Who loves 'our' children?

August 22, 2012

I’ve written before of the condescension and the suffocating paternalism of some (doubtless well-meaning) folks in the education establishment who truly believe parents don’t know what’s best for their children. Yesterday the American Federation for Children condemned the latest incident in this “wave of recent denigrating comments about parents.”

State Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City) has noticed it too. In a recent blog post, Rep. Nelson, co-author of the legislation establishing the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program for Children with Disabilities, says some of the program’s opponents,

including legislators, public school administrators, and others, have been so bold as to publicly criticize parents who make use of the program as ignorant and not acting in the best interest of their children.

The website for Jenks Public Schools, one of two districts suing parents for participating in the program, states: “[E]ducators are greatly concerned at the very real possibility that a student with special needs can be pulled out of a public school and placed in a private school that may not offer any Special Education services.” …

Julie Blake, the director of student programs at Jenks, is more direct in her opinion that parents should not be making important decision[s] such as choosing where their child attends school: “Parents, I’m afraid, are unaware what they are giving up. Our concern is that our students are out there without anyone watching over them.”

Our students? Without anyone watching over them? Blake probably has no idea she personifies the very sort of despotism envisioned by Tocqueville, who warned of “an immense tutelary power” which would take charge of watching over us. “It’s as if the children really belong to the public school system and are simply lent to parents for the evening and summer break,” Rep. Nelson marvels. “Educators at Jenks evidently don’t think parents are the appropriate people to make such important decisions on behalf of the public school system’s children.”

But the truth, he says, is that “parents who choose to use the program love their children more than the public school system does, and parents are perfectly capable of making big decisions based on the best interests of their child.” He’s right. As I wrote earlier this year,

Many education “professionals,” especially administrators, tend to look down their noses at parents, who, after all, are mere “amateurs.” These professionals have forgotten that the word “amateur” traces to the Latin amāre (“to love”), and that amateurs are people whose actions are motivated by love rather than something else. People motivated by love make it their business to “know what’s best” for the objects of their affection.

I’m reminded of Sen. Phil Gramm, who once told a member of the education establishment: “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.”

“No, you don’t,” the woman replied.

“Okay,” Gramm said. “What are their names?”