Attention homeschooling parents! Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum says a U.N. treaty designed to protect the disabled will allow foreign countries to come into your homes and make you stop teaching your kids!
When I first heard the sweater-vest wearing former presidential hopeful denouncing the proposed U.N. Convention on the Rights of People With Disabilities — the global version of the Americans with Disabilities Act — on the grounds that somehow it would prevent parents from making their own decisions for their children, I knew there was a hidden agenda.
To suggest that a law that protects disabled Americans from being discriminated against, that’s had major bipartisan support for decades, shouldn’t be embraced as an international standard, makes no sense. It’s crazy talk! So I had to ask myself – why would a handful of politicians try to spin something positive into an attack on the home-schooling community?
The purpose of the U.N. treaty is to get the world on board with protections for those with disabilities. It would declare that all citizens, regardless of ability, deserve to live in dignity, safety and equality under the law. Passage in the Senate would have made the United States a party to the treaty.
It’s been supported by former Senator Bob Dole, Senator John McCain, and Senator John Kerry — all war veterans, two of whom suffer from physical disabilities because of their war injuries. Dole, who is 89-years-old, felt it was so important to show support for this measure that he appeared on the floor of the Senate in his wheelchair just days after being released from the hospital. Yet not even that convinced a handful of Senators from putting a stop to the measure based on their fear that somehow, some way, this treaty would tread on parents’ decision-making for their children.
What small snippet of language is creating angst among home-schoolers? Santorum, whose children have all been home-schooled, claims to be troubled by this passage:
“In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
Excuse me for a moment while I scratch my head over this one. Suggesting that the “best interests” language opens the door to foreign governments coming into your home to dictate what you can and can’t teach your child or how to care for them is like saying that the wording in an amusement park ticket that “certain terms and conditions may apply” could be interpreted to mean something as silly as having to turn over your first-born to fill in for one of the costumed theme park employees. As a lawyer by training, I know that trying to define or interpret broad language like that can lead to unintended consequences, but can anyone really say with a straight face that supporting something to protect those with disabilities is really just a back-door to international interference with parenting decisions?
There’s clearly a method to some of this madness. Conservative political operatives know well that if they can rally their supporters on strongly held niche issues they can win elections. That’s how Karl Rove got George W. Bush elected and re-elected — by focusing on Americans who are one issue voters, getting them stirred up and getting them to the polls. But I’m really shocked that in an effort to create a stronger base of voters who are home-schoolers, politicians are throwing those with disabilities under the bus. They know that if the treaty is ratified, no one from Saudi Arabia is going to make a beeline for Indiana to put a stop to parents educating their kids at home. This is about scaring people back to the conservative side of the Republican party for the 2014 and 2016 elections.
If our politicians truly believe that global support and accommodations for people with disabilities is a bad thing, that’s a political discussion we can have on the merits. But don’t be fooled into their arguments that your decisions about how to care for and educate your children would somehow be harmed by the treaty’s ratification. They’re really just trying to lay the groundwork to scare people into supporting them the next time they want some votes.
Read more from me at my place PunditMom and in my Amazon best-selling book, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.
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Image via Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved.