The importance and limitations of attending to parental wishes in public schools will be the focus of the 2023 Applied Philosophy Lyceum at Middle Tennessee State University.
Author Eric Thomas Weber, associate professor of educational policy studies and evaluation at the University of Kentucky, will give a free public lecture on “Freedom in Education: A Philosophical Critique of Current Conflicts in Educational Policy” at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, in Room 164 at the College of Education Building.
In the talk, Weber will defend the importance of students’ and teachers’ freedom to challenge the overreach of parental views that seek to silence the lived experiences of marginalized groups.
“In effect, I will argue that parents’ rights are indeed important, but must be understood to be limited,” said Weber, whose essay on the topic will appear in Transactions of the Charles S. Pierce Society American philosophy journal.
The topic for the lyceum was prompted by recent aggressive movements by a small minority of parents involving themselves in protests against decisions of professional educators regarding materials deemed appropriate for classrooms.
“That movement has been quite visible in Middle Tennessee lately, with parents attending school board meetings and creating hostility that sometimes has spilled even into the threat of violence,” explained Phil Oliver, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at MTSU.
In July, Tennessee state law went into effect that puts book publishers, sellers and distributors at risk of prosecution for providing what is deemed “obscene materials” to public schools.
“A free society cannot endure when a vocal but ill-informed and anti-intellectual minority is allowed to suppress the best pedagogical practice and judgment of trained educators,” Oliver said.
Oliver said parents and guardians are naturally concerned about what their children are taught in schools. Some lament what they feel is a lack of control over curricula and what are thought to be forces or agendas they believe are not in kids’ best interests.
But there are issues with blanket decisions based on a small minority in opposition, Weber said.
“Because public schools are a shared endeavor, such that imposition on others must be taken into account,” Weber said. “And secondly, because students and teachers have interests and rights as well, morally and educationally, such that we must understand there to be a balance to strike.”
Following Weber’s talk, the floor will open for a Q&A session regarding the topic. There will also be a post-event reception.
The Applied Philosophy Lyceum, which was conceived with Aristotle’s Lyceum in mind, was created in 1992. The public lecture aims to stimulate private reflection and public reasoning. Over the years, topics have ranged from environmental ethics to theories of love and friendship.
The College of Education Building is located at 1756 MTSU Blvd. For off-campus visitors attending the event, a searchable campus parking map is at http://bit.ly/MTSUParkingMap.
For more information, contact the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at 615-898-2907.
— Nancy DeGennaro (Nancy.DeGennaro@mtsu.edu)