March 21, 2022

Liz Willen: A lesson in hypocrisy — what’s really behind the ‘parental rights’ movement

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Liz Willen, editor-in-chief at Hechinger Report, points out how Texans have revealed the hypocrisy of the parents’ rights (for some) movement.

Discussion of parental rights in education are everywhere these days, but they all depend on which parents are being pandered to by politicians and educators. I was struck by this built-in hypocrisy while listening to yet another back-and-forth on the so-called culture wars last week.

A prime example emerged from Texas, where a new bill targeting parents of transgender children reveals a deeply cynical layer to the parental rights debate: instead of protecting parents, the bill aims to prosecute them.

It’s a far cry from promoting parental rights.

The latest bill out of Texas shows what’s really motivating conservative, largely white and straight politicians who have leapt on schools as cultural battlegrounds: They are taking advantage of a moment when angry parents are packing school board meetings with objections about what schools are teaching and which books are in their libraries as a way to further their own political ambitions and ideology.

They’ve been led by Gov. Greg Abbott in Texas, a Republican who is pushing to investigate and potentially prosecute parents of transgender children for child abuse.

The irony is not lost on students, teachers, librarians and parents themselves, and was the topic of a spirited panel at the sprawling education conference in Austin last week.

“The parents [fighting to ban books] are saying we should have a right to determine what our children can read and what our kids can access on the shelf, but how can you say I deny the right to another parent who says my child does need this book?” George Johnson, author of the best-selling “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” a memoir of growing up Black and queer, said during a panel I attended at the conference. The activist’s book has been banned or challenged in about 20 states; one Florida school board member even filed a criminal complaint about the book’s presence in school libraries for violating obscenity laws.

The conference in Austin coincided with Florida’s passage of a “parental rights” bill last week, forbidding any teaching about sexual and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade. The bill gives parents the power to sue if they believe teachers go too far. Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who will soon sign it, proclaimed: “This is where ‘woke’ goes to die.”

Read the full editorial here.


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