We’ve heard a lot about parents demanding the removal of inappropriate books from schools lately — particularly those depicting sex acts between minors and promoting hatred of police — a trend which will likely escalate as we get into the school year. And as that trend escalates, attacks on these same parents for being “intolerant” will likely escalate as well.
Yet are these parents being intolerant? Many would say they are simply protecting their children. Increasingly, many parents think quasi-religious, exclusivist doctrines like Critical Race Theory and LGBTQ advocacy are damaging their children’s sense of self and their sensitivity to others. Parents are removing their kids from public schools or speaking out against such reading material. “Dissident” parents are fighting for a curriculum of the Three R’s — reading, writing, and ’rithmetic (no time for recrimination, sexual realization, and racial hostility).
Watching these parents stand up and fight for the wellbeing of their children reminds me of my own father, Harvey Lea Barnes, Jr., who had 12 kids and was a school board member for decades. How did Harvey Barnes act honorably and attempt to do the best for his family and for other children in the community? I learned about this as a young newspaper reporter 20-odd years ago.
I was awaiting the start of a school board meeting, sitting with several other visitors in the audience when I began to chat with a guy sitting nearby. When he found out my dad was the late Harvey Barnes, he recounted a story of Dad’s days on the school board.
A young father at the time, this man came to the board meeting to check out the local government in action because he and his wife were considering buying a house in the town. Before he knew it, an argument rose among the school board members over approving a higher-level math book, some arguing against it because it was expensive.
“Your dad kept trying to convince them [to buy the book], but some of the board wouldn’t listen to him,” my new friend said of my civil-engineer father, who also worked on the side as an adjunct engineering professor for local colleges. “Finally your dad got fed up and said: ‘How do you expect these students to become engineers, architects, and mathematicians if you don’t give them the tools they need, like this book?’” He then explained how my dad got disgusted and walked out … but after he left, the board voted unanimously to approve buying the book!
Obviously, the leaders of Northgate School District at that time cared about their duty to the district, and Dad’s stand swayed their conscience. My new friend said when he saw this local government in action he knew he was moving to the right place — and to the right school district.
If my dad could stand up and fight for kids to have good curriculum, why can’t most of us display more courage when it comes to voicing our oft-unspoken thoughts that just happen to be unpopular at this time?
Fortunately, more and more parents are fighting for the right to make choices in their kids’ education, due partly to brave, outspoken folks in Loudon County, VA. Theses dissenters are an example that many others could follow. Theirs is the same type of grounded parental decision-making that has characterized the United States from its beginnings.
Can’t we muster the courage to at least speak the truth (if not also to push for positive change), especially when these matters concern the most defenseless of our citizenry — children?
Written by Jonathan Barnes for Intellectual TAKEOUT ~ August 12, 2022