House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, upper right, other House members and several children appear at a press event to highlight the introduction of the “Parents Bill of Rights” bill at the U.S. Capitol. Washington Post photo by Bill O’Leary

How to say you’ve been totally asleep at the switch of your children’s life without saying it?

Support the “Parents Bill of Rights Act!”

This toxic bill, introduced into Congress this month and debated on Capitol Hill last week, attacks an entire profession and scorches thousands of dedicated educators under the guise of empowering parents.

Baloney. It’s no secret that this nationwide “movement” is simply politics and began right here in the DMV, when Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin capitalized on parents’ frustrations with education during the pandemic, turning the once-snoozy, county board of education meetings into screamfests.

It’s a cheap device to divide Americans politically with culture-war scare tactics, with lies about curriculum and education. It pushes a preposterously shortsighted idea of what children need to be informed citizens in a contemporary world, disproportionately targeting accurate history about discrimination and anything LGBTQ-related.

A cottage industry of groups sprung up to foment outrage and harness grievances: Parents should be in charge of what children learn, Moms for Liberty began arguing in Brevard County, Fla., before taking their message nationwide, building a network of civically-engaged conservative voters.

There are options these folks might consider — home schooling or parochial or private schools.

Amid the shouting, there are things we’re not spending enough time talking about. The movement largely ignores the real problems of equity in education and the alarming, nationwide drop in math and reading competency across all ages.

Our teachers are quitting in droves, burned out and afraid.

And where have these parents been in all this? Complicit. They’re weaponizing fear against the folks in the classrooms, who are already making not nearly enough to deal with very big problems – the consequences of poor parenting among them.

They’re somehow everywhere and nowhere, busy revving up outrage online while simultaneously confused by what’s been withheld from them. Maybe a little less Facebook and a little more focus — you know — talking to teachers and asking about homework would’ve told them what kids were learning.

Glenda the Good Witch could’ve told these parents they’ve had the power all along to know what’s in the school library, in their kids’ classrooms and on the curriculums. It’s called involvement. I’ve never met a teacher who has said “no” to any of my questions or requests for meetings.

Just yesterday, after we failed to connect on Zoom and in person for parent-teacher conferences several times (most of the misses my fault), my son’s public school Spanish teacher tracked me down and made sure we had a chat because I asked him for a meeting to see how my little hombre was doing.

Teachers want to hear from you.

Heck, 200 years ago, when the first Normal School — the two-year seminary for educating teachers — opened in Vermont in 1823, parents who cared more about work than their kids was a hot topic.

Samuel Read Hall is the founder of much of America’s education system. In one of his “Lectures on School-Keeping,” published as a best-selling instruction book in 1852, he took aim at a farmer who hired a shepherd to watch his sheep, but regularly traveled four miles to ‘examine the state of his flock.'”

That man’s six kids are in a schoolhouse half-a-mile away “and yet for several years he has not once visited that school, to examine the state of ‘this other flock,'” Hall lamented.

For centuries, we have been asking the impossible of teachers. We want them to be educated and qualified, then we question their qualifications. We want them to discipline and inform our children, then we repeatedly challenge them. And when parents have been involved, have shown up to the meetings and conferences, asked the questions and met the teachers, most teachers respond to their concerns.

Instead, parents blindsided by curriculum (because they read out-of-context excerpts on a conservative blog), are advocating censorship and squaring off with teachers.

“This us-versus-them mind-set hurts students [and] disregards educators’ professionalism,” Marc Egan, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, wrote in a letter to Congress.

Perhaps nowhere is this more absurd than in the surging ban on books. A PEN America review found that from June 21 to July 22, book bans were imposed in 138 school districts in 32 states, affecting nearly 4 million students in more than 5,000 schools. That staggering number has probably increased in the past seven months, and it will only get worse if Congress soon decides to join forces with book ban proponents, according to an NEA report.

“The concern is if this bill passes, God forbid it ever became law, that it would have a chilling impact on schools, on libraries,” said Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), in a hearing on the bill held by the House Committee on Rules Wednesday.

McGovern read aloud parts of a banned book — the Rosa Parks story. It was a straightforward narrative of her famous bus protest. He asked the woman testifying on behalf of the bill, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), what could have been deemed offensive in the book.

“I have no idea,” Foxx responded, shrugging.

But let’s be honest, how often are parents more interested in their sheep than what their kids are reading?

How about a Parents’ Bill of Responsibilities?

Parents are responsible for being informed about their teachers, the curriculum, the library. It’s all public and available to anyone who asks.

They are responsible for managing the biggest influencer in their kids’ lives — the digital world in the palm of their hand. There’s stuff on there far more scarring than a book about a gay penguin and more provocative than any work by Toni Morrison — the main targets of the Bill-of-Rights parenting crew.

Parents are responsible for teaching their kids respect and tolerance. For championing a solid work ethic and an open mind.

You want teachers to teach the basics? Then stop leaving the parenting to them.

Petula Dvorak is a columnist for The Post’s local team who writes about homeless shelters, gun control, high heels, high school choirs, the politics of parenting, jails, abortion clinics, mayors, modern families, strip clubs and gas prices, among other things.

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