What’s less well known is Swett’s weird contempt for families. Swett saw public schools as factories for the creation of people who, having “arrived at the age of maturity belong, not to the parents, but to the State, to society, to the country.”
Understand that – the idea that Americans belong not to themselves but to “the State” – and you begin to understand why Swett believed the family had to be kept out of any serious discussions about education.
Parents, he wrote, were obstacles to the “complete harmony and unity of action” required of modern governance. He dismissed as “entirely erroneous” the “vulgar impression that parents have a legal right to dictate to teachers. As it would be manifestly improper for the teacher to undertake to dictate to the parents in their own house, so it would be improper for the parents to dictate to him in his, the schoolhouse.”
It’s taken 170 years, but Attorney General Merrick Garland delivered earlier this month on Swett’s ambition, directing the FBI to investigate and ultimately silence pesky moms and dads who hold the extremist view that they should have any say in their children’s education.
Garland said he was responding to a now-infamous letter in which the National School Boards Association (NSBA) claimed activist parents are guilty of “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” against teachers and school board members.
A close reading of the group’s “evidence” reveals few examples that rise to the level of crimes, and none that would justify the appearance of FBI agents on your doorstep. At worst, they’re examples of elected officials getting some pretty candid – but entirely legal – feedback for decisions that value teacher union demands and wokeness above student needs. The NSBA’s singular citation out of California, for example, was a Poway school board meeting that adjourned early after parents demanded they be let into the boardroom in numbers exceeding COVID restrictions. There were no arrests or reports of harm in that incident.
Local law enforcement has the authority to step in if school board members are being harmed or threatened; any real threats or acts of violence must be dealt with fully, immediately – and locally. Federal investigations of parents whose “crime” was making school board members feel uncomfortable is not the solution. It is indeed a threat to the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech, assembly and petition.