Parents know best....or do they?

Published February 18, 2022

By Tom Campbell

Public schools have long been under the microscope and deservedly so, since they receive a large amount of our tax dollars and involve our most precious assets - our children. We want our youngsters to receive the best education possible, but recently the examination of public schools has turned into almost a witch hunt over mask mandates, critical race theory and sexual identity.
Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the right-leaning North Carolina Values Coalition tried to justify recent actions. “Parents are upset about what their kids have been learning in school. They’re upset about the mask mandates that still perpetuate around the state. And it just seems like there’s been a great awakening among parents,” she said.
Indeed. What has caused this “great awakening” that has resulted in angry protests, calls for banning books and disruptive school board meetings? Dig deeply and you will discover the impetus comes from extremists, whose primary objective appears to be to make you afraid of most anything that doesn’t originate or agree with their politics. It’s not like they are intended to actually improve education. They aren’t.
Can you remember when you first heard about critical race theory (CRT)? The concept began in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 2020 when we first heard cries coming from the right trying to scare parents and the public about the ills of teaching the history of race in America, maintaining CRT is about making white people feel badly about themselves. At first, we discounted these rants as disguised attempts to prolong white supremacy, but it goes much deeper.
The real purpose is that if they can make you afraid of what your children are being taught, it isn’t too much of a leap to cause you to distrust the entire education system. These same scare tactics are being employed to create distrust in our election systems, our healthcare system and just about any and all government programs. Once the seeds of doubt and distrust are planted into large numbers of people, it doesn’t take much to convince you to vote for their cult….and it is a cult.
It’s working. Enrollments in public or traditional schools decreased for the third consecutive year. Carolina Demography reports a 63,000-student decline in 2020-21 enrollments compared to 2019-20. In some of our fastest-growing counties Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools recorded a drop of 8,000 students, Wake County declined 4,200, Winston-Salem Forsyth decreased by 3,200 and Guilford 2,900. Some of the enrollment declines can be attributed to the pandemic, but those students didn’t just vanish. Where did they go? Charter schools saw much of the increase, as did home schooling and private schools. But undoubtedly the disruption, distrust and doubt sown has had an effect on traditional schools and with that enrollment decline comes a corresponding reduction in badly needed funding to public education.
Remember that charter schools are public schools too, since they receive public funding. They just don’t have all the oversight and regulations of traditional schools. You don’t hear all the angst over their policies and teachings? Wonder why?
Don’t jump to the conclusion I am implying that everything done in the name of education (or any of the other systems listed above) is perfect and without need for improvement. Traditional schools need major changes and reforms. But with all the confusion is there any wonder why teachers are burned out and leaving the classroom? Why good people won’t offer themselves to become school board members or school volunteers? And college students are smart enough to know they don’t want a career dealing with all this ruckus.  
Let me respond to the claim that parents know best what should be taught in our schools. If so, why aren’t they teaching? Why train teachers, if any run-of-the-mill parent can walk in a school and do a better job? Would you tell a brain surgeon or airline pilot that you know best about how to do their job? Parents should be involved in their children’s education and have the right, nay the obligation, to learn what their students are being taught. If dissatisfied, they also have the choice to remove their student and place him or her in a private school or home school them. But they don’t have the right to try to blow up the whole system.
Parents and the public need to be alert enough to know we are being “spun.” We all need to discern the difference between “boogeyman” tactics and what is really happening.