Parental Rights and the Threat of Critical Theory Indoctrination – Part 2

on August 16, 2022

A previous article reviewed panel discussions at the Heritage Foundation regarding the established constitutional right of parents to direct their children’s education, and the emerging demand for educational choice. Additional panels reviewed how Critical Theory, in the forms of gender ideology and Critical Race Theory is being taught in public schools, despite denials.

Indoctrination in Critical Theory

Emily Kao of the Alliance Defending Freedom who moderated the panels asked Jonathan Butcher of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation how Critical Theory is being promoted in public education. Butcher said that opposition to Critical Theory is cast by the media as a kind of aggression (e.g., “war on transgender children,” “war on science,” etc.). But as was noted in the previous article, 80% of larger school districts have a “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” officer who acts to spread and enforce identity politics orthodoxy. Many more liberal jurisdictions, both states and localities, have formal policies that mandate that parents are not to be told of their child’s gender transitioning. He observed that “the interest groups that have the most influence in our local schools are the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, both of which have webpages promoting the 1619 Project, promoting transgender activism, as well as the Black Live Matter Week of Action at School, which has an entire repository of material for teachers to just go online and find and then use to create into a lesson plan.”

Kao then asked Butcher how Critical Race Theory harms children. Butcher responded that “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” are positive sounding words, but the dream of Marxism lies at its core, as Critical Race Theorists declare. An individual’s status as oppressor or oppressed has nothing to do with their moral choices, but only with the group to which one belongs. Achievement is then held to be the result of one’s identity group, not personal merit.

Similarly, state departments of education support Critical Theory. California, for instance, has an ethnic studies program with a chapter on intersectionality. Oregon’s math curriculum said that mathematics should overcome white supremacy, and capitalism must be subjected to ideological analysis by Critical Race Theory. Virginia’s Department of Education advances its book entitled “Roadmap to Equity” with thanks to Ibrahim X. Kendi and Gloria Ladson Billings (a critical race theorist at the University of Wisconsin) for their advice. Butcher observed that the Biden Administration favors executive orders to implement Critical Theory, since it cannot get the laws it wants through Congress. Finally, he observed that federal grant proposals for teacher training in recent years explicitly said that “Critical Race Theory” was to be taught, whereas today’s grant proposals do not include this term, but have the same substance. This shows that “colleges were training teachers to teach Critical Race Theory in the classroom.”

Kao observed that when Critical Race Theory is implemented in the classroom, it “deprives students of agency and hope.” Whatever it is called by, it violates students’ rights to free speech and the equal protection by the state. She asked what laws should be in place to ensure that students are not discriminated against because of their race. Butcher said that there are four vital components to a “parents’ bill of rights.”  First “parents are a child’s primary caregiver.” Second, no teacher or child should be required to affirm any idea that violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Holding that America is “systemically racist” is such an idea, Butcher said. Thirdly, there should be no health interventions, to include counseling by the school, “without a parent’s express consent.” Fourthly, there must be “transparency.” This means that parents should have access (online, Butcher suggested) to “the reading lists, syllabi, worksheets, sources for all the material that they use in the classroom.” This material, he said, should be accessible to both parents and the public “before the material is actually given to students.”

Indoctrination in Gender Ideology

Kao then asked Ginny Gentiles, Director of the Education Freedom Center of the Independent Women’s Forum how gender ideology is being taught in the classroom. Gentles said that similar to Critical Race Theory, there is a denial that gender ideology is being taught. But beyond this denial of the name, the substance of gender ideology is being taught. The “gender unicorn,” which presents a unicorn as a sexually non-binary person is used. She said that there is a “drumbeat of a message that children are born in the wrong body,” and that “it is inclusive and kind” to accept whatever “gender” a child believes himself or herself to be. Activist organizations such Gender Spectrum or Planned Parenthood provide lesson plans. She said that transparency would make it clear that gender ideology is being taught in the classroom.

Gentles said that as policies are put in place which require that what is actually gender ideology be taught in the classroom, and these policies spread, more and more “emotionally vulnerable children” are exposed to gender ideology and adopt it for themselves, wanting to be treated as a different “gender” than their biological sex.

Gender ideology began to be implemented in public schools about 2015 in liberal/left areas with “the friendliest of the friendly school boards.” But one should not assume, she said, that they are not now in place in more conservative or heartland areas. Typically a policy will involve “transitioning” students to a new gender, and “mandating that all school staff keep that a secret from parents.” She said that it is right to be shocked, but not surprised.

As the threat of gender ideology progresses, Gentles said that people need to be familiar with the reality of “gender support plans.” Such a plan is quickly put into place if a child claims to have the “wrong body” for his or her “gender.” Arrangements are made for new rest room and locker room accommodations, a new name, if wanted, and new pronouns. The child is asked if he or she “feels comfortable” with the parents knowing of the new identity, and if not, the school immediately tries to “protect” the child from the “harm” that might be received from the parents. The new identity at school becomes a secret. Gentles speculated that some children are excited about the secret project.

