With everything going on in our society and culture, there are plenty of reasons for parents to worry about their children’s education. As the primary educators of our children, we have to be involved in their education. As ideologies like Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) gain increased footholds in both public and private schools, it is increasingly important we know what our children are really learning. As a result, I need to decide what I will do to influence education and how I will do it, not if I will do anything. I encourage all parents who want a quality education for their children, their children’s friends, and our society to do the same.
Many parents—like myself—are worried about the state of our education system. Even innocuous classes like math and science have been used to introduce deep topics and hidden lessons in schools, especially regarding the transgender issue, Critical Race Theory, and Social Emotional Learning. The proposed goal of these ideologies is to teach students to be “better” people, but as experienced educator Peter Greene asked, “Who will decide what “better” looks like?”
As believers, we should note what Marilyn Rhames points out: “Despite its historic role at the center of moral instruction and character formation, faith is conspicuously absent from the current SEL conversation.”
It is easy to see how SEL could provide a framework and opportunity for introducing gender ideologies, CRT, and myriad other social value systems inconsistent with Christian principles. Parents Defending Education argue that it does just that.
With such gateways for our children to bring home subversive lessons, parents must act on behalf of (our) children. As State Superintendent Catherine Truitt has said, “We know that the extent to which a family becomes involved in a child’s education has a tremendous impact on student achievement that extends well beyond the classroom.” Fortunately, there is much that parents can do—but we must do it, and it is not always easy.
Alliance Defending Freedom suggests three principles of action for parents: Pray Up, Lead Up, and Stand Up. As Christians, we must remember the power and importance of prayer (Pray Up), both for its efficacy and as an example to our children. We must ensure we’re informed, aware, and engaged in what is happening in our children’s schools and classrooms (Lead Up). We must advocate for administrative accountability, parental choice, and school transparency regarding education and school policy (Stand Up).
Although a national survey found that 89% of likely voters think it is important that public schools fully inform parents about what is being taught to their children, it often requires significant effort to get that information. One Virginia mother fought an uphill battle to get information from school administrators about policies regarding parental transparency and implementation of SEL. This is why parents need to understand their children’s rights, their rights as parents, and their options for taking action.
Thankfully, earlier this year, the North Carolina General Assembly overrode the governor’s veto and passed the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, the bill is already facing opposition from school administrators who consider it a problem that the bill “requires schools to notify parents if their child wants to use a different name or pronoun” and prohibits “instruction in gender identity, sexual activity, and sexuality” for kindergarten through fourth grade. This is why we must stay informed and engaged; success can’t stop at the policy level.
Once you’ve brought these issues to prayer, you must get informed. This starts with engaging with your children about what they’re learning and experiencing. Asking your child, “What did you learn today?” is a good place to start, but your exploration must go deeper. Beyond knowing what your children are learning at school, more of us—as able—must engage with our schools on their environment and policies. We also need to engage at the district and state levels.
A friend of mine recently won a seat on his local school board in another state. I asked what parents should be doing. His response was, “Show up and ask questions.” We have to make our school boards justify and defend their policies while we make them aware of our concerns and address our priorities. This can and should start at the school level, but remember that many policies are district- or state-wide.
Educational content, materials, and policies are regularly updated. The State Board of Education (SBE) just approved the latest content standards for K-12 science instruction in July. If we stay informed and engaged, we can influence such policies. In fact, the SBE was collecting feedback on standards for Physical and Health Education for K-9 earlier this month.
One concern with the health standards is that they reference communicating with a “trusted adult” more than a half-dozen times, but only twice are parents included. Surely, parents should consistently be the primary “trusted adult” for children to turn to with physical and emotional concerns. For more critiques, you can review the Locke Foundation’s concerns.
There is much that parents can and should do to influence the educational environment for our children and our culture. These are just some access points to information and a specific current issue. But any engagement can be an excellent place to start. If a plurality of North Carolina parents believe that the “biggest challenge facing local school boards” is that “School boards are making decisions that belong to parents,” then parents need to start going to our school board members and meetings so the decisions they make are also ours. Then, we can have a role in influencing and not just asking, “What did you learn today?”