In Loco Parentis, Part II

by A.L. Schuhart

My last essay here engendered a bunch of predictable comment, as I hoped it would. The fact is, however, that my argument is sound, and my purpose is to reacquaint the public with the principle of in loco parentis as it informs the grand discussion of Education in Virginia and America.

Those readers who responded that parents do not get to decide curriculum are just wrong. If you look at the examples I gave of things that parents can and should object to, you would see that they are all in what educators term the “affective domain,” as opposed to the “cognitive domain.”

What’s the difference in Education theory and practice?

The cognitive domain describes concrete skills and cognitive development: math, reading, writing, history, etc. The affective domain is essentially the personal “world view” of the student: politics, religion, social attitude, emotions, etc.

Schools have a mandate to teach the cognitive domain, and traditionally the affective domain is not the business of the teacher or school to intrude upon. It belongs to the parent.

Parents don’t have any say in the cognitive domain because these areas are beyond their expertise, especially in the modern day. Parents have the ultimate say in the affective domain because they are the parents, not the teachers.

My point is that DEI does exactly that: it seeks to directly shape the social and political attitudes of the student, even when parents object to the attitudes the schools seek to instill for reasons that are within the natural rights and duties of the parents. DEI crosses an historical line that previous generations of parents staunchly defended, often in court, and which the Supreme Court has consistently backed.

When I talk to young teachers fresh from their education programs, I am sadly not surprised that many have never heard of the term in loco parentis, so they have no ethical problem transmuting their classrooms into unequal environments of indoctrination. That’s because just about every education program in America now teaches the socialist worldview, and in that view, the education system is controlled by the State for the benefit of the State. Schools in a socialist society teach what the State decides the truth is, rather than providing young people with the tools to discern truth for themselves. In loco parentis is the firewall that is supposed to make sure that schools serve the interests of the parents, rather than politicians who might use the Education system for their own social purposes.

Those readers who argued with my definition of in loco parentis are ignorant of the historical importance of this principle, probably because they have never taught a class, have no knowledge of educational theory, don’t understand pedagogy, and have never led an academic program. Instead, they have googled one definition and thought themselves master of the knowledge and experience that informs such definitions. But they lack the historical view that I am trying to reinsert into public debate. Instead of trying to prove me wrong to satisfy their egos, it might be better to add my experience to the mix. After all, how many college professors in the state of Virginia still hold true to democracy and have the courage to stand up and fight for the democratic ideal of Education that serves all students equally?

So, I argue that parents need to reclaim the affective domain from the education system, and the way to do this is to attack using in loco parentis. And what I explained in my last essay is true. Educators who deliberately intrude upon the affective domain should be removed from their positions. Teachers cannot be allowed to use the classroom to achieve their personal social agenda or what they believe to be the correct political outcome. It is not the business of the schools to change American society into whatever teachers decide it should be. Schools have taken on the false mission of ending racism, or creating a diverse and equitable society, or alleviating the sin of slavery. But in reality they merely repeat the same evils using newly invented words to obscure their true meaning.

DEI is a Fascist structure: it uses all the tools of institutional power to impose one idea upon all students, and it requires all teachers to toe the line or suffer punishments, such as I and many other democratic educators have suffered. I warn that all one needs to do is compare DEI to what occurred in German schools in the 1930s to see the exact same arguments and the exact same tactics that the Nazis used to create a generation of fanatics. Indeed, DEI is a tool to create a national socialist education system that serves the federal government, so that whoever controls that government also controls the schools and what is taught in them. And, look, the woke students marching out of their colleges today are no different than the brown-shirts of that era.

All Virginia citizens should take note that DEI is only the first iteration of a growing tyranny, for if today the Education system can be used to impose this idea on a generation of students, it will be used to impose a worse idea upon the next.

A.L. Schuhart is Professor of English at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale. He holds a doctorate in Education and has more than 30 years of classroom experience.