Let’s give back to parents the right to choose what is best for their child


By Kira Davis

I recently had the distinct privilege to attend a screening of the movie “The Giver”.

For those who don’t know much about the film here is the official synopsis from the Weinstein Co., which produced the film.

“The haunting story of THE GIVER centers on Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. The film is based on Lois Lowry’s beloved young adult novel of the same name, which was the winner the 1994 Newbery Medal and has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.”

There are a lot of interesting themes in the film. Too many to break down in one post, but what struck me the most was the idea that “choice” is what makes us truly human. The ability to choose is what gives us the ability to love and at the end of the day, love is what we live for. But love can’t be love if it isn’t a choice made of free will.

THINK ABOUT IT: The Giver opens in theaters Aug. 15

These days it seems like more and more people and politicians are becoming like the elders in The Giver. Choice is slowly being removed from all aspects of our every day lives. It’s done under the guise of compassion. After all, they just want to help you make the right choices! As Meryl Streep’s character hauntingly says in the film, “When people have the freedom to choose, they choose wrong.”

That line gave me the shivers.

One of the issues I am most passionate about is school choice. Having lived and worked in the inner city education system, my mind was fundamentally changed about our education structure. I saw parents and students trapped in failing public schools with no way to escape and no advocate for their worries. A monopoly means no one has to listen to your complaints. They get your money anyway. Kindly shut up and take your medicine thankyouverymuch, next!

I am always amazed at how many people oppose a parent’s right to choose .We see many people actively demanding that a woman have the right to choose to abort her baby if that is her will, but if that baby is born it suddenly becomes taboo to demand a choice in how you educate that baby that came from your body.

There is a prevailing attitude in our public education system that if we leave it to parents to choose education options for their own children they will choose wrong. And who defines wrong? Conveniently, the powers that be in the public education system.

It is a wicked notion to assume the only people qualified to educate my child are those who have college degrees and are licensed by the government. It says, “You can’t be counted on to produce a healthy, productive citizen. Let us do it for you … the right way.”

Now, I’m not suggesting that teachers aren’t needed or that public education is the spawn of Satan. If your schools are good and you like the teachers and their methods, there’s no reason to avoid public school. What I am suggesting is that once you remove from my hands the choice of how my child is educated you remove a very important piece of the process of creating original thinkers and an eclectic society.

I don’t want to live in The Community, where everyone talks the same, looks the same and learns the same things. I don’t want that for my child. I don’t have a teaching degree but the very nature of being a mother means that I am inherently a teacher. I teach my children every day. I make choices for them. I teach them how to make their own choices. Sometimes they choose wrong. I know I do, but how can you know what is “right” if you never learn what is “wrong”?

There’s a certain joy to life that is lost when we take away the ability to choose. It’s true, many people do make bad decisions. That is the unfortunate consequence of free will. The flip side of that is love. It is free will that allows us to experience love – for love is only love when it is chosen and not imposed.

I want my children to love learning. In order to do that they must choose to learn. As their parent it is my responsibility to present them with healthy choices. If I’m trapped in a failing school with no money to move to another district, those healthy choices fly out the window. They only belong to the rich. The rest of us are consigned to unequal “equality.” Sure your school might be dangerous and creating failing students, but at least they’ll all have equal access to the same failures.

At this point, our public education system sadly assumes that as parents you and I are incapable of making the right choices for our own children. We need smarter people to do it for us. As if removing all the flavors and palettes of a diverse education system will somehow lead to more prosperity. It is precisely the opposite.

We may well be able to make some form of The Community in education, but we will do so at great cost. It will cost us the joy of learning through trial and error. It will cost us the diversity of a population raised to value their individual qualities and needs. It will cost us wasted dollars that could be used to flourish individuals instead of lumping them into corporate settings that might not be ideal for them. It will cost us an entire generation of young people condemned to failing schools in impoverished communities simply because they cannot earn enough money to join their wealthier peers.

“When people have the freedom to choose they choose wrong.” Except when they choose right.

Let’s give back to parents the right to choose what is best for their child’s learning environment. Let’s reject educational Utopia – because Utopia is not a heaven on earth, it’s a prison of rules and arbitrary expectations. I’ll take the mess we call real life any day of the week. At least it is a mess of my choosing.

“The Giver” opens nationwide on Aug. 15. If you’re interested in taking your kids I found a handy dandy “Educator’s Resource Guide” that may help you shape some discussions.

Kira Davis is a fellow at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.