Victory for Parents

News programs have been full of the story: After months of controversy, Joseph Fernandez, School Chancellor for New York City, has finally been ousted. It was Fernandez who instigated condom handouts in the New York schools-a program parents hated because it overrode their moral authority over their own children. And it was Fernandez who imposed the controversial curriculum, "Children of the Rainbow," which claimed to be about multiculturalism but which included sections promoting gay rights. We've all heard about the notorious book list, with titles like Heather Has Two Mommies and Gloria Goes to Gay Pride. This was a curriculum that went far beyond teaching kids not to be mean to their playmates. Its real agenda was to teach that homosexuality is healthy and morally acceptable. Of course, that's not what we heard in the news. I can't count how many times I heard reporters piously say the "Rainbow" curriculum just "teaches tolerance." The parents who opposed it were portrayed as right-wing bigots. But the real story behind the headlines is quite different. On one hand, the parents who protested were not Archie Bunker types. They were mostly working-class minorities: blacks and Hispanics living in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens-the very people who are supposedly the beneficiaries of multiculturalism. By contrast, Fernandez' supporters were mostly white, upper-class residents of Manhattan, who disdained the values of the minorities they claim to champion. And the real issue was not tolerance; it was parental rights in education. One side was represented by an AIDS expert, who told the New York Board of Education flat out, "Parents are not qualified to decide whether their teenagers should have access to condoms," and "parents should not really have a say if schools should hand them out." The other side was represented by a black father, who told Fernandez, "I am trying to raise two boys . . . and nobody from the government is going to take my place in telling my sons what is sexually right and wrong." That father had it right. When it comes to moral education, the Bible assigns the job to parents and churches. The role of schools is to be supportive, not competitive. That's a lesson the American public schools seem to have forgotten. And parents are finally waking up to the fact. As William Tucker says in The American Spectator, the elites of the educational establishment are "trying to drive a wedge between parents and children, appropri-ating responsibilities that have traditionally belonged to families." The good news is that in New York City, parents won a dramatic victory. They have shown they are a force to be reckoned with. As George Marlin put it in Crisis magazine, "The real story from New York is that elite bureaucrats can be defeated by communities willing to defend the public morality that sustains them." All across America, parents ought to take heart from what happened in New York. This could well be a turning point in American public education-if communities everywhere decide the time has come to stand up for the public morality that sustains them.


Chuck Colson


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