Opinion: What gives you the right to decide my child’s curriculum?

·3 min read

When my children were young, I volunteered in a low-income neighborhood. We often met at a local church there, and I would bring my children with me to the meetings.

Years later, my son confessed to me how much he hated going. He was forced to interact with kids who had different experiences and different ideas about life. It was difficult for him. It made him uncomfortable. It took him outside of his white, upper-middle-class “comfort zone.” Yet he has also told me that it was one of the best experiences he had as a child, and as a result of that experience, he became a strong advocate for social justice.

More: We must rethink anti-CRT legislation in Kentucky or risk losing more teachers | Opinion

There are parents who would tell us that children should not be exposed to such “discomfort” at such a young age. They should not be having conversations about racism, or sexism, or any other topics that might cause them to think critically about their privilege. Emboldened by the media, these parents have become vocal throughout our nation, speaking out at school board meetings and protesting against teachers who might be teaching concepts that they feel are consistent with critical race theory.

The argument seems reasonable: As a parent, I have a right to determine what my child learns in school. Perhaps. But you don’t have the right to determine what MY child learns in school. And therein lies the dilemma. For truth be told, I want my child to learn about racism. I want my child to learn about women’s struggle for equal rights. I want my child to learn about past and present injustice. I want my child to learn all of American history so they can develop empathy for those whose historical experiences differ from their own, and so they will want to work for a better America — a better future for us all.

Eileen Serke chastised the JCPS Board of Education for using security during a school board meeting at Central High School in Louisville, Ky. on Oct. 5, 2021. She held an image of Eastern High School student Tyree Smith who was killed recently at a bus stop as she advocated that school resource officers be returned to schools.
Eileen Serke chastised the JCPS Board of Education for using security during a school board meeting at Central High School in Louisville, Ky. on Oct. 5, 2021. She held an image of Eastern High School student Tyree Smith who was killed recently at a bus stop as she advocated that school resource officers be returned to schools.

When I was an elementary teacher, I often taught my students about the “rule of the majority,” which is a fundamental principle in a Republic such as ours. “Put your heads down and let’s vote. Don’t peek!” Students learned that in the U.S., the majority rules. The person who gets the most votes, wins. The proposal that gets the most votes, wins.

More: Beware! 'Very fine' racists may be coming to a Louisville school board near you

Yet in today’s society, a persistent and determined minority can impose their demands simply by being louder than the majority. They are showing up at school board meetings, insisting that certain books be banned and certain lessons be eliminated. In Kentucky recently, a parent in Floyd County succeeded in eliminating the district’s language arts curriculum because they felt some of the stories were “robbing children of their innocence.” Do they have a right to voice their concerns? Absolutely. They even have a right to insist on an alternative curriculum for their child. But do they have the right to impose their will on the rest of us? Absolutely not.

Anti-CRT legislation has been filed in Kentucky that would make it illegal for teachers to have conversations about race and sex that would make students “uncomfortable.” This begs the question: Which students? Does this include Black students, who for decades have learned that their ancestors were considered three-fifths of a person? Or Jewish students, who learned that their ancestors were assumed to be less than human and were murdered by the millions? Or Japanese American students, who learned that their ancestors were put in internment camps during the second world war? Or does it only include white students, who might feel uncomfortable upon learning that their ancestors enslaved other human beings?

Kentucky has spent thousands of dollars in developing standards and curriculum that are consistent with the current thinking of national professional organizations. The development process provided a time period for public input. That time period has passed. Now we simply need to stop empowering the minority and let teachers teach.

Dr. Rebecca Powell is Professor Emeritus of Education at Georgetown College and a former elementary teacher.

Rebecca Powell
Rebecca Powell

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Opinion: What gives you the right to decide my child’s curriculum?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting