Breaking the public education system’s chokehold

Horace Mann, the founder of what we know now as the public education system, was not shy about his goals: He viewed education as a means to force ideological uniformity and believed parents should be treated as obstacles to that goal. “We who are engaged in the sacred cause of education,” he said, “are entitled to look upon all parents as having given hostages to our cause.”

Decades have passed, but Mann’s views continue to be the foundation of the education establishment. Public schools actively block parents from being involved in curricular choices and try to punish them when they push back. In Maryland, Oregon, and Michigan, for example, parents who have requested schools’ public records regarding the curriculum taught in classrooms (information to which they are legally entitled) have been forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars just to access the materials. One parent in Rochester, Michigan, said the school district tried to charge her a public records fee of $172,951.67 after she filed a FOIA request.

Likewise, it is standard policy in most public schools to hide critical information about gender-confused children’s mental and physical well-being from parents. Fairfax County, Virginia, for example, urged educators to avoid “outing” trans-identifying students by telling parents about their new pronouns and names. New Jersey released similar guidance, reminding schools that “there is no affirmative duty for any school district personnel to notify a student’s parent or guardian of the student’s gender identity or expression.”

The deception and secrecy are deliberate. The education establishment believes, as Mann did, that the children belong to them. Families can either acquiesce to this and hand over the upbringing of their children to public schools, or they can be treated like roadblocks to be bulldozed.

It should come as no surprise that plenty of parents across the country have had enough. One of those parents is Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who won his election last year in large part because he promised to return to parents the rights they are owed. Last week, he kept that promise, releasing guidance prohibiting public schools in his state from socially transitioning gender-confused children behind their parents’ backs. Under the new guidance, school officials must obtain written parental consent before using a student’s new name and pronouns.

Youngkin’s reasoning is simple: “Children don’t belong to the state. They belong to families,” he said this week. “As children are dealing with important topics, parents have to be at the center, and that’s what these policies are all about.”

Youngkin’s policy drives a stake through the very heart of the education establishment’s goal, which is to supersede parents as the final authority over what children are taught and how they are raised. The next step is to empower families to leave the public education system entirely by passing some form of school choice. But for now, at least, Virginia parents can rest assured that Mann’s vision of a system full of hostages is beginning to fall apart.

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