This morning I heard a story on CNN about some parents in Georgia that were upset that the rapper T.I. was allowed to serve part of his community service by speaking to their middle school children. The parents were upset that they were not given a choice for their children to opt-out of the school assembly, as they had been given that option a few weeks earlier for the viewing of a film that covered the holocaust.
I want to make it clear as to my stance as a licensed teacher, principal, and as someone who holds a doctorate in education. The public school was WRONG.
They should never have given the parents the opportunity to allow their children to opt-out of viewing the film on the holocaust. This was an atrocious misuse of parental authority in a public school setting.
Now before you begin sending me hate email, let me explain my position. If you don’t want to wait for my explanation, just go to your klan rally and leave the education of your children to those that care about their future.
When you decided to enroll your child in PUBLIC (or state supported) school, you have given the authority of the education of your child over to the state (and to a lesser extent, your local community). The school district (i.e. the principal and teachers that you are entrusting your precious child to from 8 to 3 every weekday) has the legal obligation to act in place of the parent (in loco parentis). This concept gives the school district the authority and responsibility to look out for the best interest of your child. While its application varies somewhat state to state in the USA, it is a foundational concept of public (or private) education in America.
In other words, when you enroll your child at your local school (be it public or private), you are giving them the authority and responsibility to act in the best interest of your child. While you have the right to vote in the next school board election, you have given up the right to question or be upset about what the school is doing (barring a violation of civil liberties) to educate your child.
Don’t like this situation? Do something about it!
If you are committed to your child attending public school, then get involved. Know your kids teachers, vote at the school board election time, and attend every school function (including school board meetings). If you are involved, you have a voice. If you are not involved, you have given up your voice.
If you have the financial ability, you can choose to private school your child. The class sizes are generally smaller and there is usually an emphasis on certain values (be they religious or focused on a certain discipline such as the arts or technology) that might be closer to your family values. You are still giving the school in loco parentis, but most private schools are more likely to listen to the parents concerns.
If you truly want to take control of your child’s education, home school them. Yes, it is legal in all 50 states (though some states are a bit more of a pain about the reporting of your child’s progress). The only place where it is NOT legal to home school your child is Germany.
I fully support the principal’s decision to bring in a ‘star’ like T.I. to speak to the children. If I were the principal of the school, I would have done the same.
Dr. Burton chose to home school both of his children for most of their K-12 years. His only regret was not doing it earlier. He and his wife Rosemary have run an online service to assist others in home schooling their children. Burton’s Garden of School plans to re-open Fall of 2010.