Opponents of parental rights are swimming against the rising tide of public opinion

Michael ZwaagstraThe debate over parental rights has become a flashpoint in the upcoming Manitoba provincial election. The Progressive Conservatives are promising to strengthen parental rights, while the Liberals and NDP have both denounced this pledge as a “dog whistle” to bigots.

One reason this debate is so heated is because of what is happening in other provinces. For example, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe are taking considerable heat for requiring schools to obtain parental consent before using different pronouns for students under the age of 16.

It should come as little surprise that Manitoba’s woke ideologues are desperate to stop this province from following their example.

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As a case in point, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Dan Lett recently denounced parental rights as “hate masquerading as a motherhood issue.” Meanwhile, organizers with the group People for Public Education published an op-ed calling the parental rights pledge a Trojan Horse that must be stopped.

Interestingly, these attacks ignore the fact that protecting parental rights has overwhelming public support. For example, an Angus Reid survey last month revealed that 76 percent of Manitobans think that parents should at least be informed if their children assume a new gender identity at school. Survey results in other provinces showed similar levels of support.

Simply put, opponents of parental rights are swimming against the tide of public opinion. Most Canadians hold the common sense view that parents, not school officials, are the primary educators of their children. This means they expect schools to share important information about their children – not hide it.

As for “grassroots” organizations such as People for Public Education, a quick perusal of their website shows that they are made up almost entirely of education professors, teachers, and school trustees. Thus, it would be more truthful to call them Public Educators for Public Education. They are certainly not speaking on behalf of ordinary parents, and their claims should be taken with a grain of salt.

A standard line used by critics is that it’s more important to protect children’s rights than parents’ rights. After all, they argue, children are not the property of their parents. The Toronto Star even went so far as to publish an op-ed titled “It’s a privilege, not a right, to know your kid’s gender identity.”

However, this claim essentially turns children into wards of the state. The moment that schools are allowed to hide information from parents in the name of children’s rights is the moment when the state has assumed the role of parent. There is no faster way to undermine trust in public education than to assume that parents cannot be trusted with information about their own children.

Parents expect public schools to provide students with a solid education in the academic basics. When schools depart from their primary mission, they risk destroying trust with the communities they serve. Public schools are supposed to work with parents, not undermine their authority.

When Manitobans go to the polls on October 3, they must think carefully about what kind of public education system they want. When it comes to their children, parents must always be kept in the loop.

Any party that refuses to respect the rights of parents doesn’t deserve to form a government.

Michael Zwaagstra is a public high school teacher and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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