Mirror of Justice

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Parents as facilitators of choice

Jeffrey Shulman has posted the introduction to his forthcoming book on religious parenting rights and children.  He apparently wants the law to better reflect a parent's duty to prepare the child to choose a life path of their own.  This is not a new theme, but it does not cease to disturb:

If the courts were to apply the principle that children may not be denied exposure to the full measure of intellectual incitement that should be the heart (and soul) of every young person's education, they would more consistently, and correctly, sort out the competing claims of parents and public school officials to make educational choices on behalf of the child. The work of preparing the child to make free and independent choices is entrusted to the parent, and it is a challenging and somber task, for it means allowing children (in fact, it means helping children) to leave their homes and leave behind the ways of their parents. Or, at least, it means giving children the choice to do so. It is little wonder, then, that we would want to transform this sacred trust into a sacred right, a right that effectively allows parents to shield their children from choice and its attendant responsibilities. But the law of parent-child relations protects children from this sort of "protection," ensuring that children receive a truly public education.

Physically and intellectually transporting the child across the boundaries of home and community, a public education can bring its students a much needed respite from the ideological solipsism of the enclosed family. Of course, public education comes at a cost. It disrupts the intramural transmission of values from parent to child. It threatens to dismantle a familiar world by introducing the child to multiple sources of authority - and to the possibility that a choice must be made among them. Indeed, the open world of the public school should challenge the transmission of any closed set of values. Unless children are to live under "a perpetual childhood of prescription," they must be exposed to the dust and heat of the race - intellectually, morally, spiritually. A public education is the engine by which children are exposed to "the great sphere" that is their world and legacy. It is their means of escape from, or free commitment to, the social group in which they were born. It is their best guarantee of an open future.

Just reading these two paragraphs makes me want to pull my kids out of public school.  Did you enjoy "the dust and heat of the race" at kindergarten today, honey?  Is Mrs. Johnson making sure you reject any closed set of values and embrace an open future? 

http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2011/02/parents-as-facilitators-of-choice.html

Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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The theme of compelling parents to ensure that children can make "free and independent choices" is certainly a familiar one. But so is the idea among intellectuals that adopting this sort of hard-edged and uncompromising view will permit courts to "correctly" "sort out" what needs sorting out -- other people's ways of life.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Feb 28, 2011 12:42:47 PM

Whatever role the state should play, the parenting philosophy I think of as "parenting by censorship" reflects a combination of arrogance and insecurity on the part of the parents that is, ultimately, extremely damaging to children. By refusing to expose children to other points of view, by rejecting a child's right to shape their own future and beliefs, parents both assert that they (and they alone) know the secret of correct morality and demonstrate that they are insecure about their truth that they can only convince their children to follow it by effectively turning the family into a cult.

Parents who want to raise drones, and who are afraid of their children surpassing them, will attempt to indoctrinate their offspring with a closed-minded view of the world. Parents who want to raise successful, intelligent individuals will show them a view of the world and give them the tools they need to make good, independent choices.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Feb 28, 2011 1:16:31 PM

Andrew, I don't want my kids to be drones, and I want to expose them to other points of view. I even want to expose them to points of view that I will present to them as "wrong, period." "Kids, you will meet racists. They think that skin color justifies discrimination. They are wrong." I will also teach them that abortion is wrong, and so on.

Our local public school will also teach certain views as right or wrong. They are no less neutral about condemning views that are "unacceptable." Some of those views happen to be the ones that my Church teaches as correct.

So it's not a false choice between "closed-minded" and "open-minded." It's a choice between having the categorization done by the State or by me. That's not a close call.

On the other hand, I agree with your point to the extent that, aside from labelling some choices as right or wrong, I want my kids to learn that within the permitted range, they should decided for themselves as they grow up. But on that aspect, I have every confidence that that my own views of "acceptable independent-mindedness" far outstrips the tone of our local PC school.

Posted by: Catholic dad | Feb 28, 2011 2:17:22 PM

"public education can bring its students a much needed respite from the ideological solipsism of the enclosed family."

Reminds me of a great Jimmy Stewart line in Shenandoah, when the Confederates try to draft his sons into fighting:

"They don't belong to the state they belong to ME! When they were babies I never saw the state comin' around here with a spare tit!"

Posted by: CK | Feb 28, 2011 2:24:29 PM

"public education can bring its students a much needed respite from the ideological solipsism of the enclosed family."

Reminds me of a great Jimmy Stewart line in Shenandoah, when the Confederates try to draft his sons into fighting:

"They don't belong to the state they belong to ME! When they were babies I never saw the state comin' around here with a spare tit!"

Posted by: CK | Feb 28, 2011 2:24:29 PM

Out of the frying pan of the "ideological solipsism" of the family and into the fire of the "ideological solipsism" of the liberal state.

The lack of self-consciousness evident in this abstract and others like it is almost comical; tweaked just a bit, it becomes a parody of its own utterly earnest prescriptions.

Posted by: WJ | Feb 28, 2011 2:25:30 PM

Out of the frying pan of the "ideological solipsism" of the family and into the fire of the "ideological solipsism" of the liberal state.

The lack of self-consciousness evident in this abstract and others like it is almost comical; tweaked just a bit, it becomes a parody of its own utterly earnest prescriptions.

