Parental Rights and the Public Education Classroom

Recently a Utah legislator proposed a parental ‘bill of rights‘ regarding the education of their children. The idea seems to be that parents will agree to be more involved with their children’s education, and will then get more of a say in how they are educated.

This is very poorly thought out (read: not at all). I’m convinced that this legislator has no idea what it’s like in a Utah classroom already.

From a theoretical perspective, rights cannot be had without the exercise of responsible behavior. As it stands, parents have little say in how the state educates their child, officially. I don’t approve of this legislator’s position, but it seems to be a response to the parental demand for more say in how their children are educated. In some sense, it would have to be contractual. In general, I think this would be disastrous, because we don’t have a society that gives parents pay enough to spend extra time with their kids’ teachers and schoolwork anyway.

We effectively outsource the education of our children to professionals because it’s effective. (This is not to suggest that innovation and adaptation won’t occur, but that there are at least some good reasons for what we do right now. I honestly wonder how effective it will remain.)

Teachers spend years learning how to manage a classroom full of children and get them to grab a hold of the information and skills they’ll need. They are trained on how to do this. Some of them are better than others. The only advantage a parent typically has is that they will know their children better (ideally), and therefore know how to adapt materials to their childrens’ needs. But I do believe that the great variety of experience and training of a teacher will weigh in heavier most of the time.

This is not to say that homeschooling or private tutoring can’t be extremely effective, but they usually ‘cost more’ in some sense. They require more investment for a parent anyway– in their own education, or in their willingness to learn alongside of their children as they move through subjects. A parent must also seek the materials for their children to work with, and find activities to engage their children. This is literally a full-time job. To be fair, I also wonder if

This is not to say that I discourage homeschooling. I encourage it, and am proud to be from a state that endorses and has a great support system for ‘dual enrollment’– where a student to can attend part of public school, but also obtain homeschool credits. (My current understanding is that this is limited to Junior High and High School, but I’m still learning about it.  Here’s a link with the legal mumbo-jumbo.)

This dual enrollment program is far more effective a resource than some parental bill of rights would be. And it is already in place. With that said, I’ll be watching this development carefully. If this becomes some method by which to prosecute ‘irresponsible’ parents, or it becomes clear that this is a ‘classist’ kind of a program that essentially widens the gap between children who recieve time and attention from their parents, and those who do not then I’ll have to condemn it even more strongly.

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