In Which I Bitch About Parenting, Faith, & Sex Education (Which Doesn't Have Sex In It)

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A year ago watching ABC's The View, I heard conservative Elizabeth Hasselbeck agreeing that the parents of gradeschool children should have the right to advance notification, if not out-right refusal, of books with homosexual themes...

The newstory was of Massachusetts parent Robin Wirthlin, who protested his that her son' second-grade teacher read "King & King" (a fairy tale about gay marriage since the prince chooses another prince rather than a princess) to the class without warning parents first.

On The View talk was focused, pre-Rosie, regarding a 1996 Massachusetts law requiring schools to notify parents of lessons on sex education. Even 'legal expert' Star was talking about this point, which is absurd because in "King & King," like in Cinderella, the story revolves around love, not sex. Do I even have to explain this? Love is not sex, therefore it cannot be 'sex education.' Surely there is no school which has Cinderella or Snow White on their sex-ed lists. (If there is, please tell me, I'd love to talk with them!)

So, what happened? Lexington Superintendent of Schools Paul Ash said Estabrook has no legal obligation to notify parents about the book. "We couldn't run a public school system if every parent who feels some topic is objectionable to them for moral or religious reasons decides their child should be removed," he said. "Lexington is committed to teaching children about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal." Kudos to the Superintendent (and to Massachusetts for having same-sex marriage).

When this didn't work, when Wirthlin didn't get her way, she and her husband joined forces with David & Tonia Parker. The Parkers where upset when their son, then a kindergartner, brought home the book, "Who's in a Family," which showed various family types including single-parent households, grandparents raising children and the (dreaded) same-sex-headed household.

Together the upset parents filed suit in federal court seeking permission to opt their children out of discussions of homosexuality in the classroom because it "violates their rights under the United States Constitution to raise their children and to the free exercise of their religion."

I find it amazing that these parents believe hiding reality from their children A) can be done, and B) that the presentation of information &/or ideas is somehow preventing their families from exercising their religion or religious beliefs. Their kids are being read a book for Pete's sake; they are not dissolving their own opposite-sex marriages, their rights to church or religious institutions, or even 'making' their kids enter same-sex marriages. They are simply being exposed to ideas -- ideas and practices which are alive in their communities.

These parents are free to exercise their religious beliefs in the following ways:

1) Participating in daily discussions with their children to discover what their children are doing. If the child brings home ideas which are objectionable (for religious or any other reason), it is the parent's job to discuss the subject and to present what they believe to be the correct information, belief system or actions.

2) Enroll/arrange for religious training, education, indoctrination for their children.

3) Supplement the official faith teachings with daily living examples and discussions.

This is called parenting. Not only is it your right, but it's your responsibility. Too many parents want to put off onto others what they should be doing themselves. It's not about making the world a happier place, but an easier place -- easier for a few anyway.

I am happy to report that their lawsuit was dismissed from federal court (in February), with Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf, of the U.S. District Court, stating that families who don't agree with the teachings of the public school have the choice of private schools or home schooling.

Of course these parents aren't happy. But they are consoling themselves by joining with other groups and organizations which aim at, among other things, creating legislation to rid the state's schools of books and lessons that relate to homosexuality. Mr Parker says these measures are needed: "By presenting this kind of issue at such a young age, they're trying to indoctrinate our children. They're intentionally presenting this as a norm, and it's not a value that our family supports." But what about the values of other families?

These plans may seem preventive from their limited religious points of view, but they infringe on the beliefs and rights of others. I don't particularly value his right to censor and retard his children's growth, nor do I value his limited view of the world, but I don't prevent him from indoctrinating his family in his faith.

These parents continue to complain that the darn schools are trying to control and brainwash kids -- no matter that schools are made up of people, answer to a public and that this specific public has decided gay marriage is legal --and that this education and exposure makes their lives, their jobs as parents difficult.


No one said parenting was easy.

At the risk of repeating myself endlessly, have these parents considered that their kids will see these 'offensive' or 'other kinds' on television? Even if these parents run military-style homes, the kids go out in public... What might they see at a trip to Wal-Mart? Two 'princes' in love holding hands?

But I'm betting these parents don't even monitor their kid's TV time, their computer use, or even know what sorts of families their friends have or what media they consume when visiting there. That would be an awful lot of work wouldn't it? It would be so much easier if all these things didn't exist. It's easier to make the rest of the world stop doing anything you don't like because then you don't have to stand guard for 'differences' or be prepared to educate or in anyway parent your children.

You know what's really strange about all of this to me? When I read religious literature, it's always quite apparent that 'God' expects the believer to have to face challenges, including non-believers. In every one of the tales the believer is to walk by, chin up (or face piously lowered in prayer), and continue on with their faith -- in faith -- that they walk the (only) path to 'God.' Those believers who practice faith and suffer going 'against the grain' are the ones who are the most devoted and shall be rewarded well... Where's your faith in your religion? How strong can it be if you cannot bear to believe in the face of adversity nor teach your children to do the same?

I may not believe in your religion, your claims of religious righteousness, or even your interpretation of holy texts; but I do believe in your right to believe and practice, and therefore your religious obligation to teach your children.

So practice.

And don't forget to parent.


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DeeDee is a wife and mother, a collector of kitsch and women's history, and a blogger on vintage living.

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