For years, the educational establishment has been begging for parents to be engaged in their children’s educations. File this under “Be careful what you wish for.”
In the sixth century BC, Sun Tzu advised military commanders to “Balk the enemy’s power; force him to reveal himself.” Over the past two weeks, concerned parents fighting the American educational establishment did exactly that.
On September 29th, the National School Boards Association asked the Biden Administration to use the Patriot Act and other federal laws to treat parents speaking their minds and defending their children at school board meetings and on social media as domestic terrorists. Not surprisingly, this letter cherry-picked roughly twenty of the most extreme examples of threats from parents in an effort to smear the thousands of others who are peacefully exercising their constitutional right to petition for a redress of grievances.
So, having failed first to make their case through reasonable debate and then to silence these parents through a variety of procedural changes, the educrats have now turned to the federal government to protect them from the righteous anger their high-handed radicalism has inspired. Of course, Attorney General Merrick Garland is more than happy to oblige them, confirming that we dodged a bullet when his nomination to the Supreme Court failed in 2016.
Meanwhile, Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Terry McAuliffe has been even more blunt in his support for removing real accountability from public education. In a televised debate with his opponent, Republican Glenn Youngkin, McAuliffe admitted that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what to teach.” Given the recent conflicts taking place in deep blue areas of his state over issues like critical race theory in the classroom and sexually explicit material in school libraries, McAuliffe’s capitulation shows just how low he will sink to keep his backers in the teachers’ unions happy.
Parental Engagement and Educational Success
As I’ve written elsewhere, the increasingly desperate tactics of the educational establishment are a sign of its fear that it is losing its grip on the power it has enjoyed for decades. What makes this most recent escalation interesting, however, is that it reveals the hypocrisy of the educrats’ pleading for parents to be engaged in the educations of their children.
As veteran K-12 teachers, my wife and I understand the relationship between a child’s academic success and their parents’ willingness to play an active part in it. At parent-teacher conference time, we often complained to one another about how we almost never saw or even heard from the parents of the children who were struggling the most.
All of the available data confirms our personal experience. For years, study after study has shown that parent involvement and engagement provide a host of benefits for school-age children both academically and psychologically, including higher grades, stronger scores on standardized tests, and decreased chances of engaging in self-destructive behavior.
Both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Educators Association are very much aware of the connection between family life and education. On their websites, these unions use the term “partnership” to describe the ideal relationship between parents, teachers, and administrators. Why, then, are the union members who run these schools so upset when parents actually engage?
Partnership, But On Whose Terms?
Whenever pressed, the authoritarian nature of the educational establishment comes to the forefront. Like much of its rhetoric, “partnership” sounds good until you actually look more deeply into what that definition entails.
An infographic on the “Eight Ps of Parent Engagement” on the NEA’s website shows what the educrats expect when it comes to teachers’ and administrators’ partnership with parents. It emphasizes how to approach parents and make them feel comfortable with advice like “[empathizing] with this generation of parents,” “[letting] students know who you are,” and personalizing one’s communications for “our diverse families.”
This is all good (if somewhat obvious) advice, but the infographic says nothing about the most critical aspect of engaging parents: respecting their right to know what is being taught in the classroom and how the teacher will teach the material. Many teachers and administrators are reticent to even allow parents to observe classes, so the infographic’s one piece of advice that might apply to this right (“Be transparent in our initiatives”) is the critical piece of advice that the educational establishment refuses to follow.
There Is No Partnership Without Trust
The “partnership” sought by the educrats is akin to that of a tinpot dictator who claims to love democracy and then proceeds to ignore the results of a fair election. By this metric, “engaged parents” are to cheer schools on from the sidelines no matter what stupidly woke curriculum they embrace or what needlessly divisive policies they adopt. Actual parental involvement in the educational sphere is to be superficial at best; ideally, it should be just enough to make the parents feel like they have a say in the shaping of their children’s minds when, in reality, they don’t.
Also like with tinpot dictatorships, any engagement that defies the will of the regime is met with evasion, deception and the threat of force, all of which have been on display at school board meetings and social media over the past year or so.
For decades, the educational establishment has demanded that we entrust our children to their care without bothering to provide sound reasons for why we should do so. A combination of draconian COVID-19 policies, openly radical curricula and utter disdain for parent input on what really matters have broken that trust and revealed the enemy for who he is. Now more and more parents are fully and truly engaged with their children’s education and the educrats wish they weren’t.
It is a homeschooling truism that parents are the first teachers of their children. Public school parents are finally taking that role seriously. Yet for all their hollow claims about engagement and partnership, the educational establishment is now seeking to forcibly push these parents aside in their quest to indoctrinate their children. The events of the past year are not just a wakeup call for parents, but a summons to “unite the clans” and finally hold the educrats accountable for their lies and misdeeds. Let’s hope that even more parents answer the call.
– Robert Busek