This opinion column was submitted by Donne Levy, a former community college history instructor.
Yet another divisive, controversial issue is raging, in America and Northern Nevadans are not exempt. What should parents’ rights in public schools be? It’s time to gain a commonsense perspective.
My perspective comes from being a parent of three children, two educated in public schools and one mostly in a private school. I have been an educator of youth from elementary to college, mostly in public schools.
This issue is not new. In 1954, when the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka school integration decision, parents organized and protested. Those parents believed in the right to determine the skin color of their children’s classmates and whether textbooks and teachers’ lessons should be open to the Civil Rights Movement and Black achievements. That clamor diminished, but today the parents’ rights movement is back with a vengeance.
The American Library Association reports that 273 books were banned in schools or were the target of censorship in 2020. One Virginia school board member ordered the burning of banned books. Never before has the parents’ rights issue become so politicized. State legislatures debate and pass legislation giving parents and politicians control over teaching and textbooks in the areas of history, race, gender-orientation and sex education as some politicians see this as a means for winning elections. The battle cry is “Vote for our party or your children will be harmed in public school!”
Parents’ rights sounds like a good thing and certainly parents’ should have some rights. But this extremist movement is dangerous. In Florida, for example, any parent can sue any teacher in any grade for talking about the very existence of homosexuality or transgender people. This will result in the destruction of the American public school system. If every parent decided what is taught in all public school classes and what books are in libraries, chaos would reign. Would anyone want to be a teacher, if no professional respect is given? Supporters of the parents’ rights movement do not realize that they are denying the rights of other parents who want their children to learn about racial history realistically or learn about human relationships realistically. Those clamoring for parental control of schools seem unaware of today’s America. Some words and concepts once shunned are now accepted in our culture.
One of the frequently banned books is “Maus” by Art Spiegelman, a nonfiction Holocaust story with rough language and nudity. I have shown public high schoolers a Holocaust film replete with thick images and nudity. That class of teenagers acted as adults. Many of the girls were in tears by the film’s conclusion. It was a valuable learning experience for teenagers who need to know the consequences of unleashed bigotry. Parents should not control public schools.
Donne Levy is a former community college history instructor.
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