Public Schools vs. Parents’ Values

by Jeff Jacoby

Of the five candidates running to succeed Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts, all but one have chosen to send their children to private schools. Nothing wrong with that — millions of parents would move their kids out of public schools tomorrow if they thought they could afford something better. For millions more, government schooling isn’t an option in the first place: They would no sooner let the state decide what their children should learn than they would let it to decide whom they should marry.

Earlier this month, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, the only Republican in the governor’s race, explained in an interview why she and her husband picked a private school for their son and daughter. “I want my kids to be in an environment where they can talk about values,” she said — talk about values, that is, “in a way that you can’t always do in a public school setting.”

It’s hard to see anything objectionable in Healey’s words, but they triggered a broadside from Attorney General Thomas Reilly, a Democrat and the only gubernatorial candidate whose children all attended public schools.

Healey is “completely out of touch with the lives of regular people,” he snapped. “Somehow the perception is that the kids in public schools are not learning the values that they should be learning. . . . Public schools reinforced the values of our home. . . . It was a wonderful experience.”

Those quotes appeared in The Boston Globe on April 17. Now consider a story that appeared three days later.

On April 20, in a story headlined “Parents rip school over gay storybook,” the Globe reported on the latest controversy in Lexington, where school officials committed to normalizing same-sex marriage have clashed with residents who don’t want homosexual themes introduced in class without advance parental notice. Last year, a Lexington father named David Parker complained to officials at the Joseph Estabrook Elementary School about the “diversity” curriculum in his son’s kindergarten class, which included pictures of families headed by gay and lesbian couples. When he refused to leave the school grounds without being assured that he would be alerted before similar lessons were taught in the future, Parker was arrested for trespassing.

The latest incident, also at the Estabrook School, was triggered when a second-grade teacher presented to her class a storybook celebration of homosexual romance and marriage.

There is nothing subtle about “King & King,” the book that Heather Kramer read to her young students. It tells the story of Prince Bertie, whose mother the queen nags him to get married (“When I was your age, I’d been married twice already,” she says), and parades before him a bevy of princesses to choose from. But Bertie, who says he’s “never cared much for princesses,” rejects them all. Then “Princess Madeleine and her brother, Prince Lee,” show up, and Bertie falls in love at first sight — with the brother. Soon, the princes are married. “The wedding was very special,” reads the text. “The queen even shed a tear or two.” Bertie and Lee are elevated from princes to kings, and the last page shows them exchanging a passionate kiss.

Dismayed by such blatant propagandizing, the parents of one student made an appointment to discuss their concerns with school officials. “This is a highly charged social issue,” Robin and Robert Wirthlin told them. “Why are you introducing it in second grade?” Kramer said she had selected the book in order to teach a unit on weddings. When the Wirthlins checked the Lexington Public Library, they found 59 children’s titles dealing with weddings, but “King & King” wasn’t among them. The library’s search engine listed it instead under “Homosexuality — Juvenile fiction.”

Massachusetts law requires schools to notify parents before “human sexuality issues” are taught in class and gives parents the right to exempt a child from that portion of the curriculum. But the Wirthlins’ request to be given a heads-up before something as contentious and sensitive as same-sex marriage comes up in their child’s class again was rejected out of hand.

“We couldn’t run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed,” Lexington’s superintendent of schools, Paul Ash, told the Globe. “Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal.”

Reviewing “King & King” for the web site Lesbian Life, Kathy Belge — who describes herself as a longtime lesbian activist and the director of a queer youth program — writes that it is “sure to capture a child’s imagination” and praises it in particular for its nonjudgmental embrace of homosexuality: “The same-sex attraction is normalized. There’s no proselytizing, no big lesson. It just is.”

But homosexuality and gay marriage are not like arithmetic or geography; they cannot be separated from questions of morality, justice, and decency. No matter how a school chooses to deal with sexual issues, it promotes certain values — values that some parents will fervently welcome and that others will just as fervently reject. And what is true of human sexuality is true of other issues that touch on deeply felt religious, political, or ideological values.

When it comes to the education of children, there is always an agenda — and those who don’t share that agenda may find themselves belittled, marginalized, or ignored. Perhaps it was true, as Thomas Reilly says, that the public schools his children attended “reinforced the values of our home.” But as the Parkers and Wirthlins in Lexington can testify, other families have a very different experience. When Kerry Healey says she wants her children “to be in an environment where they can talk about values . . . in a way that you can’t always do in a public school setting,” many public-school parents will understand exactly what she means.

Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe, where this post first appeared in the online edition.

