The madness of “parents’ rights” in public education | Opinion
By Paul Mahler
Claims of “parents’ rights” are used to stoke the passions of those who seek to ban books from school libraries or exert individual control over school curricula. It is also used by political hacks to gather votes from terribly uninformed people. These are just two of the many examples threatening public education in the United States.
In Florida, Gov. DeSantis said his Parental Rights in Education bill provides protection for parents to prevent a trend to “sexualize children” that he says is rampant in other states.
Known as the “Don’t Say Gay” Act by its opponents, it asks the question in which US school districts are children in kindergarten through third grade being “sexualized” by their teachers?
A law similar to “Don’t Say Gay” in Florida has also been proposed in New Jersey. Last March, State Senator Joseph Pennacchio introduced legislation (S2385) with the express purpose of removing “diversity and inclusion instructional requirements for K-8 students.”
Defending the bill on his website, Senator Pennacchio makes the preposterous claim that schools “meant to teach students that they are racist even if they don’t want to be, and they don’t want to be. ‘teach children as young as kindergarten age’. .”
Senator Pennacchio actually thinks New Jersey teachers are complicit “in teaching students they’re racist.” It’s as absurd as suggesting that carpenters teach their apprentices to measure once and cut twice…rather than the other way around.
So let’s be clear, encouraging kindness and acceptance of all regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation is unacceptable to Senator Pennacchio and anyone who buys into the “parents’ rights” nonsense he advocates. He would like you to measure his disruptive “parents’ rights” legislation once while allowing him to cut twice on promoting diversity and kindness in New Jersey schools.
If the Pennacchio bill becomes law, New Jersey students would be deprived of learning all of the soft skills that go along with diversity and inclusion education programs.
School administrators and teachers across the United States understand that diversity and inclusion efforts go hand in hand with social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. SEL not only teaches kindness, but the many soft skills now recognized as essential in the workforce. These include making eye contact, resolving conflict, understanding empathy, communicating feelings effectively, making new friends, and becoming more responsible.
These positive character attributes are known to HR managers and hiring managers as soft skills. According to humanresourcedirector.com, these soft skills “have evolved in recent years from ‘nice-to-have’ to ‘must-have’ skills.”
Because these soft skills are benefits of social-emotional learning programs, most New Jersey school boards have appropriately adopted them into their curriculum.
Does it make sense to sensible parents that their kindergartener or third grader is too young to learn how to make new friends or become more responsible?
So, parents who are concerned about their individual rights should talk with their school administrators and teachers about the benefits of integrating diversity and inclusion soft skills into their child’s studies. Rather than teaching them to be racist, as Pennacchio unduly and absurdly suggests, they emphasize kindness, empathy, and truly useful lifelong skills.
Likewise, when voters hear the phrase “parents’ rights in education,” they should realize that politicians like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Pennacchio of New Jersey are dishonestly using that phrase to steal their vote. . Unfortunately, they do so at the expense of public education in New Jersey and across the United States.
Paul Mahler is President of Pequannock Residents of Pride, Equity & Leadership (PROPEL.) PROPEL is a supportive community advocating for social justice in Pequannock.
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