The case of David Parker is making the blog rounds. Parker spent this past Wednesday night in jail because he refused to follow the rule of law and leave his son's school when the police showed up. Read the email exchange that preceded his altercation. It's fairly clear from it that the school is seeking to recognize that some of their students come from families with gay parents and is seeking to have the children who interact with those students understand that. The goal is quite obviously to minimize harm to those students from children of those who would teach that it's immoral to be part of a family with gay parents. David Parker's complaints, given the intent of this material, seem to the administration of the school to be exactly the kind of thing they don't want being an influence at their school, and they're right to worry about that. His language is pretty clear. He doesn't want this family structure being recognized or talked about at all by any employees of the school, and no materials that even acknowledge that it happens can be part of his son's curriculum.
Notice that he's not upset about his son learning about sex at too early an age, as Michelle Malkin claims. He's upset that they're teaching his child that there are same-sex parent families. You don't need to talk about sex to do that. What's funny is that he's claiming that the school has no right to teach his child values and morals but reserving that for himself and his wife. Yet he seems unwilling to do that himself.
He doesn't want his son exposed to anything that he can then help his son interpret in the light of the moral perspective he's supposed to be (but presumably is not) teaching his son. If he were providing that framework, he wouldn't be worried about what will happen when his son learns that there are family structures that involve gay parents. His son will know how to interpret that aright if he's teaching his son aright. The Christian view on this is that family structures do not matter for how we should accept a child and that sexual orientation does not matter for how we should accept a parent. It's also that forming such relationships is immoral. If David Parker wants to teach his son about that, then he can do so. Otherwise, it's the moral responsibility of the government to do so, because the moral formation of children is important enough that people like him who won't teach their children to accept the children of gay people need to be counterbalanced.
Think about how this would appear if it weren't about homosexuality but about something the Bible has a lot more to say about, divorce. I wrote yesterday about how Christians' priorities on these issues are skewed. God hates divorce, yet what is a Christian's response supposed to be when our children's friends are from divorced families? Are we to complain that this alternative lifestyle is evil? Are we to protect our children from being exposed to the fact that people divorce? Are we to get upset that schools are putting divorced family structures on the same level as traditional two-parent ones when they point out that there are lots of possible family structures?
I think it's pretty clear that the answer to all those questions is no. Yet the cases are analogous. Christians believe both actions are immoral. Both actions lead to an alternative family structure. Christians believe that alternative structure to be inferior in some sense (though it seems to me that a divorced one is more inferior in at least one respect, simply for practical reasons, due to their being only one parent to raise the kids). Yet somehow it's immoral to teach children about one, but Christians don't care about the other. Why? It's because of a kind of moral blindness. Those who believe gay relationships to be immoral seem to have a very hard time separating that from what they say about the people who are in them, how they view the people in them, and how they treat the people in them. (Some are so blind to this that they even confuse this sort of thing with recruitment to homosexuality!) The same people don't have this trouble with divorce. That means there's something particular to gay people that they can't get around.
I suggest this is because gay people are not like them. It's easy for Christians to consider gay people as evil in some level of depth that I'm not able to reach because I know I'm not going to face what gay people face. It's easy to put them in a lower moral category because I know I'm not possibly going to be in that category. This is the Pharisee who thanks God that he's not like those sinners. It's the putting of one sin that one doesn't commit and couldn't commit on a level that we would never say about something that we and those like us at least could commit, and people we know well do commit. It's thus exactly what the so-called "gay agenda" people say it is. It's homophobia. It's a kind of fear and hate of gay people. It's immoral and unChristian. That it's something special about homosexuality is clear from the analogy with divorce.
That's why I think David Parker has failed in his responsibility to be a good parent. He doesn't know how to teach his son to think about these issues rightly. He doesn't know how to separate two things that fall clearly on different sides of a fairly obvious moral distinction that most Christians have no problem applying in the case of divorce. He wants his son's school to do the moral training he won't do, but he wants them to do it his way, including his own morally skewed perspective that they don't share. He's not happy with the way they're doing it, and he was willing to spend the night in jail over it. Conservatives are going nuts saying the school's treatment of him is the height of evil, but I'm talking here about Parker's unwillingness to teach his son how to evaluate what the school is teaching him and his inability to recognize the difference between recognition of secual orientation differences and different family structures on the one hand and the moral evaluation of entering into such relationships on the other.
