Would that be "Always"?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

There's a Jeff Jacoby piece at the Boston Globe on "When parents' values conflict with public schools" that spends too much time on the "culture wars" aspect of whether and when to teach children about homosexuality, and too little (read: none) on whether we should have public education at all.

Most of the article focuses on the fact that Kerry Healey, the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts (and a gubernatorial candidate), said, in the way of explaining why she sends her children to private schools, "I want my kids to be in an environment where they can talk about values ... in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting."

The article then notes the divide between liberals (one of whom claims that Healey is "out of touch with the lives of regular people") and ordinary citizens (who are shocked, for example, at their second grade children being read a story that ended in a gay marriage in class).

Although polls show that a slight majority of Americans favor civil unions for gay couples, I think that the article is probably correct that most Americans would be unhappy about such a matter being introduced to their children at such a young age.

In fact, although I regard homosexuality to be a moral issue about on a par with hair color, I would prefer to at least know beforehand how the matter was dealt with in school for children that young. Indeed, I am not so sure children that young should have to think about sexual matters at all. As a parent, I would really appreciate the government butting out and letting me make up my own mind how and when to introduce my children to this subject.

So the article gets one issue right....

But homosexuality and gay marriage are not like subtraction or geography; they cannot be separated from questions of morality, justice, and decency. No matter how a school chooses to deal with sexual issues, it promotes certain values -- values that some parents will fervently welcome and that others will just as fervently reject. And what is true of human sexuality is true of other issues that touch on deeply felt religious, political, or ideological values. [bold added]
... while completely missing a more important point.
When it comes to the education of children, there is always an agenda -- and those who don't share that agenda too often find themselves belittled, marginalized, or ignored. Perhaps it was true, as Thomas Reilly says, that the public schools his children attended "reinforced the values of our home." But as the Parkers and Wirthlins in Lexington can testify, other families have a very different experience. When Kerry Healey says she wants her children "to be in an environment where they can talk about values ..... in a way that you can't always do in a public school setting," many public-school parents will know exactly what she means.
Great. You've defended Kerry Healey. But it is not some politician's choice to send her children to private schools that needs defending. It's the right of every parent not to have money taken from him for the purpose of indoctrinating his children (or at all) that needs defending!

The only way to avoid having the government screw up large numbers of children at once by exposing them to things they aren't ready for -- or, conversely, to teach the mores of, say, a specific religious faith -- is to privatize the schools.

And I could be mistaken in my view that young children should not be exposed to the concept of homosexuality. So what if I am? The government has no business imposing any ideology (even a correct one), be it a theory of psychological development, a political ideology, or a religion. This necessarily means that the government has no business being involved in education.

For even the theories on such things as how best to educate children, what constitutes proper subject matter, and how best to arrive at knowledge in the first place are all based on some ideological perspective by their very nature.

I should not be forced to endorse any of these, have my children used as guinea pigs for any of these, or be involved in making children captive audiences to ideas I oppose.

Jacoby discusses some big issues in his piece, but the biggest one is this: Why is it that in the very state Paul Revere called home, it has come to pass that a candidate for office is being held to account for doing something that is her right? And why is that same right is made more difficult for everyone there to exercise by the taxation required to support the public schools?

-- CAV

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