Many parents desire to be actively engaged in the education of their children and believe that, as parents, they have the right and responsibility to exercise control over their children’s learning. Parents are often concerned about the presentation of such issues as sex education, whole language vs. phonics for reading instruction, death education, and so on. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy believes that parents not only have this right and duty, but also that research shows that parental involvement is a key to educational success. In a pluralistic society we must be tolerant and respectful of the various voices in our community, and seek to accommodate, not denigrate, the beliefs and values of others.
In a publication titled "Far Right/Extremist Attacks on Public Education," the MEA attempts to marginalize Christian parents who speak up for their children’s interests by portraying them as part of a national conspiracy to end religious and academic freedom. (A photocopy of this document is available from the Mackinac Center, $5.00 postpaid). The MEA document identifies a number of individuals and Christian organizations as part of a "Far Right Network," and characterizes them as "a vocal minority who impose their narrow, extremist views," and who "work to destroy religious freedom." Among the 26 religious and pro-family groups and individuals identified are:
William Bennett, author of the national best-seller "The Book of Virtues" and former Secretary of Education.
President Ronald Reagan
Campus Crusade for Christ
National Right to Life Committee
Family Life Seminars
The Christian Legal Society
Many MEA members are probably either supporters of these organizations, or respect the work of William Bennett and former President Reagan. Yet the union leadership uses these members’ dues to publish and distribute booklets that disparage the listed organizations and individuals, as well as the attempt by parents to exercise a degree of control over their children’s education.
A June 7, 1994, editorial in the Oakland Press summed up the MEA publications this way: "Even Hillsdale College and the Mackinac Center are on its list of ’Far Right’ conspirators. The fact is that rationalization of the funding and management of public education in Michigan is not a conspiracy. A majority in the Michigan Legislature supported it, as did a majority of Michigan citizens."