Evesham Township in New Jersey is under fire for including a video in its third-grade classes – as part of the state-manadated curriculum – that shows a child with two dads.
The issue first arose in December after a class of third graders at the J. Harold Van Zant School here was shown “That’s a Family!,” a documentary created by an Academy Award-winning filmmaker intended to show students the different forms that families can take, as part of the curriculum required in New Jersey. But the district temporarily stopped showing the video after some parents complained that they should be able to decide whether their third-grade children should learn about same-sex couples in the classroom.
My stance is that the only valid discussion in this context is third-grade, as opposed to children. Of course it’s possible to cherry-pick whatever quote you need to make whatever point you want to make. The article has exactly what you’d expect, but I’m sure the sentiment is moderately common:
“I don’t think it was appropriate,” said Jennifer Monteleone, 35, who is a parent of two children at the Robert B. Jaggard Elementary School. “If it was maybe in fifth grade, but in third grade they’re a little too young.”
It’s reasonable to debate this, as I said. But it can’t stop there.
Yet Ms. Monteleone also questioned whether the video should be shown at all because of the presence of the same-sex couples.
“It’s something to be discussed within families,” she said. “I think it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach the kids about that stuff.”
I don’t have a problem with this statement. But prohibiting this discussion in school addresses the symptom. When government is in charge of education, you have considerably less freedom to limit facts, or even decide what should be facts. But education is provided by the government. As a blunt instrument it can work against any agenda as much as it can work for one. Don’t be surprised when it happens.
In this case, parents do not have a right to make up their own facts. Same-sex
marriage civil (in-)equality is the law. In acknowledging same-sex relationships, the state of New Jersey is dealing strictly in fact. Again, question the third-grade aspect and the debate is useful. (I think third-grade is fine, but I won’t pretend to base that on anything other than my instinct.) But you don’t get to impose this on everyone:
Delores Stepnowski, a parent of another Jaggard student, said parents should have been given more notice that the video would be shown.
“Something that controversial should have been discussed,” Ms. Stepnowski said. The children “shouldn’t learn questionable things in school that they’re not ready for and don’t understand.”
The evaluation of fact is open to subjective opinion. The existence of fact is not. The word questionable has nothing to do with this.