The New Hampshire Legislature recently voted to give parents more control over the subjects taught in schools and the manner in which they are taught. On January 4, 2012, the legislature voted to allow parents to request an alternative school curriculum for any subject which has course material which they deem “objectionable”. If the parent objects to any curriculum or course material, the school district must work with the parent to determine a new curriculum or texts for the child to meet any state requirements in that subject. The parent’s name and objection will be sealed by the state, and that parent is responsible for paying for the cost of the new curriculum.
When he vetoed the measure in July 2011, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch warned that the bill would harm education quality and give parents control over lesson plans. He warned, “Classrooms will be disrupted by students coming and going, and lacking shared knowledge”. But the legislature overrode the veto and enacted the bill into law.
We at GCP are all for parent involvement in the education of their children; we advocate for it regularly. But this law goes entirely too far. Under this law, if some well-heeled narrow-minded parent decides that the economic benefits of slavery are not sufficiently emphasized in a U.S. history course, or if he objects to the teaching of the Holocaust as fact versus speculation, he can insist that the school district create a separate curriculum plan for his child. Not only will this disrupt the classroom, it will undermine the school district’s authority and expertise at designing a comprehensive and cogent curriculum.
As many objecting to this law have noted, parents who have academic or religious based objections to the way subjects are taught in school can spend time with their children at home providing them with alternative perspectives. Or, if they simply can’t abide the way the schools are teaching their children, they can pull them out and home school them. Why should one parent’s objection interrupt the teaching process for all children? We will monitor the impact of this law on the New Hampshire school system with interest and trepidation.
What do you think? Has the New Hampshire legislature gone too far, or should parents have the final say on what their children are learning in school? (See this issue discussed in the New York Times “Room for Debate” site, found here). Readers, Let us hear from you.