Parental rights sound like a good thing. As parents, our job is to guide our kids and help them both survive and become good humans. Some people think this means controlling every part of their lives, which is pretty unsustainable.
But is it? Politicians are speaking to those people right now, using the term “parental rights” to empower parents to spy for them. Florida just passed a bill that lets parents dictate curriculum in public schools (coming soon in Kansas, too). Together with Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, there are now some pretty solid battle lines drawn in the state between teachers (who are underpaid and overworked) and parents.
This kind of legislation is clearly and explicitly focused on the conservative side of the aisle, using the parents’ rights argument to target history, sexuality, and anti-racism with book bans, language bans, and curriculum bans.
The world is becoming more authoritarian across the board, but in the U.S., the “land of the free,” authoritarianism has to be sneaky. It seems like the current parental rights push encourages authoritarian behavior and discourages freedom, pitting teachers against parents. And not all parents. Texas’ attempt to take away parental rights by classifying gender-affirming surgery for trans kids as child abuse is an example of that.
I’m not saying some of these legislators don’t believe what they’re saying/legislating. But it seems like “parents’ rights” could be a way for conservative politicians to gain control by empowering (parent) spies that will keep the future authoritarian government ticking.