Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Parents and influence in the classroom

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I received a text from the Idaho Freedom Action (an advocacy arm of the Idaho Freedom Foundation)  informing me that Sen. Jim Woodward killed a bill that would give parents a real say in what is taught to their children. I certainly hope that Idahoans can see through the hype of texts intended to blindly outrage and consider, at least more thoughtfully than IFA’s, this issue inciting so much passion. What are we to believe, or at least what would the IFA have us believe? Idaho is being systematically taken over by rogue teachers, principals, and politicians that the IFA would describe with the party-before-country acronym, RINO? I hope the IFA knows we are better than that and we want better for our children, and our teachers, than an education system forcefully coerced by a narrow-minded activist group.

First of all, how did this idea start that parents have little or no say in the education of their children? We regularly hold elections for school board members. School board meetings are open to the public where orderly input from parents is welcomed. Principals are available to talk to parents and often proactively reach out to parents to discuss issues, and teachers hold parent teacher conferences at least twice a year. Furthermore, there are online discussion groups hosted by teachers, apps dedicated to letting parents know what is going on in the classroom, parent/teacher organizations (PTOs or PTAs), opportunities to tutor or volunteer in the classroom, and even committees staffed by both educators and community members to determine budgets, spending, building plans, and, believe it or not, curriculum. I know this because I was just on a committee to select the new language arts curriculum for the local elementary schools. If we still aren’t satisfied there is home school, private school and charter schools. So, IFA, please don’t take us for fools and lead us to believe that parents are being robbed of their right to influence the education of their children. Instead follow the American democratic procedure you claim to endorse, go to the voting polls, respectively ask questions, be open to other opinions, compromise, get involved, and urger others to do the same, or simply choose a different educational environment but refrain from bullying and fear mongering and stop insulting us with this ludicrous idea.

In fact, ludicrous might not be a strong enough word. Is the IFA under the impression that all parents think alike? It’s safe to say that Idaho is more homogenous than others but even in our smallest towns, values and goals will vary widely among families. Forcing those ideologies in public education is counterproductive at best and probably the recipe for a system where no one is happy. Such an approach would arbitrarily favor some parents over others. If a parent comes in and demands that math be taught a certain way, a novel is offensive, or the history book is incorrect are they automatically right? If another parent comes in with the position that removing that novel or skipping over that history lesson is offensive are they right? In the unavoidable scenario where two parents, two groups of parents, or multiple factions of parents vehemently disagree on what is to be taught, what are the teachers and administrators to do? I think what they’ll probably do is leave and when over 30% of educators are already considering that option we can’t afford to push more out.

The bill that Woodward so “brazenly killed” is not one that welcomes parental input in education, but one that promotes forcing rhetoric on our children and gives misguided politicians and activist groups a platform to further their personal agenda. It transforms the environment for teachers already made more difficult over the past two years to one of outright hostility. Teachers will undoubtedly be hurt by texts like the one that prompted this letter but most will bounce back. Other industries are falling over themselves to hire these disgruntled educators but will our kids bounce back so easily? With classrooms overflowing and class selection, clubs, activities and sports cut back will we look back and thank the IFA?

So, IFA and all concerned parents, we can be concerned and we can also be involved and bring about change. We can talk to teachers and administrators, run for, or support, school board positions, volunteer and work together and take advantage of the many opportunities and tools to influence and bring about positive change in an educational system that is far from perfect…and we can quickly dismiss the notion that parents have no say and we need to take back our schools because that’s simply not true and the schools have never been taken away.


Adam Newhouse

Adam Newhouse

Adam Newhouse is a parent of four— three of them attend Idaho public schools. Adam worked in education, and he holds a masters degree in curriculum design and instruction from Montana State University. He currently works in the agricultural field.

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