Losing Parental Rights in Education
A proposed bill in Mississippi appears that it would strip both homeschool parents and private school administrators of their control over the curriculum. HB188, if passed into law, would mandate that all high school students in the state, whether in public, private, or homeschool, must be given “the same curriculum requirements” regarding state history and the US government.
This would be a big change from current state law, especially for homeschoolers, which allows parents to have complete control over the curriculum that is taught to their children.
I want to be clear, as a lover of history and civics education myself, I am not criticizing the teaching of these subjects in high school. It’s very important for kids to learn about them. I am, however, leery when a state board of education mandates to everyone in the state what must be taught, no matter where or who they are.
A big part of the reason parents choose to homeschool or send their children to private schools is that they want different curriculum or to emphasize different values than what the local public school is offering. That is their right. It is critical to remember that it should not be up to the government or to a state board; instead, it should be the parents who oversee the education of their children.
Some might worry that there are bad homeschool parents, or that some private schools don’t do a good job of teaching history, and therefore they need government oversight. I believe those worries are overblown. True, bad parents do exist, but the vast majority care about their children far more than any government board ever will. They know their kids better than anyone else and want the best education for them.
Therefore, while a state shouldn’t impose upon the parents, it may be appropriate for a state to offer help to the parents in the education role. If a state wants to improve the education of its resident children, perhaps they should consider the opposite approach. Rather than mandates, offer options. Parents are taxpayers, so why not offer to pay for the curriculum for all students, regardless of which education method they choose? Why should only citizens that use government approved curriculum have access to their own tax dollars?
In fact, some states are doing this now by providing allowances for certain education expenses for homeschoolers. And the expansion of charter schools has also added more parental choice and diversity in education options.
Even better, I am eager for the day when a state decides to truly empower parents and allows tax dollars to follow the child to the school of their choice -- whether public, private, or home. Imagine the improvement as schools search for the best possible curriculum and best possible methods to attract parents and educate students. No state board of education would be able to compete with the power of thousands of people across the state exploring ways to improve education.
For a culture that values both diversity and excellence, nothing would accomplish this better in the arena of education than true parental choice.
And for Christians, we must remember to hold fast to God’s instruction - to train up our children in the way they should go. (Proverbs 22:6) No matter what education options we choose for our children, ultimately the decisions have been entrusted to parents by God to make - not to the state or anyone else.
For now, HB188 goes in the wrong direction by mandating curriculum for everyone and limiting parental rights. If you live in Mississippi, be aware and contact your representatives if this concerns you. Even if you live elsewhere, every year these “top-down” education mandates pop up around the country. We need to be alert to them and keep education control where it belongs -- with the parents.
Caleb Backholm is a married father of three and a small business owner. A “political nerd” since childhood, he first started publishing social and political news commentaries in the Jr. High school newspaper and has been writing ever since. He attended Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN where he studied Broadcast Communications, Biblical Studies, and History. Originally from Washington State, he currently lives in Ft. Worth, Texas and is a student at Southwestern Seminary. Caleb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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