It’s hardly news that our nation’s schools are struggling. Academic underperformance, an issue for decades, has now been exacerbated by closures during the pandemic. High percentages of children don’t read or compute math at grade level. Add to that the very real sense that too many of America’s public schools teach children to hate their country, hate their parents and even hate themselves. And hostility to religion is palpable on some campuses. Why? What can be done about it?
Schools are currently controlled by one kind of thinking—progressive. Overstatement? Consider the near total domination of the woke worldview in Silicon Valley, and the ramifications of that progressive orthodoxy. That same woke worldview extends across America’s college campuses, which will produce the next generation of teachers, principals and administrators.
The National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, National Association of School Boards, Chiefs for Change, Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union are just a few of the national organizations that have long injected progressive ideology into classrooms.
Add the newer, more radical actors like the Human Rights Campaign; the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN); the 1619 Project; Black Lives Matter at School; Teaching for Change; and so-called “anti-racist” organizations that seem to bloom overnight, and things go from woke to worse. They comprise an “educational-industrial complex” much like the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower decried in his 1961 farewell speech.
Even in many conservative communities, schools are enclaves of liberal orthodoxy. Radical thinking makes it very difficult for education officials to recognize dangers in the latest academic trends. Many people running our nation’s schools sincerely believe, as President Joe Biden does, that children can decide life would be easier as the opposite sex. These people believe it’s necessary to separate children into categories like oppressor vs. oppressed. Parent-driven efforts in state legislatures to fight the medical transition of children or ban divisive concepts like critical race theory are fought hammer and tong by the educational-industrial complex.
Christians must oppose these destructive ideologies. Let’s review what they are and where they lurk, so we can engage at the local level.
By definition, gender/queer theory subverts “heteronormative” human sexuality and recognizes a broad spectrum of sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity. Genderidentity posits that biological sex is a “social construct,” while gender is an inherent sense of the “true self.” These ideas reject God’s creation of the human person as male or female, His design for marital union and the blessings of children that flow from it. Queer theory teaches children that it is possible to be born in the wrong body.
Parents alone, not schools, must direct the treatment of children experiencing gender dysphoria (or any other mental health condition). Certainly, no medical intervention should take place without parental consent, and some interventions should not take place at all. Until you confirm your school’s gender policy, beware that the school could use an alternative name for your child on campus or in documentation. Make sure you know what is happening in your school and with each teacher who interacts with your children.
Be on guard for comprehensive sexuality education (CSE). Christians can no longer rely on a cultural understanding of marriage as God’s plan for human sexuality. Quite distinct from standard sex ed instruction, CSE typically omits meaningful abstinence education. It features graphic materials and sexually explicit visuals. CSE’s ultimate goal is to change the sexual and gender norms of society. (SIECUS, author of the most commonly used sex education “standards,” has recently added the tagline “sex ed for social change.”) CSE promotes sexual rights at the expense of children’s sexual health.
Critical Race Theory
Without question, racism is real and sinful. Living in a fallen world, we too often fail to love our neighbors as Christ commands (Mark 12:31). We are all made in God’s image and therefore possess inherent dignity and value (Genesis 1:26). A Biblical worldview helps us see people the way God sees them and provides a real antidote for the scourge of racism.
An alternative and increasingly promoted secular worldview within education circles, critical race theory (CRT) teaches us (and our children) to focus on physical characteristics or “identities” rather than people’s intrinsic dignity. Based on the philosophical abandonment of absolute truth in favor of competing race-based narratives, CRT-based programs can lead to the segregation of students by race in classrooms and of faculty in professional development. It is racist and intentionally sows division.
Our children won’t know to strive for a more perfect union if “action civics” and revisionist history remain the norm in classrooms. Civics should be meaningful and substantive rather than the popular project-based “action civics,” where students are used as protesters to advance liberal political interests.
CRT concepts don’t just pollute language arts and social studies. There are also crises in the sciences and mathematics. The scientific method (proving theories by experimentation that produces repeatable results) is now called “racist” or “oppressive.” Queer theory mocks basic biology. Even mathematics is attacked for requiring “correct” answers. Woke school systems vow to eliminate advanced math studies because they are not “equitable.” We must reaffirm that there is a Truth, and it can be known. Scientific truth will never conflict with our Christian faith.
What to do?
When education professionals sincerely believe and defend such concepts as critical race theory and queer theory, and believe they have a moral obligation to teach those concepts to children for the good of society, it is long past time for parents and concerned citizens to act.
Pray about this and prepare to engage. Discuss these topics with your family and friends. Share the solutions to these problems that Christ’s love and the Gospel offers. Meet each of your children’s teachers and make sure your children tell you their assignments and school activities. Attend local school board meetings and take notes. Run for your local school board so that common sense can prevail over the current one-sided thinking.
We live in the greatest nation on earth, a beacon of hope for the world. Let’s make America’s school systems as exceptional as our nation. Our children, entrusted to us by God, deserve our very best. ©2021 Family Research Council
Meg Kilgannon is senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council and formerly worked as director of the Office of Faith and Opportunity Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education.