Opinion piece about parent interference in school curriculums sparks debate

·5-min read
Op-ed about parents interfering with curriculum sparks debate (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Op-ed about parents interfering with curriculum sparks debate (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

An NBC News opinion piece has sparked a debate on social media after comparing parents who attempt to interfere with their children’s learning to “entering a surgical unit thinking you can interfere with an operation because the patient is your child”.

In the piece, written by Christina Wyman and titled: “Schools face parents who want to ban critical race theory - and don’t get how teaching works,” the author claims that parents “think they have the right to control teaching and learning because their children are the ones being educated”.

However, according to Wyman, it doesn’t work that way, with the author comparing the phenomenon to a parent interfering with a medical procedure because they think they know better than the doctor.

“Teaching, too, is a science. Unless they’re licensed and certified, parents aren’t qualified to make decisions about curricula,” she wrote, adding that parental interference can actually “hinder student advancement”.

She continued: “An educator’s primary goal is to teach students to think. Parents who attempt to influence curricula with their personal opinions, ideologies and biases hinder that goal.

Wyman then went on to acknowledge the schooling that goes into becoming a teacher, with the author claiming that knowing and understanding a topic is not enough to be able to successfully teach it.

“As a professor of teacher education and someone who works with teachers in classrooms, I can say with authority that our nation’s children are in good, educated and capable hands - no matter what some parents and politicians appear determined to believe,” she wrote.

The Jawbreaker author did note, however, that there are some instances where it is appropriate for parents to get involved, such as when “they feel emotional harm results from the curriculum or student-teacher interactions,” or when they are speaking out in cases where the educator is clearly wrong, with Wyman referencing a teacher who held a mock slave auction as well as a Texas school that encouraged teachers to teach “both sides” of the Holocaust.

“But short of that, parents, community members and politicians who aren’t qualified to teach should keep their noses out of school curricula,” Wyman concluded, adding that parental involvement and attempts to shield students from “real-world issues and diverse perspectives will create bubbles that will render their children ill-prepared to navigate society, particularly when they are called upon to contribute and think critically”.

On social media, Wyman’s op-ed has sparked a debate, with some readers agreeing with her take while others have criticised her opinion.

“She’s right and people suck at noticing that many parents are too ignorant and incompetent to have a meaningful grasp of their children’s actual best interests and needs,” one person tweeted.

Another said: “Conservatives are seething over this but it’s literally true. if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have schools at all and homeschooling would be the norm.”

“Education is a field of expertise in which educators need to be formally trained. So if you don’t have that formal education or training, you’re not qualified to weigh in how children should be educated,” someone else added.

However, many others found issue with Wyman’s take, especially her analogy comparing teachers with surgeons, with one person tweeting: “Pretty sure parents make all sorts of choices about what surgeries are performed on their children. Just like parents should be involved in what is taught to their children.”

Someone else claimed that it was a “bad analogy” because a parent has “already agreed what surgery will be performed and which surgeon will perform it” before a child is “wheeled into a surgical unit”.

“In fact, the surgeon and hospital had to obtain written permission from the parent before the operation could proceed,” they added.

“They’re really making the case that parents don’t have the right to shape their children’s education,” someone else stated.

Following the outrage, Wyman addressed the criticisms on Twitter, where she acknowledged that the analogy between doctors and teachers was not the point of her article.

“Putting aside the fact that the comparison to doctors or other medical professionals was not at all the point of my piece, where was that same diehard esteem and respect for doctors across the past 20 months? Hypocrisy noted,” she tweeted.

The Independent has contacted Wyman for comment.

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