Is There a Concerted Campaign to Silence Parents?
Public schools are becoming propagandists for fashionable ideologies — most of them at odds with Catholic teaching.
“I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach,” remarked Virginia gubernatorial Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe at a Sept. 28 debate with Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin. Many parents were rightly outraged.
A few days later, a concerned father in Fairfax County, Virginia, wanted to speak at the most recent school board meeting about sexually explicit material in the school library. He was never called to the podium.
And, if you didn't think things could get more surreal, on the other side of the Potomac River, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memorandum at the beginning of the month directing authorities to respond to what he claimed was a “disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff who participate in the vital work of running our nation's public schools.”
Is this a concerted effort to silence America's parents?
A few years ago, Mary Hasson and Teresa Farnan wrote Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late(Regnery, 2018). They called out relentless indoctrination and court-imposed atheism in schools. They also wrote of public education’s “indifference to parents’ rights, as schools muscle parents out of the most private areas of their children’s lives — identity, sexuality, and emotional well-being.”
I admit that when I first read their book, I thought that they might be exaggerating things a bit. As it turns out, they were spot-on. Public schools (and even some private ones) have become propagandists for fashionable ideologies — most of them at odds with Catholic teaching.
So it's not surprising that many parents in the U.S. are rising up to assert their rights. And Catholic parents are well situated to help them. Church teaching offers us important guidance on how we should exercise our role as primary educators to our children.
The Catechism explains that “as those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions” (2229). There are a range of schooling options today: public and private secular schools, Catholic or other private religious schools, homeschooling, etc.
In my family, the “right” educational model has changed over time. For many years, while we lived out of the country, I homeschooled my children. At first, I had no formal curriculum. Later I discovered a beautiful Catholic homeschooling program that offered structured courses for each grade level along with images on almost every page of sacred art. We now live in Fairfax County, Virginia. Given the recent events mentioned above, I sure am relieved that my children attend private religious schools.
Our role as primary educators is not merely to select a school. Parents should choose schools, explains the Catechism, that will help “in their task as Christian educators” (Catechism, 2229). Pope St. Paul VI, in Gravissimum Educationis, similarly wrote that “the role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute.”
The point here is clear: Schools don’t replace parents.
The cost of a private school is often the biggest impediment for families. I rely on financial support from extended family, as well as tuition assistance from the schools. But what about civil authorities? The Catechism explains that “public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.”
Some states already have creative school-choice initiatives. EdChoice is a nonpartisan organization committed to empowering “every family to choose the schooling environment that fits their children’s needs best.” They have put together a helpful dashboard identifying states that have already adopted creative programs adopted across the country. More states should join in.
It’s also worth reminding ourselves that the work of parents as primary educators begins before the school day and continues after dismissal. Parents bear witness to their responsibility for the education of their children, explains the Catechism, “first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity and disinterested service are the rule” (2223).
A Catholic home is not simply a place for rest. It must also be a school of virtues. It must be a bright and cheerful place.
And finally, parents have a duty to “evangelize their children” (Catechism, 2224). We are the “first heralds” and should “associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.”
Bringing young children to visit to the Blessed Sacrament, pray before the statue of a favored saint or Our Lady, or light a candle together for a special intention have been helpful ways I’ve found to introduce my own children and even some of their friends to the idea of sacred space and Catholic identity. Making Sunday Mass a family affair is also my top priority. There certainly were times when I had to take a fussy baby outside the Church or sit in the dreaded “cry room” with an incorrigible young child. Eventually, babies grew up and rambunctious toddlers settled down.
Pope St. John Paul II, in Familiaris Consortio, wrote that “each family finds within itself a summons that cannot be ignored and that specifies both its dignity and its responsibility: family, become what you are.”
In today’s America, where teaching in public schools is increasingly poisoned by gender ideology and critical race theory, parents are at a crossroads when it comes to the education of our children.
We are the primary educators of our children. It’s time to let it be known!