Thursday, April 24, 2008

Parents Know Best?

Do you know more than your doctor? How about your child’s teacher? Simple questions that may betray your political affiliation.

For lberals, the answer would be no to both questions. But if you answered yes, you may have bought into a simplistic concept advanced by the lock step Republicans. If you said yes, you’re wrong. Here's why I think it’s that simple.

The line we’ve heard till our ears were bleeding, at least mine were, is that "parents know what’s best" when it comes to education and medical decisions.

This allows Republicans to sell their snake oil privatization plans for school choice and health savings accounts. Don't even get me started on the divine wisdom of investment accounts replacing Social Security.

Being the father of a 5 and 9 year old, I’ve found that after more than 30 years past graduation, I’m pretty much out of the educational loop. And when it comes to medical care, I know that I’m one bad decision away from hurting my children or misdiagnosing myself. There is also the stupidity of putting off check ups to save a little money.

I can easily admit that I really don’t know more than my kids teachers and our family doctor. But that’s not an admission you'll hearing from the “ownership society” zealots. To them, these personal choices are "gambles" worth taking.

Up until now I haven’t been able to put forward the kind of example that would make my case unambiguously. No code words, no reading between the lines. But that has changed.

Take this recent story about the failure of the abstinence only programs. Thanks to Mic Check Radio for digging up the quote from Tenn. Rep. John Duncan, Republican.

“Rep. John Duncan, a Tennessee Republican, said that it seems “rather elitist” that people with academic degrees in health think they know better than parents what type of sex education is appropriate."

The well educated are elitist, probably liberal elitists. Gee, you think people with academic degrees, specializing in the field of health, might have an edge on you or me about sex education?

Let’s be clear. The phrase “parents know best” quietly subverts the idea of an informed public by demeaning qualified educators, while at the same time appealing to the guilt parents feel about losing control. Nasty stuff. It’s as if the conservative agenda cares less about the real world consequences and more about their failed ideological system of government.

Ironically, it’s time for parents to take control again by working with “elitist people with academic degrees who think they know better.” We might all learn something.

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