On July 1, 1996, two hundred thousand people gathered around the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the "Stand for Children" rally organized by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF). According to CDF president Marian Wright Edelman, those gathered in Washington, D.C. were committed "to building a just America that leaves no child behind" and "to ensuring all our children have a healthy and a safe passage to adulthood."
CDF's commitment sounds harmless. But the real agenda of those gathered to "Stand for Children" was revealed by the literature, bumper stickers, and buttons, and other paraphernalia proffered by the majority of the organizations present.
According to the Washington Post, some organizations did not attempt to hide their left-wing agenda. Mike Golash of the Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party stood near the rally stage, passing out the party newspaper Challenge. The front of the paper was emblazoned with the headline: "CAPITALISM NO PLACE FOR KIDS." Golash claims that "millions and millions of people [are] warming to the communist ideals-abolishing the wage system, ending racism and sexism, ending child exploitation. I see people realizing that we can take power through revolution from the capitalists, and we can build a new society based on production for equality, not production for profits."
Suddenly, the "Stand for Children" rally doesn't sound quite so harmless anymore. Or take the People's Weekly World, another newspaper passed out at the rally. The feature article was titled: CAPITALISM KILLS. Inside, the article explained, "Capitalism is the enemy of every child in the USA. However, ultimately, to save and protect our children-and make life better for every American family-we will have to replace our old, broken-down capitalist system with a socialist system."
If you wanted to show your "pro-child" sentiments you could plaster your car with such bumper-stickered slogans as: "Earth can no longer afford the rich;" "feminism spoken here;" "save the rainforests;" or "pro-choice: keep abortion safe and legal." If you wanted to wear your opinion, you could choose from among several buttons, including: "Lesbian Mom;" "We're here, we're gay, we're in the P.T.A.;" "Fundamentalism stops a thinking mind;" "Poverty is violence;" and "Unspoken 'traditional family values': abuse, alcoholism, incest. Break the tradition!"
Purporting to have the best interest of children in mind, those who hosted the "Stand for Children rally" are actually advancing a philosophy that is diametrically opposed to what God-fearing parents believe is best for their own children. Not surprisingly, the Stand for Children rally organizers are not all that happy about the parental rights movement. They deny that parents have the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children, and strongly oppose any parental rights legislation, including the proposed Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act (PRRA). In fact, several of the hosting organizations have produced literature urging their members to help defeat the PRRA.
Who are the opponents of the PRRA? And why do they oppose this bill? One glimpse of the groups opposing the PRRA instantly makes clear the importance of fighting for its passage.
Who are they?
Simply list the opponents of the PRRA and most Americans will be able to instantly identify their political leanings. Organizations opposing the PRRA include:
National Education Association (NEA)
National Organization of Women (NOW)
Children's Defense Fund (CDF)
National Parent-Teacher's Association (PTA)
American Association of School Administrators
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
People for the American Way (PAW)
National School Boards Association
American Coalition for Abuse Awareness
National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL)
These groups are not only mildly concerned, they are very seriously scared of what would happen if the federal PRRA and state PRAs become law.
What are their objections?
If you listen to the spokesmen for any of the organizations listed above, the consequences of passing the PRRA would be horrifying.
The overall goal of the PRRA, according to Deanna Duby of People for the American Way, is to force school districts to place "an absolute ban on topics that are the least bit controversial. Schools will have to get back to what some see as the academic basics-no values, no sex education, just reading, writing, and arithmetic." She adds, "The impossible alternative would be to do a custom-designed curriculum for each child." In other words, under the PRRA, schools will either have to get back to basics or children will have to use custom-designed curriculum-a not-so-impossible alternative if you are a home schooler.
Even worse, according to the National Organization of Women, this "dangerous piece of legislation" can be read "to require school districts to allow curriculum and material decisions to be made by each parent rather than educators." NOW is also afraid that the PRRA would "undermine carefully formulated state laws permitting minors to consent to critically important health care services, such as family planning, abortion, and the testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases…. Further, life-saving efforts such as condom distribution programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS could be halted by the passage of this bill." NOW said the PRRA would "place state and local officials charged with the public welfare continually on the defensive" because of parents seeking to make sure their children are taught what they want them to be taught.
A legislative alert on the PRRA, sent out by Planned Parenthood warns that "this bill would generate absolute confusion and chaos across the country," costing schools billions of dollars in order to finance their defense against parents who sue them. "Worse," says the Planned Parenthood alert, "the bill would endanger the health of teens afraid of obtaining parental consent for health and reproductive services." According to the pro-abortion group, "an Alan Guttmacher study found that 25% of teens would not seek certain types of health care if there were a possibility that their parents would find out." Planned Parenthood is afraid that fewer teens will seek an abortion if the PRRA is passed.
The NEA fearfully claims that the "PRRA will overturn state compulsory education laws and prohibit state regulation of home schools." Furthermore, "this legislation will give individual parents the right to dictate what their children are taught, both by insuring the right to opt out of any course or class the parent finds objectionable and by requiring the school to provide alternative instruction acceptable to the parent's personal tastes." The effect the PRRA would have on public schools is unacceptable to the NEA because it would cost them "billions of dollars" to accommodate parents' wishes for their children.
