When Is Parental Input in Education Too Much?

Ask almost any teacher if they desire parents to be more involved in their child's education and you are likely to get the answer 'Yes'. But when does parental involvement become problematic or too intrusive? Should parents have the authority to dictate school curricula?

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An Expensive Alternative

What if you didn't like the book your child was assigned to read? Or felt that sex education class was too explicit?

Under a new law in New Hampshire that went into effect in January 2012, you could simply object and remove your child from the class. When you do, however, you will be forcing the school to provide your child with an alternate curriculum. Sound complicated? It could be. And expensive, too.

'This bill will downshift an enormous cost burden on to cities and towns,' New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told International Business Times in January. 'It requires school districts to create individual curricula for each and every student and the costs of developing those plans will be passed on to local taxpayers.'

Giving Parents Too Much of a Voice?

Is New Hampshire being innovative or simply opening a can of worms?

True, there are subjects, particularly creationism, evolution or sex education, that some could find offensive for various reasons. But the fact that New Hampshire's law does not specify any particular subject, and in fact does not even require justification for an objection, could certainly open the floodgates and possibly wind up being a disruption to other students.

As the law is written now parents could, for example, object to the teaching of the Civil War or the history of a particular foreign country. And what if some parents objected to the material suggested in an alternate curricula? How many lesson plans would one individual teacher ultimately need to come up with?

As asked earlier, do teachers want parental involvement? To a large degree, yes, but this mainly entails parents supplementing the curriculum at home. Parents can read to their children, assist with homework, volunteer to help at school functions and schedule regular progress meetings with teachers.

Best Interests Not Always Best

While at first glance the new law in New Hampshire might seem to stem from parents having their child's best interests at heart, some believe that this might not always be the case. Parents can on occasion make the wrong decisions for their children.

Is controlling school curricula one of them? Some say yes, believing that such matters should be left to school administrators, curriculum developers and teachers. They believe, probably correctly, that parents need to trust schools to deliver the education their child needs.

Some say that schools are able to see the 'larger picture', one that parents can't always see. It is for this reason that some believe that parents should not even be allowed to select their child's teacher, though many advocate this practice.

What New Hampshire's law could ultimately lead to is teachers deciding beforehand what may or may not be deemed controversial or offensive and selecting material that is less challenging for the students, thus harming the quality of education. The result could be that the objections, or potential objections, of a few could harm an entire class. And isn't that something to object to?

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