Posted by: WJ | Feb 28, 2011 2:25:31 PM

It was several after I became a parent that I realized how much my medical school training was geared towards undermining the parent-child relationship. It was a rather insidious process. Parents were presented as obstacles to caring for our young patients as opposed to partners in their care. We were taught to exclude them from care decisions as much as possible. Get them out of the exam room. How could these untrained amateurs possibly know what was best for their children? Then I had children. No one loves my children more than I do. No one has their best interest at heart more than I do. No one knows them like I do. While Hillary Clinton may have been right that it takes a village to raise a child, as the parent it is my right to choose the village. From the catechism: The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family. Following the principle of subsidiarity, larger communities should take care not to usurp the family’s prerogatives or interfere in its life. (CCC 2209)

Posted by: Denise | Feb 28, 2011 3:12:35 PM

Most parents agree with the parents who have posted in this thread. The conflict of interest itself is sufficient to judge that reaction as unworthy of consideration. It is not at all interesting that the group whose control over other persons is at stake takes the position that the control should remain not only undiminished, but completely free from outside review.

I hate to be harsh, but those of you taking the view that the public school system and/or the medical system shouldn't interfere with the parent-child relationship are complicit in the victimization of millions of physically, psychologically, and sexually abused children.

Posted by: Michael Aletheias | Feb 28, 2011 6:31:32 PM

Mr. Aletheias, Your understanding of the parent-child relationship is very different than the understanding held by most parents. It is not a relationship based on domination. Rather it is a relationship based on love. Most parents would sacrifice their own lives to save the lives of their children. No one is suggesting there be no oversight. As a physician, I am always cognizant of the possibility of abuse in my patients. However, the possibility of abuse is not justification for undermining the relationship between all parents and their children. A look at the statistics regarding physical and sexual abuse of children by teachers and other employees of the public school system make it clear that usurping the role of parents by the state is no protection from abuse.

Posted by: Denise | Feb 28, 2011 8:58:59 PM

Michael Alethias, it's one thing to be harsh, and another to be unfair.

There is a difference between intervening when a child has been physically or psychologically abused by a parent. That's not the subject of this post, and it's a straw man. The subject of this post is the degree to which public schools ought to be stripping away a child's upbringing in order to inculcate social values and mores that the state prizes, and that are prized by the dominant socio-cultural milieu.

I tend to take a slightly more aggressive approach than I think Rob may be comfortable with (though these are matters of degree, and I don't want to speak for him) in this article: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1097578

But the suggestion that those who are concerned about the way in which a public school socializes children "are complicit" in criminal activity against children is, frankly, patently absurd and unfair.

Posted by: Marc DeGirolami | Mar 1, 2011 10:45:55 AM

"Catholic dad," the difference between public schools and parents is that schools claim no right or ability to censor, unlike those parents who cling to outdated and delegitimized "parental rights" theories to justify power. If you're not censoring positions or the arguments in favor of them (if, for instance, you would allow your child to investigate the philosophical arguments in favor of abortion rights instead of teaching them unquestioning faith) then you're not the problem. The problem is parents who seek to censor parts of the world (through controlling Internet access, protestif sexual billboards, etc) as part of a plan to brainwash their children.

And out of curiosity, what are these issues that your local public school presents normative positions on? In my experience, such positions are limited to those required for a base level of sociability at the school, and other attitudes supposedly brainwashed into children by schools are actually the natural product of an education among a diverse group of peers.

Posted by: Andrew MacKie-Mason | Mar 1, 2011 1:22:47 PM

Mr. MacKie-Mason -

I disagree; public schools do claim the right to censor. They routinely claim that some views may not be expressed, while others are not only expressed, but are identified by the school as the "correct" views. For example, many public schools now allow various gay pride days, host forums, etc. At the same time, many seek to forbid students from wearing t-shirts with opposing views. Several court cases, coming out different ways, have addressed this specific issue.

Just today, the 7th Circuit decided a case that involved a school's ban, on "offensiveness" grounds, of T-shirts that challenged the pro-gay view. See http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/5T0Z59OV.pdf for the decision.

In other cases, schools have set up discussion panels, and have refused to allow anyone presenting the evil, benighted, regressive view held by, among others, the Catholic Church.

In other areas of sexual morality, public schools frequently teach contraception, or hand it out. See the recent stories from Washington, DC, in which students complained that the brands of free condoms were not cool enough. They wanted premium brands, ribbed, etc.

I'd rather not identify my local schools, for anonymity purposes, but the pro-gay, pro-contraception, pro-abortion, etc. movements are standard fare in many public schools.

I don't plan to hide these views from my children, but I plan to present them at an age I find appropriate, and I also plan to label them as "right" and "wrong" in accordance with the Magisterium and Catechism. I don't see that as brainwashing; I see it as proper inculcation of values. I see the public school's efforts as brainwashing, because they are presented with absolutism and with ritual condemnation of dissenting views.

Perhaps the schools' views on such things are required for a "base level of sociability" in some circles, but that is only because they have redefined that base level such that Catholic teaching is unacceptable in academia.

Posted by: Catholic dad | Mar 1, 2011 5:46:11 PM

Andrew: are you referring to me when you mention "protesting sexual billboards" as part of a plan to "brainwash my children?" Are you serious?

Posted by: rob vischer | Mar 1, 2011 9:10:20 PM

Is being literate in English one of those narrow and closed value systems that our schools are duty-bound to free our children from?

I wonder how this fellow would deal with the notion that the Truth will make your free?

Posted by: Joel Clarke Gibbons | Mar 2, 2011 6:35:42 PM

The notion of the public school system being neutral or open-minded is hogwash. Don't forget that "Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production. That was its primary purpose."

Posted by: WJ | Mar 4, 2011 6:39:10 AM