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Suit to Control Pupils' Reading

November 07, 1986

For myself the essential question is this: Do children have rights and interests independent of their parents? And, if so, is it therefore proper that some third party (the state, the community) should at times intervene so as to protect these rights and interests? In our country the answer would seem to be a "yes" to both questions.

Adults are not allowed to in any sense abuse their children; and no one has yet to question the properness of the young woman who recently reported her parents to the police for drug abuse. There seems to be no debate that this girl had the right to live in a home where such illegal activities are not going on.

Now, as to the case that came before Judge Hull, do parents have the right to deny their children access and exposure to particular works of literature, simply because they do not mirror their own convictions? The answer, I think, has to be "no."

If one of the duties of both schools and parents is to prepare children for life, then a familiarity with such books as the parents in the case found objectionable ("The Wizard of Oz," "The Diary of Anne Frank" for example) seems essential. Do these parents have the right to deny their children what seems to me to be a proper education?

Or, to speak to a related instance, do such parents have the right to confuse science and religion for their children, and thereby teach them what they wish were science (scientific creationism)--that has, in fact, absolutely nothing to do with what goes on in the everyday world of biological research. Again, I think the answer to both questions must be "no." Children, instead, have a right to be protected from the ignorance and false beliefs (be they through mistake or bullheadedness) of their parents.

HENRY A. JIMENEZ

Cypress

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