Whose Children Are They?
Updated: Jan 2, 2020
The Bible tells parents to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Proverbs 22:6) and raise children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 64). Based on such ideas western culture has embraced the view that parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children for millennia.
Parents can temporarily transfer or share that authority with others—a practice known as “in loco parentis” (a Latin legal phrase meaning, “in the place of a parent”). They can thus place their children into non-family educational institutions (such as public or private schools), but even when they do so, they do not give up their parental rights or the control over what their children are to be taught. The US Supreme Court agrees that it is the right “of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”[i]
However, a growing number of teachers and schools believe that they are the parents and have sole authority over the beliefs with which children should be raised. One public-school teacher recently took to social media, railing against parents who had become outraged over the inclusion of a drag queen in a cosmetology class. The teacher complained, “I believe that raising a child is the responsibility of the community, and that parents should not have the final say.”[ii]
This tug-of-war between parents and teachers has been evident in American education since the 1920s, when secular progressives largely took control of both the infrastructure and pedagogy of education. They believed that there were too many blue-collared parents influencing children, so well-educated teachers were needed to make sure every child would learn what the educators believed they should know. As Woodrow Wilson affirmed, “The purpose of a university should be to make a son as unlike his father as possible.”[iii]
That arrogance and assumption of superior expertise has increased in recent years. Today, it is particularly laughable given the fact that many parents are just as well, and often better educated than their children’s teachers.[iv] And children who are homeschooled (that is, taught by their parents) routinely outperform their “professionally” educated peers in academic testing. These students not only exhibit higher levels of college-level academic achievement and more mature social skills but also lower levels of depression and anxiety.[v]
It is not necessary to have a teaching degree to raise successful children, but many professional educators reject this view, especially for those children they believe have not been indoctrinated with proper social values Hence the growing effort among educators to address topics such as gender, sexual expression, socialism, amorality, the harms of religion, and much else. Given this trend, one mom-blogger properly queried, “Aren't we supposed to be the ones taking charge and [teaching basic human life lessons] at home, rather than the other way around?”[vi]
From a legal and social perspective, parents are responsible for their children, for if a child under the age of eighteen does something wrong, the parents are largely held liable. And from a Biblical perspective, parents are definitely responsible for the education their children receive. It is therefore a threat both to freedom and the culture to say that raising children is something the “community” should do rather than parents.
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[i] Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925). See also Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923).
[ii] Reagan Reed, “Teacher Says Parents “Don’t Know What’s Best”,” Texas Scorecard (November 14, 2019), https://texasscorecard.com/local/teacher-says-parents-dont-know-whats-best/
[iii] “The University's Part in Political Life, 13 March 1909,” The Papers of Woodrow Wilson 19:99
[iv] “Who is The Expert: Parents or Teachers? Both?,” GettingSmart (March 19, 2016), https://www.gettingsmart.com/2016/03/expert-parents-teachers/
[v] Chris Waller, “Homeschooling could be the smartest way to teach kids in the 21st century — here are 5 reasons why,” Business Insider (January 21, 2018), https://www.businessinsider.com/reasons-homeschooling-is-the-smartest-way-to-teach-kids-today-2018-1#students-may-achieve-more-in-the-long-run-6
[vi] Jill Simonian, “Listen Up, Teachers Are Not Our Co-Parents!,” Mom.com (October 15, 2017), https://mom.com/kids/149710-teachers-are-not-our-co-parents