In the recent state superintendent race, Brandon Durst loudly proclaimed that HE was for parental rights and would completely ignore any advice from the “Alphabet soup” education crowd i.e., teachers, administrators, or even school board members. Essentially, shoving aside anyone who had a degree in, or had any actual experience educating our students.
No one disputes the fact that parents are an essential component of a child’s formative education and serve as the students’ first and primary teacher(s). Accountability, transparency, and parental involvement are important.
However, which parents should educators listen to? The ones that are the loudest?
What if, they, (and parents do) have significantly diverse viewpoints or want to approach education from substantially different directions?
What if some parents demand that diversity, equity, promotion of racial equality, and true history be taught, where the good, great, and not so admirable events of American history and government policies are included in the curriculum?
Or should teachers adhere to the parents who want to “Whitewash” (pun intended) history and American life and thus, eliminate discussing those painful, yet persistent issues such as racism and discrimination?
What if some parents are adamantly FOR preschool and others are adamantly opposed? What direction should educators take?
What if some parents are resolutely in favor of social and emotional learning and others are stridently opposed? Which direction should educators follow?
What if some parents demand a return to school sanctioned prayer? Who would decide if the prayers were Protestant, Evangelical, LDS, Catholic, Islamic or Wiccan? Who determines the outcome?
How should educators reconcile the often profound parental educational preferences and differences from across the state? How should educators garner consistent parental input when both parents are busy working outside the home?
Because of diverse parental educational opinions, what then is the answer for the inevitable rapid school curriculum changes and teacher training to keep up with constantly fluctuating parental whims?
By elevating parental views above all others, what role would the locally elected school board play? State legislators? The State Board of Education? What would happen if parental input conflicted with state or federal educational laws?
These are salient questions that need to be addressed by those pontificating that parent educational desires override everyone and everything else.
Contrary to what some politicians say on the campaign trail, Idaho school districts readily encourage parental involvement. Districts invite parents to serve on advisory boards, and curriculum review teams, help as classroom aides, assist in hall monitoring, or serve as specialty teachers (usually art, science, and music), and booster clubs.
Not only do districts encourage parental input they have policies and procedures in place to answer questions and address concerns.
Parents are important, and their views are and always have been welcome and sought in educational decision making. The question remains on how best to incorporate differing parental input with best professional practices.
Doing so will require great skill and experience and must include answering the question of “If so, then what?”