By Jen Lade
I take my kids to a weekly playgroup to socialize with other moms while our kids run around. One time last March, a mom looked wistfully at her 5-year-old daughter and said, “I’m going to miss her next year.”
“She’ll be in kindergarten in the fall?” I asked.
“Yes, full day. I was hoping she would just go a half day so we’d have our afternoons together, but that’s not an option.”
She proceeded to tell me that the school superintendent had met with the parents of all incoming kindergarteners and told them that half-day kindergarten was no longer a choice for parents. All children would have to go for a full day. No discussion. The decision had been made.
I was not as surprised with the dictatorial way the situation was handled as I was with this mom — and other moms at the group – and their complete acceptance of the superintendent’s authority. They were good parents. They wanted to spend more time with their kids during their fleeting childhoods. But they just shrugged and took it as law that this special time would be taken away, and oh well.
I took a few minutes to try to convince them not to just bend over and take it. In our state, school attendance isn’t mandatory until age six, so they could keep them out until then. They could homeschool them for kindergarten. They could send them to a private half-day program. They could organize with other like-minded parents and inform the superintendent to kiss their behinds; they’d be picking up their kids from school at noon every day, thank you very much. The moms didn’t seem to think any of these were necessary steps to take.
Whose kids are they anyway?
I have some theories as to why schools are making decisions to implement full-day kindergarten, longer school days, etc. even when budgets are tight. Many parents do want these options and the schools are trying to be competitive with surrounding towns so they don’t lose students to other programs. But I think it also has to do with a pervasive paternal attitude in the government, even among local school administrators: We know best.
Your kids will do better in our hands than yours, the parents’. We’re falling behind other countries and the only thing to do is put kids who can barely tie their shoes into classrooms for six hours a day so we can teach them. You could not possibly provide an enriching learning environment or curriculum to a child that you love and to whom you can even maybe give one-on-one attention.
How insulting is that?
The problem is that too many parents welcome this transfer of power from parent to government, and others don’t care enough to put up a fuss even if they don’t like it.
I was in public school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and it was a lovely experience, yet every day I find a new reason to homeschool my kids when they reach schooling age.
Mandatory full-day kindergarten is only the beginning. Right now, five Massachusetts towns are also piloting an extended school day program, and if that becomes the norm, I can’t in good conscience force my kids to sit in a classroom for that many days or that many hours a day at the expense of exercise, time outside, or family time.
Separate from the school issue are other issues that, while possibly well-meaning, could also punish parents for a momentary lack of judgment at worst or simply the exercising of their rights as a parent. In September, Delaware passed a child abuse law that is vague enough that spanking could be considered abuse.
Then there is the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the United Nations in 1989 and ratified by all the world’s countries except the United States and Somalia. Our country has been under pressure to ratify this for more than 20 years, and has thus far held off. The Convention purportedly protects children’s rights, fosters their development, and upholds their best interests by having countries rewrite their national laws to conform to the standards set forth in the treaty.
“While all this may sound harmless and even commendable, the reality is that the Convention allows and even demands that national governments interfere in the decisions of individual families and parents. By invoking the “best interests of the child,” policymakers and government agents have the authority to substitute their own decisions for those of the child or parent. In short, parents lose their rights to be parents, and become merely caregivers.”
Of course, our country already has laws protecting children, outlawing child abuse, etc. Of course our citizens care about children. Of course most people in our school system care about children.
But no one cares about my children more than I do. No one cares about your children more than you do. You know what is best for them, and you should be able to have the freedom to act in their best interests.
It’s too late to sit back and coexist with the government on this issue. They are pushing harder than ever, so we must push back or risk losing our parental rights.