitewash discussions and fire teachers. It is the parents who do not know the difference between a value and a prejudice, between pluralism and tribalism: the parents who object to schools promoting acceptance, expanding values, celebrating differences, less than they are those that are accepted, unless it is their values, their exalted differences, however narrow or reactionary. And of course, it is the parents who put their own rights above those of the children, a horrifying upheaval in ethical standards.
They are the shock troops of the GOP. The Parents’ Bill of Rights is their consummate manifesto.
It rests on a seductive but ridiculous assumption: that parents are infallible. Parents can be as toxic to their children as a home environment can be mind-numbing. Without the lifting effect of education, and especially public education, we would still be in the dark ages. Parents can be programmed to raise their children biologically. It’s not particularly difficult. It does not follow that they are programmed to nurture them lovingly, morally, intellectually and culturally.
Lawmakers know this. After all, they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for so much parenting shit. So the flattery of the Parental Rights Bill is a lie. It assumes that parents know best, when they know least. But his intention is strategic. It turns parents into GOP insurgents. Who better than parents who know nothing about education to throw themselves against the so-called bulwarks of education while fueling the mythology of schools as fortresses that have snubbed parental involvement for all these years. If only.
The Bill of Rights is the GOP’s Trojan horse. He brings parents into schools to pursue the ultimate goal: the continued demolition of public education. Florida Republicans have been doing a great job there for the past few decades, using a variety of means.
Based on funding per student, Florida is the seventh stingiest state in the nation. The Democrats also did a pitiful job when they controlled the government, although the Republicans accelerated the leak. Today’s funding total includes money diverted from charters, as was not the case before. This is another weapon in the demolition derby. Some charters are excellent. Most are failures. They hide mediocrity behind state indifference to standards and reporting requirements. They close more often than bad restaurants. Look at Flagler. With one exception, it is a graveyard of charters.
Then there are the vouchers, the misuse of our tax dollars to pay for private and religious education for students, compounding the unconstitutional shame with corporate tax breaks – nearly $900 million this year alone. . Imagine what public schools could do with it if it weren’t ripped off to them (and us taxpayers).
Finally, there is the school choice sham, again intended to flatter parents into believing that they can choose their children’s educational paths as they might choose between fast food, when in fact the formula of choice is another way of pitting schools against each other. while undermining their ability to plan for any form of enrollment stability and exempting the state from ensuring equitable funding at all levels.
But all of these attacks have taken place on the periphery. The public education Huns needed their own militias to destroy them from within. That’s the genius of the parental bill of rights.
It’s largely a redundant restatement of laws and procedures already in place, whether it’s allowing you to remove your child from any health class where the word “vagina” might be pronounced, to allow your anti-vax phobias to prevail, to give you access to your child’s records or any teaching materials in circulation. None of this is new, just as hysterical members of the school board might want you to think otherwise.
But while the Bill of Rights magnifies parental privacy and autonomy, it gives parents the right to violate that same privacy and autonomy where it matters most in school: between students and teacher. . It shatters that trust and imposes a Stasi-style surveillance system that is as anathema to academic research and personal growth as those cameras and microphones that lawmakers want to chain to teachers in classrooms. Just as the same lawmakers want to reduce Florida women to “welcoming agencies” for pregnancies, in the vulgar words of Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, they want to reduce teachers to robotic dispensers of good citizenship. partisanship and morality of the plantation era. Teachers who break the rules will be punished like students who break the rules. No wonder there is an exodus of teachers. This is exactly what the GOP wants. Destruction from within.
It is not a question of rights. It’s not about parents. It’s certainly not about children, and it’s really not about education. It’s about ending public schools as we know them, as the most powerful engine of pluralism and unity in America. The GOP has legislative power. He has the governor’s mansion. He has judicial power. It has chambers of commerce. He will never get the universities. But there is no greater prize than schools. That win, Florida’s biggest loss, is now in sight.
Pierre Tristam is the editor-in-chief of FlaglerLive. Contact him by email here. A version of this piece aired on WNZF.