He is correct. The details can be found at Father’s Weblog and they are deeply disturbing. This kind of thing is happening elsewhere where fringe elements of the activist homosexual community have decided to advance their cultural revolution, in spite of the rights of parents, by using children and the willing administration in some school systems. The Pacific Justice Institute is representing the parents in that area, free of charge. Rather than deal with the specific incident, I want to address the broader problem, the growing failure in some public school districts to respect parental rights. I also want to affirm the Catholic teaching on the primary role of parents in the lives of their children and in education. The Church is in favor of parental choice. Let me explain.
Parents are the first teachers of their children. The family is the first school. To support “Parental Choice in Education” is to affirm that Parents should be able to make the choice of how to extend their own teaching mission by choosing a school for their children outside of the home. It is to support their right to participate in curriculum development. The teaching of the Catholic Church on this issue is crystal clear. The family is the first cell of society, the first church, first government, first school, first hospital, first economy, and the first mediating institution of society. That teaching is at the heart of Catholic Social Thought. It should also lay the foundation for building a truly just public policy in the area of education.
A just view of good governance is grounded in the understanding that the family is the first government and that all other government must first be at its service. In his marvelous apostolic exhortation on the family (“The Role of the Christian family in the Modern World”) the Servant of God Pope John Paul II affirmed the social and political role of the family and called for the development of a “family politics”. Catholics, other Christians, other people of faith and all people of good must now embrace this challenge and develop just such a “family politics”.
All education begins in the home and all education outside of the home is an extension of that foundation. Those who render this extended teaching should see themselves as acting on behalf of the parents. This view used to be openly acknowledged in the legal doctrine called “in loco parentis.” Teachers were seen as standing in the place of the parents. Sadly, it is being replaced these days with a view which seems to undermine the role of parents. Children are not, in the words of the US Supreme Court in Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972), “mere creatures of the State”. William Bentley Ball, the late, great Catholic lawyer and gentleman, secured this victory for parents and many others which reinforced it. That case secured the rightful role of parents. To stand in the place of parents did not mean “replacing” the parent but rather assisting them and deferring to them.
The teaching of the Catholic Church on the primacy of parents in the education of their children is undeniable and fundamental. Among the magisterial documents reaffirming it is the Apostolic Exhortation “Familiaris Consortio” (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) by the late Servant of God John Paul II. In it he wrote: “The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others…”
In his “Letter to Families”, he addressed parents as the ones responsible for the first School, the domestic church of the family: “Parents are the first and most important educators of their own children, and they also possess a fundamental competence in this area; they are educators because they are parents. They share their educational mission with other individuals or institutions, such as the Church and the State. But the mission of education must always be carried out in accordance with a proper application of the Principle of Subsidiarity. This implies the legitimacy and indeed the need of giving assistance to the parents, but finds its intrinsic and absolute limit in their prevailing right and actual capabilities.
“The principle of subsidiarity is thus at the service of parental love, meeting the good of the family unit. For parents by themselves are not capable of satisfying every requirement of the whole process of raising children; especially in matters concerning their schooling and the entire gamut of socialization. Subsidiarity thus complements paternal and maternal love and confirms its fundamental nature, inasmuch as all other participants in the process of education are only able to carry out their responsibilities in the name of the parents, with their consent and, to a certain degree, with their authorization.”
The challenges being faced by parents in the Alameda Unified School District in California are replicated in many other places in the United States. It is essential that Catholic parents join with others who share this view of the family and this philosophy of education to defend parental rights and build a new family politics. It is time for a State by State and National effort to promote Parental Choice in education.