Parental Rights & Authority and “the Left”

Parental rights and authority have been under scrutiny from some lefty liberals and and socialists recently (here’s an example). The concern is usually grounded in “children’s rights” and their autonomy, though there is also attention paid toward critiquing the basis for parental authority. I used to think parental authority is a given, but it seems as though “the left” is willing to challenge any traditional source of authority that is not the state itself. Conservatives should always pay close attention to philosophies and ideologies that dissolve or undermine non-state authorities, such as the family or religious institutions, because that is a mechanism on which totalitarianism depends. The idea is to slowly eliminate the authority of and allegiance to non-state institutions.

Consider this. Just a few days ago, the democratic socialist government of Alberta legislated that schools cannot inform parents whether their child is a member of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. It’s called Bill 24. The justification for this law, so far as I have heard, is that such information “outs” a child to his parents, which therefore can violate his privacy or is too great a risk for his safety. Hence, the schools are now mandated to hide some information from parents about their own child, because, ya know, it’s either not the parents’ business or the risk that some parents might harm their child is too great. Or something like that. The former restricts parental authority and oversight while the latter distrusts parents. Either way, it’s a big FUCK-YOU to parents.

There are a number of ways conservatives might answer. Here are some:

  1. Knowledge of membership to a Gay-Straight Alliance group doesn’t “out” a child, since it is a club for persons with any sexual inclination. At most, membership implies that the member is an “ally”, which doesnt entail that the child has homosexual inclination.
  2. We already have legislation ensuring children’s safety. Rather than further restrict knowledge and oversight for parents, and actually hide information about their own child, the schools and government should take a less intrusive approach by turning their attention exclusively to those very few cases where a child’s is abused. That way parents can still have full disclosure while children’s safety enjoys the full measure of law. And I mean actually abused, not the interpretation of “abuse” heralded by many psychologists today, because they concept-creeped the shit out of it.
  3. We don’t need to be absolutely reactive toward abuse. We can be proactive, too. For example, if there is sufficient reason to think that a parent would become abusive if he learned that his kid has homosexual inclinations or joined a GSA (e.g., severe beatings or honour killing), then the schools can and should hide that information, but this decision to hide that information should be decided on the case-by-case basis and only in very serious cases. It is thus not the standard approach to take with parents. Instead, it is a very narrow and scarce exception to the rule.

For those people who don’t find 2 and 3 true, it is likely that we differ on this 4th point: Any curricular and extracurricular content and activity is the business of parents, especially that which pertains to education, morality and sexuality. If we disagree on this, then we shouldn’t. Instead, you should agree with me. Here’s why.

Family-bonds and the parent-child bond are natural and prior to the state. Their relationship cannot be paralleled well by any other natural person or state institution, because none other can account for the material cause and constitution of a child himself. The family and parent-child relationship is thus directly causal, personal and ontological.

That the parents created a new and totally dependent human person makes them responsible for that child and his welfare. His parents owe him that. They also owe the rest of us that, because each person is responsible for his own choices and the relationships he establishes. In addition, it is good for the child to be within the care of his parents, because part of his personhood and identity rests with them and none other. Furthermore, no other person or institution will likely love that child as much as his mother and father, for they will tend to his needs and good even to the detriment of their own health or life. The child is thus best under the care of his parents and parents are obliged to provide that care.

Caring of children requires choosing particular goods and ends for children. But who gets to make those decisions? Plausibly, it’s either the parents or the state. If the state chooses for children, then parents would serve as mere bodily donors and custodians for the state. But that is perverse: The parent-child relationship is naturally much deeper and more intimate than that, as I argued earlier. Hence, it is not the state should choose, but the parents. Yet, if it is the parents who should choose, then they need a great deal of space to exercise their choices in accordance to their conscience, particularly within matters of education, sexuality and morality, for each is deeply consequential to the child’s identity, good and life trajectory. In fact, aside from providing the necessities of life, it is hard to think of a contribution more important to the life and good of a child than those aforementioned things.

But if the parents are to make those choices and oversee their child’s education, then they need to know what’s going on with their child’s education and their activities within the school; hence, schools should not be hiding what children are learning or doing, nor even what sort of programs they’re involved in, even if it is a GSA. To do otherwise is to undermine the parental authority grounded in the unique relationship with their children.

Alberta’s parents need to flip the bird right back at their government.



  1. The problem is not simply with parental authority, but with the very concept of authority. Traditionally, authorityis understood to be the capacity to make moral demands that subjects are obligated to obey:

    By “authority” one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them. Every human community needs an authority to govern it. The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society. The authority required by the moral order derives from God: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”

    Liberalism attempts to ground the “just powers” of government and authority on consent or abstract notions of equality and freedom. The “common good of the society” is the equal advancement of individual autonomy. This essentially makes each individual his own authority, a demigod in his own personal sphere obedient only to himself. When this is understood it becomes obvious that parents have no capacity to make moral demands that their children are obligated to obey.

    • That’s exactly right. Liberalism is antithetical to authority. It is rooted in Lucifer’s decree, “I will ascend to the Most High.”

  2. I dunno, it seems to me you’ve granted the de facto “right” of education to the state-run gub’mint schools at the outset, so I suspect your starting point is wrong in this particular case. I’d suggest moving the question back a step and examining the legitimacy of mandated (as I think is the case in O’ Canada!) gub’mint schoolin’.

  3. “There are a number of ways conservatives might answer.”

    Maybe the best answer would be for the decent people of Canada to drag those who constructed this policy into the streets, beat them, kill them, and then hang their bodies in public for everyone to see. Doesn’t that sound like the right kind of “answer” to this kind of thing?

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