Niagara Gazette

January 27, 2014

CONFER: State bill would mandate parenting classes

By Bob Confer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Three weeks ago a bill was submitted to the state Senate’s education committee that would pose a significant attack on parental rights. S142-2013, sponsored by Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, and cosponsored by Adraino Espaillat, D-Washington Heights, and John Sampson, D-Brooklyn, would require persons in parental relation with a child of elementary school age to attend parent support programs and complete four workshops, one of which must be related to physical, emotional and sexual abuse of children.

In the bill, as the penalty for non-compliance (or what the lawmakers would consider the reward for compliance), a child’s advancement to the seventh grade is contingent on the parents’ completion of these courses.

The language of the bill expresses its purpose as providing “… parents with educational and support systems that would enhance parenting skills and to provide parents with guidelines and resources necessary to prevent instances of abuse and neglect.”

This bill, the first of its kind, would dictate to parents how to do their job, regardless if they are “bad” parents or “good” ones. It assumes there is a standard, one-size-fits-all approach to parenting that all households should conform to.

As any one will tell you, there isn’t. Each and every family has its own unique chemistry, traditions, norms and culture. That’s what makes each family — and each person – on this planet so interesting, so unique. Sameness is the bane of human development. And it is the symptom of total control.

Not only is the bill a disappointing and insulting assault on parenting (despite its alleged intentions), the impact on the Empire State’s educational infrastructure — and taxpayers — would be unfathomable.

The bill is constructed in such a way that the classes offered to parents could not be presented by the typical places where they might now voluntarily seek out ideas and assistance (churches, parental support groups, county social services, etc.). Instead, the state education commissioner and the Board of Regents are charged to develop a dozen workshops and institute them through our existing school systems.

Mind you, teaching colleges do not offer degrees on parenting. New York’s current certification system does not afford accreditation in the matter and the very subject itself does not fit at all with the core competencies of our schools – that is, educating youth (not adults) about science, math, language and arts.

New York education would have to be remodeled to meet the new standards and it would come with significant hardship. There are just over 2.1 million families in New York State with children age infant to 11 years old, so there would be (absentee fathers notwithstanding) some 4.2 million adults who would need to be educated.

To put that into perspective, there are approximately 3 million public school students in the state and spending on education is already 73 percent higher here than it is nationally. Where would the money come from? New York’s property owners, who shoulder the greatest burden of school taxes, can give only so much. And, if they are going to spend more, it should be spent on the kids directly.

On top of those fiscal matters, there are financial ones, too: Under Diaz’s bill, employers would be required to provide one paid day of leave per year so that those parents can attend training.

There are thousands of bills put before the Legislature every year and most of them are never passed. Let’s hope that this bill is one of them.

But, you can never be too pessimistic about that. In recent years we’ve seen how government has taken it upon itself, through the schools, to act as a parent, dictating to children what they can/cannot eat, how to view the world, how to treat others and what constitutes good character – all facets of physical, mental and emotional health more rightly managed by parents.

Even without this bill, parental rights are slipping away one bit at a time.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. Email him at bobconfer@juno.com.