So much for the moral evaluation of Parker himself. What about the school? It's consistent with everything I've said against Parker that the school is also doing something immoral. Jay at Wizbang thinks the primary issue here is about who has a responsibility to engage in moral training. It's the parent's responsibility. So even if Parker won't teach his son properly, it may be the school's duty to stay out of it. I disagree. On too many issues parents aren't doing that, and schools have had to make up for it. This is especially so in inner city communities, and any teacher in those environments will confirm what I'm saying. When parents won't teach their kids, schools have had to pick up the slack in teaching. When that's going on, it's the moral responsibility of a just government to train children in moral formation.
Consider a parallel case again. What if I want to teach my children that Asians are morally inferior and deserve to be slaves? What if I tell the public school system that I don't want them teaching my kids that all races are morally equal? What if I insist that they pull my kids out of any session in which such a statement might be made? The school will properly view my demand as nuts. They're not going to think ahead of time about every possible case when someone might think it appropriate to make such a comment in order to "protect" my kids from such language. It's in fact unreasonable to expect them to keep every parent's such considerations in mind.
It's different if a parent wants a child excluded from a very specific activity, such as a Baptist who thinks dancing is wrong and won't have their children engage in square dancing during gym class. These very general sorts of things are much harder to monitor, and I can understand why a school would be extremely hesitant to promise that any kid will be excluded from any such comment a teacher might make. Given that there are children of gay parents in the school, it's going to come up, and teachers can't predict what they'll say when.
I think George Will is right on this. The government has a soul-crafting duty, particularly when parents won't do it, and that seems to be the case here. When Christian (or Christian-influenced) parents are so blinded by their mission to convert all people to the cause of being against homosexuality (rather than to Christ, I note) that they can't see that they're turning their children against the children of gay people, the government has a moral obligation to teach those children what those parents are unwilling to teach them. This can, of course, be abused if the soul-crafting mission of government crafts souls in the wrong way, and it's certainly true that he thinks the school is doing that, but it's not clear to me that this school is doing that. The only evidence I have is that they're teaching children to be accepting of those who come from non-traditional family structures. It's immoral to oppose that, particularly for Christians who have more at stake when they look like fools, as David Parker here does.
Update: The Prickly Pear criticizes the curriculum in a way that goes beyond what I was looking at:
The problem with this book is that it's teaching children that marriage doesn't matter, that there are other kinds of living arrangements that are equally okay. Well, they're not okay. Many of these other arrangements do not create the best environment in which to raise children. In fact, some are downright dysfunctional... Considering the amount of out-of-wedlock children growing up in fatherless homes, we need to emphasize the desirability of a two parent home, not diminish its importance.
Responsible parents don't want their children taught something that could be detrimental to their welfare. The school, by using this diversity bookbag, is usurping the parent's role. Perhaps if schools stopped social engineering and got back to teaching academics, kids could once again learn to read and write as well as their grandparents could.
It doesn't say they're equally ok. It just says that there might be good things about them all, which is surely true. A two-parent team consisting of two women is most certainly not going to have as much of the weaknesses common to men, and a two-parent team consisting of two men isn't going to have as much of the weaknesses common to women. A one-parent family isn't going to have parents who argue with each other in front of the kids. A grandparent-led family has the advantage of the children being closer to extended family. A adoptive parent family has the advantage of potentially giving better love and care to the child than the biological parents would have, given that they saw the need to put the child up for adoption. Divorced-remarried families have the advantage of having different people giving a different balance over a child's life.
None of that means any of those would be better than a family with two parents of the opposite sex who are the biological parents of the child. It's perfectly consistent with there being positive aspects to all of those family structures that one of them is far superior to them all and/or that more than one of them might be good but some of them be in the final outcome bad. If the school is failing these children, it's not in what it's teaching them. It's in what it's not teaching them. If we're going to be critical of that curriculum, we need to be critical of it in the right place. A parent's responsibility in such a situation is to help a child see that, and I would say that the teacher's responsibility isn't much different.