The NEA also acknowledges the difficulty parents have had achieving victory in the court system, battling to exercise at least some control over their children's education. In the March 1996 edition of NEA Today, the magazine noted that the reason proponents of parental rights have asked Congress to pass the PRRA "is that the courts have refused to buy their argument that the federal Constitution guarantees that right." The NEA notes that "[c]ourts routinely have rejected the argument that the Constitution gives parents [the] right" to require a school to provide alternative instruction acceptable to the parent's personal tastes. "Last October, for example, the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected parents' claim that a Massachusetts school district violated their parental rights by requiring their children to attend a 90-minute AIDS awareness program." According to the NEA, under the PRRA, the court would have been forced to rule for the parents in this situation and in almost all others involving parental wishes in education. The NEA would much rather keep the current system where the courts routinely rule in favor of the school system, overriding parents' desires for their own children. The NEA has given chief credit-or blame, depending on your point of view-to Mike Farris for drafting the PRRA. Farris' name was the only one mentioned in the NEA Today article. Farris' involvement in legal battles for parent's rights was mentioned several times in the article, and readers were warned of the potential danger of the PRRA since Farris was its author. The NEA also singled out Farris and mentioned his leadership of HSLDA in a six-page document entitled "Statement of the National Education Association Regarding the Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act," released in February 1996.
The statement said, in part, "[The] PRRA was not drafted by members of Congress or their staff. It was drafted by none other than Michael Farris, head of the Home School Legal Defense Association…. As head of the Home School Legal Defense Association, Mr. Farris has spent the better part of the last ten years suing states and school districts over home school regulations. Undoubtedly, he also hopes to use the PRRA to put an end to any state restrictions on home schools."
What is their motivation?
The tie that binds together all of the left-wing groups opposing the PRRA is their fear of losing control over the children of this country. Their fear proves two things. First, America's public school children are currently in the hands of the state and the state's educators while parents are kept out of control. Second, the PRRA would solve that problem.
Opponents of the PRRA do not believe it is right for parents to have the responsibility and privilege of fully raising their children without interference from the child or the state. According to NOW, "The philosophical underpinning of [the] PRRA is that children are the property of parents, an antiquated and exploitive view that went out with the horse and buggy." The NEA even denies that a parents' right to control the upbringing of their children is a fundamental right. They say that the PRRA "creates a new fundamental right and will have dire consequences for this country's public schools."
When it comes to finally deciding who should have control over the children of this country, there are only three options: 1) the children themselves, 2) their parents, or 3) the state.
Under the guise of allowing the child to decide things for him or herself, the state many times wrests control from the parents. Providing "family planning" counseling through the public schools and protecting the right of minors to consent to abortions without their parents' knowledge or consent, is just one example. What the enemies of the PRRA are admitting is that they now have control over these children, and they don't want to give it up.
Two reasons primarily fuel their determination to retain control. The first and obvious reason is the lure of the almighty dollar-government allows them to prosper. But even their desire for money is driven by the second reason: they genuinely believe that their socialist, anti-capitalist agenda will save our children. They really do have the "best interest" of the child at heart. They firmly believe that government professionals who monitor, teach, and care for children from birth provide the best means to equip children with all of the services and protection they need to grow into productive citizens of the United States.
Many groups might take exception to being called socialist and anti-capitalist. But they would all agree that the United States needs to cut, say, defense spending and instead give more money to government programs devoted to "helping children." They would almost all assert that America is full of millionaires and billionaires, and that the field needs to be leveled so that poor children will get their fair share.
Even the "mainstream" media preach the same message as the blatant anti-capitalists, only in more veiled terms. An editorial in the Washington Post on June 28, 1996, discussing of the debate surrounding family values, said, "My guess is that a redefined family values debate will be to the Democrats' advantage. Republicans like the old debate just fine-it's easy to trash 'Murphy Brown'-and are reluctant to raise questions about how the economic system is disrupting families."
Notice the use of the term "economic system." The enemies of the PRRA believe that the real problem is not a decline of traditional family values, the real problem is the supposed decline of the economy. Their answer to the problems facing the American family is to throw more money into government programs, money which they are afraid of losing if the PRRA is enacted.
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, said at the "Stand for Children" rally, "The problem is that when it comes to children, America's will is much smaller than its wallet."
The idea that more government spending will solve the problems of families and children is based on three essential philosophical beliefs. First, those who oppose the PRRA believe that man is basically good and, therefore, children are basically good. If given the right environment of health, protection, and education, children cannot help but succeed. If children are only allowed to bring out the good inside of them, they will soar beyond our wildest dreams. Parental control is unnecessary. It only stifles the natural, good processes in children. Parental correction is not necessary because there is no evil in children to correct-there are only economic circumstances to correct. Children who are involved in crime and drop out of school do so because they are economically disadvantaged-not because they have a sin nature.
The second philosophical underpinning is the conviction that parents do not know what is best for their children. This is an outgrowth of the belief that individuals do not know what is best for their lives. Those who oppose the PRRA believe that the intellectual and political elite know what is best for everyone, especially children. After all, as Hillary Clinton tells us, parents alone cannot raise a child, "it takes a village." Parents should provide food and shelter for children, educators should teach children, and social workers should check up on everyone to make sure the best interests of the child are being served. Parents are one part of the system, but they should not try to control or override the other "essential" influences on their children's lives.
For after all, and this is the third assumption, the child is the property of the state. When a mother gives birth, she is not just bringing her child into the world, she is bringing a new citizen into society. It is up to the government to make sure that child is raised to become a productive citizen. That might not sound so bad until you realize that government bureaucrats and educators are going to be the ones deciding what is required to teach your child to become a productive citizen.
Remember, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." A government in control of child-rearing can, in theory, maintain its power forever. A free nation should never permit such a threat to liberty.
THE TELLING LITERATURE OF THE LEFT
[CAPTION] HSLDA under-cover reporter Carlos Perez collected this paraphernalia at the Stand for Children Rally in Washington, D.C.