Opting out on citizenship


In response to the below email that was sent to parents of Fayette county schools regarding an “opt-out” option for an important teachable civic lesson, I ask [Superintendent] Dr. [Joseph]Barrow to begin with the end in mind, Is this what he wants for the future?

[Barrow’s letter to parents:] “Parents, presidential inaugurations are teachable moments which allow our students to watch the democratic process in action. Many of our grade levels have social studies standards that are directly correlated to the election process, roles of the president and historical impact of past presidents. Our teachers may chose, but are not required, to show the ceremony to their students. While we all have different personal views about the election and inauguration, I want to assure you that our teaching staff will not share their own political agendas or beliefs while showing the inauguration.

“All parents and students are given the option to opt-out of viewing the inauguration and will have an alternate activity during this time. Please email your child’s teacher or write a note before Friday morning if you would like for your student to opt-out of this event.”

Dear Dr. Barrow,

To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I have found SHM to be an excellent place of learning with focus of strong civic convictions and patriotic pride. That said, why would the county superintendent choose to direct SHM and other schools in the district to undercut that trend by offering our American children to opt out of one of the most important civic lessons, and one that only comes once every four years.

This type of logic would lead one to believe that we should offer to opt out of teaching our children about the right to vote and allow them the choice NOT to learn about that most important civic duty. Or opt out of final exam scores if we don’t like the results. Or opt out of learning if we don’t like the curriculum.

We may not agree with some of the incoming administration policies, or many of the outgoing policies for that matter, but that is irrelevant. Why is PC more important than history? Would we have seen this email had Secretary Clinton, or Senator Sanders, or if some other the Republican nominee were the elected president? To quote Dr. Ben Carson, “political correctness will destroy us if we don’t wake up.” We need to wake up.

What is intent of your message? What is the end game, and what good does this accomplish? I would ensure my children had the opportunity to witness this critical event, regardless of who was elected.

Hopefully the “alternate activities” you mention below include things like “Democracy at work in North Korea” or “Life in Cuba, and why American democracy is the best alternative.”

The right thing to do is ensure we teach all of our American students about the importance of these infrequent and special events in our republic. It only happens once every four years, and what better way to teach young people about the democratic process.

If you truly strive to be a “Champion for Children” as the Fayette County superintendent, you missed the mark big time with this “offer.” I hope that not one single parent takes you up on this “offer.” It makes no sense. I am disappointed by the lack of judgment with this decision, and with the bad position you placed your school leadership in by directing this action.

Do the right thing.
Chris Byrnes
Fayetteville, Ga.