Not uncommonly, however, transgender identifying students have co-morbidities. They may be dealing with ADHD or on the autism spectrum. This makes secrecy even more indefensible. Gentles said that “the parents need to know if the child is emotionally struggling. The parent should not be cut out of what’s happening.” She said the “there’s no precedent” for excluding parents from a child’s school records, and there are in fact laws in the books to ensure that they have access. For any other problem, parents are “of course called in, and there is a group meeting,” and possibly “an individual education plan is developed.”

These new policies were begun by activists and are spreading to more and more school districts. In the case of Virginia, the “state model transgender policy” was drafted “largely by activists.” The plan received about 9,000 comments, but they were basically ignored. The plan now essentially considers parents who object to transitioning as abusers and proposes that families who don’t agree be referred to “child protective services.” Such things as school choirs should no longer be divided by sex, and basically biological reality should be ignored in schools. These policies are now required by law of all public schools in Virginia. She concluded that while the public may see a few “activist teachers” or transgender activists on TikTok and consider them ridiculous, the things that they are teaching children and young people and doing with them “are not just permitted but required.”

Kao asked Gentles if parental rights bear on the Biden Administration’s re-interpretation of “sex” to include “gender identity.” Gentles said that under the Biden Administration’s proposed rule re-interpreting Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, “sex discrimination actually will have nothing to do with sex, but will have to do with how people identify.” All schools receiving federal funding must comply, and they will essentially be required to accept a student’s self-definition in all aspects of school life – name, pronouns, locker and rest room access, grouping in sports teams and choirs, secrecy from parents, etc. The process for antidiscrimination complaints and enforcement “has been made easier,” she said. Therefore “Title IX [sex antidiscrimination] coordinators are going to be extremely powerful people who will be keeping an eye on school district staff, on teachers to ensure that gender identity is enforced at all levels of education.”

The proposed regulation actually “goes further” and says that sexual harassment that occurs outside the school could be considered sex discrimination. This could apply to parents who even “gently question” their child’s sexual confusion. Thus, the re-interpreted Title IX rule accomplishes essentially what “conversion therapy” bans accomplish in other countries (such as Canada), where it is a crime for a parent to question their child’s denial of his or her true sex. She said that “people should be scared.” The proposed Title IX enforcement is not merely about girls’ sports in schools, but has to do with protecting emotionally vulnerable children and the right of parents to raise their children as they think best (which almost always will be in accord with natural sex). She said that comments about the federal rule can be submitted through September 12, and “everyone should submit a comment of their concerns about Title IX.”

A questioner asked what will happen to educators who don’t want to acquiesce with the requirement of self-defined sex. Kao said that “teachers do not lose their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of conscience and freedom of religion in the classroom.” She said that good precedents are being established in recent court cases with teachers who will not be coerced into implementing gender ideology.

Additionally, Kao said that the government is treating children as “creatures of the state,” which the Supreme Court said in its Pierce decision “they are not.” Parental rights are “fundamental” and “pre-political and natural rights,” protected by the United States Constitution. “Government accountability, choice, and transparency” are vital to protect parental rights.

It needs to be reiterated that the conflict over parental rights is a conflict caused by questioning doctrine the state insists is proper. At the present time it is increasingly held that traditional American society, based on Biblical morality and classical liberalism, was oppressive. At some point in the conflict, it will be claimed that the good of society and the individual mandates that state doctrine be taught as the truth to all children. But the time when the common good was thought to be knowable by reason alone passed with modernism and the twentieth century. What really is behind the insistence on radical ideology in the classroom is simply that groups supporting it are influential with state and educational authorities. Education properly belongs to parents, who are the natural educators of children. But insisting on this in practice will require strong and sustained action.

  1. Comment by Eric Lytle on August 19, 2022 at 5:29 pm

    Consider 2 of the best-known lawsuits of transgender students: Caitlyn Hope Grimm, the overweight autistic girl who sued her Virginia school and won, and Noah Maday, who won the lawsuit against his Chicago-area school, both over access to using the wrong restroom. The settlements were huge in both cases, and “Gavin” Grimm has spoken at trans events and even has a ghostwritten book her name on Amazon. Yet she is also on twitter begging for money, saying that all her lawsuit money is now gone. Meanwhile Noah Maday, using the female name “Nova,” has fallen completely off the radar screen, his website not being updated in months. Both these teens were used by the ACLU to promote the trans agenda, both got a huge amount of publicity for awhile, but publicity and a lawsuit lump sum aren’t much for building a life on. Kids figure out how to get adults’ attention, so naturally lots of kids are following this route, egged on by teachers and by some parents – and no one is thinking through the question, “OK, once the buzz of getting attention has worn off, what are your plans for the rest of your life? You can’t make a living suing your school for the next 50 years.”

  2. Comment by David Gingrich on August 21, 2022 at 6:54 am

    Critical Theory was hatched in the universities. It morphed into Critical Race Theory. It is now preached in our elementary schools. We must guard our children.

  3. Comment by Joan oliver on August 21, 2022 at 7:15 pm

    I can’t understand how critical race theory can be so “accepted” when Rachel Dolezel, a white woman, was castigated for wanting to pass as black…and did so successfully for several year while being a leading figure in the Spokane black community.

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