GUEST COLUMN
The Parental Rights in Education: Who Cares?

April 1988By Russell Shaw

Russell Shaw is Director of Public Information for the Knights of Columbus in Washington, D.C., and author of the new novel Renewal. He is the father of five children.

Anyone currently proposing to speak about the parental right in education must face a funda­mental reality: to a great extent parents’ rights are denied in theory, violated in practice, and treated with indifference — even by those one might ex­pect to be most active in their defense, I mean par­ents themselves. If there is a point at which the undermining of a right becomes so systematized that people stop noticing, we may be close to it now as far as the parental right in education is con­cerned.

I am not speaking of Albania or Rumania. I am talking about the U.S., where the most active defenders of parents’ rights now seem main­ly to be members of religious sects, fundamental­ists, and a hodgepodge of flat-earth people. Most Catholics and other mainstream religionists appear to have lost interest.

Maybe that is the problem. To the extent that vindicating the parental right is left to the cultural fringes, the secular consensus has an easy time per­suading us that the issue need not be taken serious­ly. It is a pity. Indeed, it is not unlike the state of affairs which would now exist in another area of social justice if 35 years ago most black Americans had decided to settle for separate but equal.

Back to basics is a familiar slogan in the edu­cational reform debate. I want to contribute my mite by affirming that parents are the primary edu­cators of their children — their right as educators comes first. And, as I shall explain, even before their right comes their obligation.


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