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The National Parents and Families Engagement Council ignores half the nation

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona
US First Lady Jill Biden (C) and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona (R) listen to parents as they tour Fort LeBoeuf Middle School in Waterford, Pennsylvania, on March 3, 2021. |

Having been part of the Washington D.C. policy world for decades, I am not surprised by the newly formed National Parents and Families Engagement Council (NPFEC).  Each U.S. administration faced with a significant crisis starts some form of public-private partnership to demonstrate cooperation between government and the public.  

Under President George W Bush after 9-11, in the spirit of harmony and collaboration, he created a series of interfaith initiatives that led to an official White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives (OFBCI). The OFBCI's mission was to ensure faith-based groups were an integral part of every branch of the U.S. government's proposed solutions to social problems and natural disasters.

The OFBCI continues until today and has always been a bipartisan, multi-faith effort to tackle some of our nation's biggest challenges. Initially mandated under Bush, President Obama further developed the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which “provides organizationally independent, strategic, timely, specific and actionable advice to the Secretary of Homeland Security and senior leadership on matters related to homeland security.”  Though their role is strictly advisory, the bipartisan members address the most pressing domestic security concerns and publish their findings in a publicly available document.

The effectiveness of these high-level commissions depends on various factors, including the governing legal authority and the extent to which the current administration values its mission and goals. More often than not, however, the result is another obscure publication no one reads or a media stunt to make the government appear proactive. Sometimes these committees provide a platform for special interest groups to “voice their opinions” directly to the U.S. government and appease those who are critical of the government policies on a particular subject. It creates the impression that citizens can have input in the political process.

In reality, without implementation power, their recommendations have a limited impact.

Regardless of the limited effectiveness of these public-private collaborations, whether under Bush, Obama, or Trump, they each made a concerted effort to include a broad spectrum of viewpoints. They had representatives from both sides of the political and social divide – conservatives and liberals – so that the final report would resonate with a broader audience. Having worked with many of these boards in the past, I know their negotiations were thoughtful and involved a painstaking process of compromise. The all-inclusive approach lends credibility to the idea that the conclusions considered all sides of the issue(s).

However, the Biden administration seems indifferent to the notion that all legitimate perspectives of a national dilemma deserve a seat at the table. A cursory review of the NCPEC members signals that conservative and Christian organizations in the parental rights movement will not have a say in the deliberations. Some of the organizations named to the Council represent valuable perspectives on the role of black fatherhood, access to resources for lower-income children and children of color, as well as female empowerment, and accommodations for kids with disabilities. Several of their financial statements include heavy hitters like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook as donors. However, none of the current members propose a biblical worldview of education.

Yet, anyone familiar with the controversies surrounding oversexualized health education, “woke” gender theories, medical independence, and accurate civic education in public schools know there is a massive divide in this country over these issues. Christian and conservative groups demand that schools stick with traditional definitions of male and female, eliminate COVID vaccine mandates, and prohibit teaching critical race theory. Organizations like Children's Health Defense or Parent's Defending Education are noticeably absent from the roster.

It is not entirely clear what this parent council is supposed to accomplish. In fact, one of the Council members advocating for critical race theory calls for a complete overhaul of the education system to eradicate “generational institutions of oppression.” The Department of Education says they will host listening sessions to better understand the needs of children and help identify practical ways families can engage at the local level. There is no mention of finding ways to restore power to the families or supporting two-parent households to be the primary educators of children.

If the Council sincerely intends to address the most pressing issues for all parents, it must include both sides of these fractious debates. Instead, the Biden Administration is signaling that the goal is not resolution and healing the ideological divide but just announcing one side as the winner.  Unfortunately, this will only lead to further hostility between the parties of opposing perspectives. In the end, it is the future of our children that hangs in the balance.

Hedieh Mirahmadi was a devout Muslim for two decades working in the field of national security before she experienced the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and has a new passion for sharing the Gospel.  She dedicates herself full-time to Resurrect Ministry, an online resource that harnesses the power of the Internet to make salvation through Christ available to people of all nations, and her daily podcast LivingFearlessDevotional.com.

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