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13 Responses

  1. HILLEL says:

    For all of those readers who think that Homosexual militants are “just folks.” like the rest of us, here is an article that exposes the carefully-planned strategy of indoctrination that is beimg implemented in our educational institutions:

    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=49958

  2. Eliezer Barzilai says:

    I’m tired of hearing about people, sheep, and fruitflies who are born gay. Let’s assume such things happen. But there are also ten times as many people who have a moment in their lives when they feel a homosexual attraction toward a close friend. Two things can happen: either they are terrified and horrified, and never act on it and never have the feeling again, or they decide it’s perfectly normal, and incorporate it into their internal lives, and ultimately act on it. Having the books about two mommies read to a young child makes the latter far more likely.

    I know all about the rule that a person should not say “pork is disgusting” but rather that pork may be good to eat, and yet the Torah prohibited it. This rule does not apply to certain forbidden behaviors, such as adultery, idolatry, or homosexuality. In fact, there’s a nice list of such behaviors at the end of the first half of this week’s Torah reading, Parshat Achrei Mos.

  3. Sarah M says:

    fact of life one: there are men who feel emotional and sexual attraction exclusively to other men. and women sometimes feel exclusive attraction to other women.
    fact of life two: public schools have lots of things going on in them that may not agree with halacha, starting with but not limited to the treif school cafeteria food, stories of helpless princesses being rescued that sound like a lousy way to teach a girl to be an eshet chayil, science classes that teach evolution, history classes that teach histories of multiple religions, or different versions of our own history, and works of literature starring Jesus such as Paradise Lost.

    Why pick on this issue? Are people worried it will make their children gay? If your child is gay its because Hashem, not storytime made them that way. More likely it will teach the children who are gay that who they are is ok, and their parents will teach them that mishkav zachar is forbidden. THe home is where religion should be taught anyway.

  4. Moshe Hillson says:

    I wonder if those educators are as liberal and tolerant towards a teacher who wants to mention Intelligent Design as an existing option.

  5. Amanda Rush says:

    My issue is more with the fact that children are being taught about human sexuality at far too young an age.
    I don’t care whether it’s homosexual or heterosexual.
    It’s not an appropriate subject for second-graders.

  6. HILLEL says:

    To Robbie:
    You wrote:
    “you don’t like what they’re teaching, find your own school. Everything they’re doing is well within the law.”

    This sounds deceptively simple. But the devil is in the details.

    Those who go to public school get free tuition. Those who “find their own school,” pay twice, once for the public schools (through taxes), and again for direct tuition. This unfairly tips the balance in favor of the views espoused by the currently-radical-left-wing beaureaucrats who control the public schools.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Robbie said, “And it helps for those kids from traditional families realize that there’s a world beyond their front doors.”

    The info in Jeff Jacoby’s column suggests that it’s best to keep this particular door shut. Much as the angels did at Lot’s house in Sodom.

  8. michal says:

    Public schools are not places where anyone, Jewish or not, should endanger their children (spiritually or physically). However, for a Jew, the Torah is quite clear regarding homosexuality.

    Michal

  9. Robbie says:

    I am in full support of what the Massachusetts schools are doing. It’s a smart idea to educate everyone that families look different – and for the kids who come from those families, it helps them feel like a normal kid.

    And it helps for those kids from traditional families realize that there’s a world beyond their front doors.

    But Jacoby’s right – you don’t like what they’re teaching, find your own school. Everything they’re doing is well within the law.

  10. Jack says:

    It is not sick to talk to children about homosexuality. It is not sick to teach your children that there is nothing wrong with being homosexual. I don’t believe that this is a choice any more than I believe you can choose what color eyes you have.

  11. Bob Miller says:

    Politicians respond to majorities. If most voters were seriously and actively concerned about decency in public school curricula, these problems would be taken care of. But, by now, much of the electorate has been corrupted, too. The immediate need is the very difficult task of turning the voters around, which includes helping them to overcome their own indoctrination.

  12. Amanda Rush says:

    This is sick.
    But the sickest part about it isn’t the fact that second-graders, and even kindergarteners are being introduced to homosexual love.
    It’s the fact that children are being read books about romance, including illustrations of passionate kisses.
    That’s totally inappropriate, above and beyond the issue of homosexual unions.
    Children that young definitely do not need to be taught about human sexuality.

  13. HILLEL says:

    The radical homosexuals are leading the charge against the religious values that used to undergird civilized society.

    Unless they are vigorously opposed, we shall all suffer the consequences here, in America, and in Jerusalem, where “Gay” marches have unfortunatley become an annual event.