by Tina Olesen
Parental influence and engagement in education is under attack today, as the state attempts to usurp the role of the parents.
A couple of years ago when I was teaching in public school, we teachers were told that we had to carve a half an hour out of our school day to incorporate daily physical activity for the students into our schedule (on days where they didn’t already have regular physical education classes). Why? The government thought that children were not getting enough exercise at home, and they were looking for ways to reduce the health care burden down the road. I caught myself thinking, “What next? Are we going to start flossing their teeth, too?”
There’s nothing wrong with physical education. It crosses the line, however, when the state dictates to parents how much physical exercise their child has to get, and then it takes the responsibility entirely out of their hands. It really ought to fall under parental jurisdiction.
Of course, not all parents live up to their responsibilities, and there are situations where someone has to step in and help children who are being abused or neglected. We have to be careful, though, about how we as a community allow “abuse” and “neglect” to be defined by the state. What if the state decides that teaching your children about Christ constitutes child endangerment?
Clearly there is a point where lines of authority can be crossed. God charges parents with the task of instructing their children in the fear of the Lord, as well as equipping them to be able to eventually live independently of the parents. As a society, we ought to support parents in their God-given task, not usurp their responsibility.
Study after study has shown that children’s success in learning is correlated with the level of parental involvement. For example, numerous studies have found that reading aloud to a child is the single most important thing a parent can do in order to ensure that the child learns to read. Research has consistently shown that grades, test scores, graduation rates, and levels of disciplinary problems are all tied to parental involvement in the child’s education, more than any other single factor.
This is why the whole notion of “unschooling” is absurd. Yes, most children will easily apply themselves to learn what interests them, but will a child force himself to learn those things which he finds boring or mundane? It is in the application of himself to those very things, whether he wants to learn them or not, that he learns to discipline himself. Here loving parents will hold him accountable to do those difficult things that he doesn’t want to do.
Education requires parental involvement. Involvement doesn’t mean hovering like a helicopter parent over the child. Involvement means doing whatever God asks of you with regards to the child, with God’s help.
State officials who unnecessarily interfere with parental responsibility are disregarding and disrespecting God’s created order of family relationships. If we are wise, we will be on guard against intrusion into areas of parental jurisdiction.