Monday, February 15, 2010

Bill Encourages Churches to Indoctrinate Young Children?

We’re told the Separation of Church and State exists to ensure that the church will never use the state to promote its religious beliefs. Does the wall of separation also exist to prevent the state from using the church to teach the state’s values?

This is a question buried deep in the weeds of HB 1329, a bill currently under consideration in the Washington State Senate that would force daycares, including church daycares, to unionize if other daycares in their area decide they want to unionize.

On page 4 of the bill, it says that any agreement between workers and the unions must be “consistent with the provisions of any quality rating and improvement system.” (pg. 4) At first blush, this language appears to be nothing more than a way to track the effectiveness of education.

However, the “quality rating and improvement system” referenced in this bill has already been carefully defined by the Department of Early Learning and contains strong values components that many who do not share the establishment value system of state government will find objectionable. You can read all 216 pages here.

Included, are a series of benchmarks that have nothing to do with whether Johnny knows his letters and numbers. The guidelines encourage caregivers to “share stories about how bias is addressed in community” with 3-5 year-olds. (pg. 49) It also suggests that caregivers “demonstrate and explain to [a]child how to stand up for self and others in the face of bias.” (pg. 61).

Many who read these requirements are confused by the concern over “bias”. As if anyone can be without bias. However, the fact that the concept is nonsensical does not make it meaningless.

In much the same way that the term “medically and scientifically accurate” is being used as a speech code to harass crisis pregnancy centers, those who dislike free thought and free expression frequently frame it as concern over “bias”. You may remember that opposition to “bias” led the administration at Spokane Falls Community College to prohibit pro-life literature from being distributed on their campus before a lawsuit forced them to change their unconstitutional policies. They even had a “Bias Incident Response Team” (BIRT) to deal with violations of their speech code.

I suspect many will I am an alarmist for suggesting that the term “bias” within the Department of Early Learning’s benchmarks indicates an effort to turn small children into leftists. If that is you, let’s look at something that is a little less ambiguous. On page 63, caregivers are encouraged to “read stories with child[ren] and elicit responses to characters, including stories from diverse cultures and family structures (e.g., single parent, same sex parents)”. Raise your hand if you believe the purpose of reading stories about same sex parents to 3 year-olds is to teach them how to love the sinner and hate the sin. I didn’t think so.

The appropriateness of the state including such strong moral statements in its benchmarks for the education of small children is problematic enough. The idea that churches would feel in any way compelled to adopt them should cause all the separation of church and statists to rush to their defense.

HB 1329 is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday February 18th, at 3:30 PM in the Senate Labor & Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee which means in Senate Hearing Room 4 of the Cherberg building.

You are encouraged to contact your legislators through the legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000. You can leave a message for your legislators through the hotline even if you don’t know who they are by providing your address. If you would like to contact your legislators individually, you can find them by clicking here.

As always, please be respectful but please be heard.

Whether the state should be. If passed, this bill will require daycares who are forced into the union to abide by state guidelines with strong values components that are likely to be at odds with the values of many (if not most) of those who work in them. Furthermore, to suggest in any way that church organizations would need to even be aware of the state’s goals for Early Childhood Education is problematic.

The idea that these guidelines, underscored by a very clear values based political agenda, would become part of a contract for churches who wish to have daycares should be concerning to everyone.

Understanding that these concepts are buried within the quality rating and improvement system developed by the Department of Early Learning should cause us to stop and consider whether or not we want to compel every daycare to be subject to them.

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