This is a tale of two editorials. The New York Times this morning applauds a New Jersey court ruling holding public schools liable when they fail to take measures to stop the taunting or bullying of gay students. Coincidentally, a Boston Globe editorial today applauds a Massachusetts court ruling upholding the right of the Lexington school district to expose elementary school students to children's books -- such as 'Who's in a Family?' and 'Molly's Family' -- that feature same-sex parents. This was done pursuant to a state law law that "requires that all public school districts develop curricula advancing respect for diversity, including for gays and lesbians."
In the Bay State case, parents had claimed that their constitutional rights to free exercise of religion were violated, as were their rights as parents to raise their children as they see fit. The court disagreed, ruling that "options remain for the parents, such as private school or home schooling, so their rights were not abridged." Not only did the Globe declare the judge's ruling "reasonable," it opined that "the earlier most students learn [to 'respect difference'], the better."
But wait a second. Isn't the essence of this ruling "let 'em eat cake"? Object to your kids being taught things that contradict your most deeply-held, religiously-grounded beliefs? Well then, pay to send them to private school. And what kind of alternative is home-schooling for the many parents who lack either the ability do so, or cannot make the sacrifice of the second paycheck that would be involved? Doesn't the Globe fashion itself the great champion of "working families" trying to make ends meet?
Would the Times or Globe in a million years applaud a court decision that told parents of gay students being taunted about their identities that their rights weren't violated since they could always send their kids to private schools or homeschool them? But when the public schools, with their curricula, in essence taunt traditionalist parents and their children regarding their identities, their most cherished beliefs, well, tough.
The case raises the broader issue of the problem of public education. Because of our current tax system, parents are forced to pay for government schools whether they choose to send their children to them or not. Many families simply cannot afford alternatives, and thus have children trapped in schools in which they are educated in values they find deeply offensive. If there is a solution to this predicament other than offering real school choice through vouchers or similar means, I'd like to hear it. In the meantime, let 'em eat cake is no answer.
Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org