Opinion: The Parental Bill of Rights We Actually Need

Walter Rhein

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It seems to me that a lot of bad things are done with the justification of saying it’s “for the children.” If you look around the fractured landscape of the modern United States of America, it’s pretty clear that not a lot of people care what happens to our children.

First of all, check out the way people talk about the younger generations. It’s difficult to find any news report that doesn’t refer to young people as entitled, lazy, or a host of other criticisms. Let’s remember that young people are only as good as we raise them to be. If our society faults our young people, we should blame the older generations who raised them.

Speaking of the older generations, maybe it’s time they learned a little bit of accountability. It’s not the younger generations who have ruined the economy or spoiled the planet. The fault for that lies entirely on the shoulders of the men and women who have come before.

Now, there has been some discussion about raising the retirement age. We only continue to pile on young people. I think it’s offensive how the current generation of retiring people is happy to sacrifice the retirement of their children to help fund their comfort.

There has been a lot of talk about passing a parents' bill of rights that will have a huge effect on our public schools. Again, the people who support this bill claim that it is “for the children.”

But where in the bill does it talk about our children’s struggles with mental health? Our kids are in distress and they have a right to be. Healthcare costs are out of control in this country. Hardworking families face the ever-present threat of losing everything they have over the cost to treat a minor accident or illness.

More and more, our schools are rejecting tolerance. Transgender kids have an elevated rate of suicide. What about them? What about their lives?

But instead of saving those lives, our politicians seem to be more interested in telling them what books to read. It’s not “for the children” if we turn every public school into a joyless gray prison.

Recently, a principal in Florida resigned after students were shown Michelangelo’s statue of David. So now images depicting Biblical figures are inappropriate? Are other images of classical art are also considered inappropriate? The human male form is considered inappropriate?

In how many ways can the “parents' bill of rights” make our children feel shame? Should they hate themselves for being male? Should they hate themselves for being religious? Should they hate themselves for being artistic? How is any of this “for the benefit” of our children?

Consider the money that’s spent discussing things like a “parents' bill of rights.” This represents a focal point of some of our most well-compensated lawmakers. These people don’t come cheap. Imagine if our taxpayer funds didn’t go to something like that. Imagine if we spent that money on free school lunches instead?

But no, our society is appalled by the idea of giving our children free lunch at school. We happily hand out checks for billions of dollars to failing banks, but the idea of giving a kid a sandwich makes us sick. This is because our country cares about children so much.

Then there’s the issue of attacks on schools by terrorists who use military-grade weapons. This has been going on for years, yet our society has repeatedly failed to pass the common sense gun laws that are effective in stopping these kinds of senseless tragedies.

If we are unwilling to stop acts of violence directed at our children, I have a hard time believing that anything in the “parents' bill of rights” is part of a sincere effort to help our children.

Every time you turn your head, there are more calls to take funding away from public schools and send it to rich private schools instead. The people who try to get this done, are the same people writing the “parents bill of rights.”

They’re willing to sacrifice our children’s retirement. They’re willing to sacrifice our children’s education. They’re willing to sacrifice our children’s lives. They do all of this, and then they are hypocritical enough to turn around and claim they support a “parents' bill of rights.”

At what point are the citizens of the United States of America going to wake up and demand that our society finds a commitment to providing our children with the best possible future?

If we cared about our children, we’d figure out a way to ensure hard-working families had better access to resources. The values of our society have been completely inverted. Today, the only group that is targeted for aid is at the very top. This is why working-class families have to contend with a police force that would be the third-largest military in the world.

Rather than continue with this commitment to beating the best of our people into submission, why don’t we ease up on the authoritarianism and share the wealth with the workers who have earned it?

A better society starts with our schools. The more we encourage our children, and the more we invest in them, the greater the reward for our whole society. We aren’t serving our children by banning books from schools. We aren’t serving our children by cutting public education funds.

The current version of the parents' bill of rights that’s being discussed in Congress is the exact opposite of what we need. This isn’t a piece of legislation that was written by concerned parents who want to help children. This legislation reads like something that was designed to punish our children.

It’s time that we remembered the values that the United States of America was built on. Our values should be freedom. Our values should be a commitment to learning and progress. The more we descend into authoritarianism, the further we go from the future our children deserve.

Just because a bill has a name that sounds like it cares about the future of our children doesn’t mean you can trust it to do that. It’s pretty easy to identify the group that opposes any policy that would make the world a better place for our kids.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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