Families & the Community

Too Much Parental Involvement?

By Anthony Rebora — January 30, 2012 1 min read

On the New York Times Room For Debate blog, Florida high school English teacher Scott Sterling questions the feasibility—and wisdom—of a newly enacted New Hampshire law that requires schools to provide alternative lesson options to students whose parents or guardians object to assigned content. Given the elasticicity of what parents find “objectionable” these days, he writes, the law will essentially create a new layer of Individual Education Plans for teachers to deal with:

Instead of just having to accommodate the students with documented learning challenges, the teachers will now have to tailor lessons for Johnny, whose parents objected to Edgar Allan Poe because "The Raven" gave him nightmares back in seventh grade. Or Susie, whose parents don't want her to read any Shakespeare because she "just doesn't get it and will never use it anyway."

There’s also the matter, Sterling continues, of potentially undermining a central aspect of good teaching:

But as a teacher, my job is more often than not to push the students who don't think they can do something, until they can. In New Hampshire now, teachers can only push until parents object. Students will end up learning less.

The new law derives, incidentally, from a parent’s objection to the use of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America in a personal finance class at Bedford High School.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.