March 6, 2012 at 2:42 PM ET
My son texted me the other day because he had forgotten a permission slip and the teacher needed my approval to let him to watch a film. It wasn’t Saving Private Ryan or An Inconvenient Truth or even sex education. It was Roots. Naturally, I was confused because when I was his age, the mini-series aired during primetime, bumping Laverne & Shirley and Three’s Company, if I recall. Why the need for consent? It’s not like the teacher wanted to take my son to Africa, or even to a Confederate state. I texted back that he could watch the movie with my blessing.
Permission gone wild?
I sign slips all the time. No big deal. (It’s not like I read them.) But this incident made me wonder what else parents are required to sign off on in this world where a child can get suspended for carrying the controlled substance of Advil. I found school districts asking for permission for kids to eat sweets and access the internet. That makes sense, I guess. Who wants a sticky keyboard? But signing off on watching the inauguration of a President strikes me as unnecessary in a government-funded school. And then there is the whole Pledge of Allegiance nonsense, compelling schools to procure a parental blessing before kids swear loyalty to the symbol of our republic. Disagree, fine. But instead of making a federal case about it, why not just teach your children to cross their fingers behind their backs?
Call me crazy, or lazy, but I prefer to trust the teachers who occupy the bulk of my child’s waking hours. Are some parents really so easily offended? Relax about the curriculum and worry about what your kid does when the teachers are not looking — like sniffing markers, eating glue, and flirting with the lunch lady to get extra tater tots.
Calling for a permission intermission
Let’s make a deal. Let’s grant the teachers and administration authority over the children from eight to three. In return, they give us kids who go off to college, make enough money to feed themselves, and call their mommas. To facilitate, I propose the following blanket permission slip:
Please allow my child to:
• receive a report card.
I understand this may affect his self-esteem positively or negatively. And in the event that any actual grade does not match the expected grade, I shall not sue.
• visit the nearest emergency room.
If my child’s life is in danger, take him to the nearest hospital. I’ll deal with the insurance claim on my time.
• play outside.
Who are we kidding? There’s no time for recess when students need to learn how to rub a number two pencil on the right circle.
• sharpen pencils.
We have reviewed the rules outlined in the Writing Utensil Policies 2.0, acquired the appropriate concealed weapon permit, and registered each Ticonderoga with the district.
• sit at a desk.
I realize some students may not thrive in an ergonomically incorrect environment, but not mine. He’s a trooper.
Okay, so there was one penis…
When my son got home from school I asked why the teacher needed permission to let him watch Roots. “I guess it was kind of violent,” he said. Which is weird, considering he blows away entire villages every Saturday afternoon on Call of Duty: Black Ops. My son was affected by the inhumane treatment depicted and the injustice of a formerly accepted system, but the most disturbing part of Roots was — as you may have suspected — all about the penis, specifically, the African circumcision ritual, performed when boys were fifteen.
He sighed and said, “They didn’t have to go there.”
What do you think of the culture of permission? Do you think school districts are watching parents’ backs, or just covering their own?
Lela Davidson blogs about marriage, motherhood and keeping the evidence of aging at bay at After The Bubbly. She shares more humorous observations on family life in her book,"Blacklisted from the PTA."
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