Gil Shapiro: Parents cannot be trusted to choose best education for their kids

2014-05-20T00:00:00Z 2014-12-16T21:44:19Z Gil Shapiro: Parents cannot be trusted to choose best education for their kidsBy Gil Shapiro Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

In a recent guest opinion (“Parents can be trusted to choose best education for their kids,” April 29), two members of the Diocese of Tucson School Board claimed “expanding parental choice … might actually help accomplish statewide excellence in education.”

Parental choice, they said, of how and what children are taught, would give them “the very best education possible” and this “choice would lead to greater accountability, raise standards, and lead to more effective schools for all children.”

Really?

Are these board members aware that in Arizona public schools, parents, at their whim, may remove their children from classes where accepted science, important reproductive health information and critical thinking skills essential to their development and well-being are being taught?

According to ARS 15-102: “Parents who object to any learning material or activity, on the basis that it is harmful, may withdraw their children from the activity or from the class or program in which the material is used. Objection to a learning material or activity on the basis that it is harmful includes objection to a material or activity because it questions beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion.”

While Arizona law mandates the instruction of “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science,” parents may take their children out of:

  • Science classes that teach, for example, about the evolution of our universe and of all living things. But a recent Associated Press poll revealed that only 31 percent of those interviewed were confident that evolution by natural selection was true. (Also: Only 33 percent said man-made global warming was a scientific fact, and 53 percent said childhood vaccines are safe and effective.) Conclusion: Many home-schoolers are “educated” by science illiterates.
  • Health-education classes, where students learn comprehensive and medically correct sexual information. Currently, our state makes it possible for children to go into their adolescent and teenage years ignorant of how the human body works, which undoubtedly helps maintain Arizona’s high rates of unwanted pregnancies, congenital syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. In these classes, children also learn the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association consider homosexuality a natural variation of sexual orientation and not a deviant or mental health issue. Parents who pull their kids from these classes are impeding their development and placing them in harm’s way.
  • English, history and social studies classes that encourage discussions on matters that challenge traditional beliefs. Shielding kids from questioning, criticizing and possibly re-evaluating long-held and parent- and clergy-imposed views is considered by many freethinkers as tantamount to educational and perhaps even psychological child abuse.

Arizona’s home-schooling statute (ARS 15-802) epitomizes the lunacy of unrestricted “parental rights.”

Many children are responsibly homeschooled and do just fine in college. However, because there are no teacher qualification requirements, Arizona’s estimated 31,000 home-schooled children can be taught by individuals who possess neither academic nor teaching credentials. And because there are no standardized test and optional evaluation requirements, no means are in place to objectively evaluate what and how these kids are leaning.

These examples of “parental rights” run amok do not help Arizona climb out from its nationally low ranking in educational achievement and economic development.

It is irresponsible for elected officials to permit children to be taught, as fact, misinformation, personal prejudices and subjective worldviews.

Thoughtful Arizonans should consider it a compelling state interest that all students be taught by trained and competent teachers who use curricula founded on reason, documented experience and science. There must also be valid and reliable ways to monitor student achievement.

FreeThought Arizona urges local school boards and government officials to overturn statutes that allow parents unrestricted control over their children’s education.

Gil Shapiro, a Tucson podiatrist, is the spokesman for FreeThought Arizona. Email him at gdshapiro@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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