TribuneLourdes Ruano Espina

Who decides the education of our children?

Parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children. What the obligatory neutrality of the public authorities in the educational sphere proscribes is the transmission of this education from a specific anthropological and ethical model.

February 6, 2020-Reading time: 6 minutes

Traditionally, education was considered a duty rather than a right. Hence, the first declarations of rights (the Virginia Declaration of 1776 and the French Declaration of 1789) made no reference to the right to education. It was at the time of the Enlightenment that the desirability of providing compulsory education was raised. Given that the task of education had traditionally been entrusted to the Church, in the ideology of the Enlightenment it was decided to dispense with religious confessions so that education would be assumed by the State. Thus, as a result of the French Revolution, the State took over the direct management of education, which began to be conceived as a public service. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 included, among the fundamental rights, that of every person to education, which should be, elementary and fundamental instruction, compulsory and free of charge, since its purpose is the full development of the human personality (art. 26, 1 and 2). And it established that "parents shall have a preferential right to choose the type of education to be given to their children".

Principle of neutrality

The configuration of education as a right and duty of every person, to be provided free of charge by the State (art. 27, 1 and 5 CE), implies an important advance in the recognition of human rights, but it also requires the assumption by the State of broad competencies, in the exercise of which it is invested with considerable power. In the exercise of the power that the legislation attributes to the government, the latter could adopt formulas of indoctrination that, invading the sphere of the moral conscience of children, would be considered as not respectful of the personal convictions of minors and/or their parents, whether religious, moral, ethical or philosophical. This is precisely where the fundamental right of parents to choose for their children the moral and religious education that is in accordance with their own convictions fits in, a right recognized both by our Constitution (art. 27, 3) and by numerous international texts and treaties, which guarantees a sphere of autonomy and immunity, so that parents can choose these teachings or refuse to allow their children to receive those that are contrary to their convictions. This right constitutes a limit to the power of the State to regulate the educational system, which must be governed by the principle of neutrality.

The compulsory transmission of specific teachings that lacked the required neutrality was already carried out with the famous Citizenship Educationwhich had an impact on the moral formation of children from a specific ideology and anthropology, which we do not all share. Therefore, the Supreme Court, in its ruling of February 11, 2009, established that, in organizing the educational system, the State must respect pluralism, which is a higher value of the legal system. "The State cannot take its educational powers so far as to encroach on the right of parents to decide on their children's education.s religious and moral education" (FJ 9). The educational administration is not authorized "to impose or inculcate, not even indirectly, specific points of view on moral issues that are controversial in Spanish society" (FJ 10). 

In order to safeguard this area, the association Education and Person and the Federation Spain Educates in Freedom a document was drawn up for the informed consentwhich was distributed to parents throughout Spain in March 2009. In it, parents request information and express their consent -or not- for their children to attend, at school, activities (generally extracurricular, such as workshops, lectures, etc.) or receive training given by people outside the teaching staff, with moral, sexual or ideological content, given that this training can be given from very different anthropological, ethical and psychological perspectives. This document has been adopted and disseminated in recent weeks by an organization and a political party, under the unfortunate name of parental pin. 

Core of the discussion

The request for information and parental consent for extracurricular activities is not exceptional, and has been applied in the school environment. In fact, it was adopted until recently, by educational administrations of autonomous communities governed by left-wing parties such as Extremadura (see communication to schools of 16 October 2019) or Valencia. Controversy has arisen when certain lobbies and political parties have seen their pretensions endangered. The discussion has focused on those activities, workshops or lectures, which contain a training affective-sexual(the same Extremadura Community sent another communiqué on October 28, 2019 to exclude, from the need for express consent, training activities on coeducation, affective-sexual education, gender identity or expression or family models), when they take place in public schools, since the centers with religious ideology can assert it as a clause to safeguard their religious identity and character. ex art. 6 of the Organic Law on Religious Freedom. It should be recalled that the Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gais, Trans y Bisexuales (State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Trans and Bisexuals) and its entities, in October 2019, demanded the Ministry of Education and the regional ministries to remind, through a written document to their educational centers, the need and obligation to implement this type of training in their classrooms and to offer it to all students, as well as the immediate withdrawal of the instructions that oblige the centers to request parental consent for certain training.

Parents, the first responsible

Regardless of the name of the document, we are faced with a core issue in which fundamental rights and freedoms of parents and children are at stake. Parents are accused of being intolerant, of trying to restrict the integral formation of their children, and the obligation of the public authorities to watch over their rights is appealed to. The strategy is certainly perverse. Both the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the Minister of Education, Isabel Celaá, have publicly affirmed that the parental pin violates the right of boys and girls to receive a comprehensive education. There is nothing more twisted than to make people believe that it is the parents who are depriving their children of the right to education, so it is the State who should assume that competence. This is a crass mistake. Parents are primarily responsible for the education of their children, who decide what is good for them. The State assumes, in a subsidiary way, the task, not of educating them, but of providing them with a school place, with scrupulous respect for freedom of education and freedom of religion and conscience. And on the basis of these freedoms, the right to choose the formation of minors, in the religious, moral and ideological field, is exclusive to their parents. 

 Indoctrination

Education requires training in values, so necessary today: freedom, equality and non-discrimination, respect for others, pluralism, diversity and tolerance towards all, values that constitute the moral substratum of the constitutional system. It is necessary and urgent to educate children to recognize and respect the dignity of every person.. And this regardless of one's anthropological conception of sexuality or affectivity. What the obligatory neutrality of the public authorities in the educational sphere proscribes is the transmission of this formation from a specific anthropological and ethical model. Expressions such as "What will make you a man or a woman is not whether you are born with one genitalia or another, but how you identify yourself." (a workshop on sexual diversity given in a high school in Ciempozuelos to 10 and 11 year-old children), "curiosity about anal sex: is there clear division between those who wish to penetrate and those who wish to be penetrated?", "having a large number of sexual partners does not have to have pejorative connotations"(COGAM's guide for giving talks in high schools), or "the school must promote an affective-sexual education based on attractiveness", "teaching solo sexual satisfaction and enjoyment" (Program SkolaeThe Navarre government's "Indoctrination" program goes beyond mere objective and neutral training and constitutes full-blown indoctrination. 

Limits to educational action

Parents who, in their freedom, want to educate their children in an anthropological and affective conception different from the one imposed by LGTBI ideology are not homophobic or sexist. The ideological postulates of gender ideology constitute a specific way of conceiving man and sexuality, with important moral repercussions, but it is not the only one. Therefore, minors may be informed about different ways of conceiving man, or the different family models that the law recognizes, but the moral assessment that conduct deserves, what is good and what is bad, is part of the ideological, religious and moral convictions, on which only parents can decide. As the Spanish Supreme Court has pointed out, the rights enshrined in arts. 16.1 and 27.3 of the Constitution, stand as a limit to the educational action of the State. Parents should not allow moral indoctrination of their children by the State. Whatever their ideology and beliefs. It is freedom that is at stake. n

The authorLourdes Ruano Espina

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