In states across the nation, acts of censorship—removing books from school libraries, disciplining teachers for teaching about racism and gender identity—are being committed under the disingenuous banner of “parents’ rights.” But what about the rights of other parents? There are parents who want their children to learn the honest history of our nation and have an educational experience grounded in research-based practices that benefit all children.
Supporters of censorship targeting topics of race and sexuality would likely argue that the rights of parents who want their children to receive an education informed by racial equity and LGBTQ+ inclusion do not count, as those parents might not comprise the majority in these jurisdictions. These supporters would contend that what the majority in a state or school district says, goes—and, in this case, that means the voices and experiences of people who have been historically marginalized must be silenced. Moreover, the argument goes, democracy requires the desires of the numerical minority to be subordinated to the numerical majority.
There are two things to keep in mind when defenders of recent curricular bans argue that they act in the service of democracy. First, even if democracy requires majority rule, we should be skeptical that these instructional bans represent the will of the political majority in a state or school district. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the U.S. Constitution protects against the infringement of certain rights regardless of the will of the majority. This type of educational censorship is a violation of those rights.