Andrew Cohen's National Journal piece calling for a "Parent Lobby" to combat gun violence has been bouncing around the internets for the past few days. Call me skeptical. It's not that I discount the potential political force of the nation's more than 50 million parents, but that I really doubt this group agrees on any sort of common agenda.
To be clear: Virtually all parents love their children and want them to be safe, healthy, happy, and prepared to lead productive adult lives (and the fact that it's somehow acceptable to question this in ed reform policy debates fills me with ire). But parents have an incredible variety of radically different ideas about how best to accomplish this, as well as the respective roles of children, parents, schools, communities, religious and civil society institutions, and others in doing so. A brief glance at my friends' (most of them parents of young children) Facebook profiles over the past few days illustrated a tremendous variety of views on the relationship between guns and children's safety and the best policy approach for preventing future tragedies. And that's just among the relatively homogenous group of people I happen to know!
This is equally true in education, by the way, and it's a factor our education policy conversation should pay more attention to. The wide variation in what parents want for their children is one reason I think our system must ultimately move to a greater variety of options and provision/delivery models for public schooling--albeit one bounded by a set of common standards for accountability and recognition that publicly funded schools must serve communal, as well as individual and parental, goals. But I also recognize that a lot of parents just want a school in their neighborhood that works for kids.