AMAC Exclusive – By David Lewis Schaefer
Outrage against Republican policies in Florida regarding classroom instruction on sex and gender can only be expected to grow after a Florida House subcommittee advanced a bill last week that would expand on a parental rights bill passed in 2022, which critics inaccurately dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
The new law, sponsored by Republican Representative Adam Anderson, extends prohibitions on instructing schoolchildren on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity through eighth grade (beyond the 2022 law’s K-3 coverage) and also includes charter schools. In addition, the bill would prevent school personnel and students from being required to refer to someone else by their self-requested pronouns if those pronouns do not match the sex the person was assigned at birth.
The Anderson bill was immediately denounced by the pro-LGBTQ group Equality Florida, which claimed that the 2022 law had “already resulted in sweeping censorship, book banning, rainbow Safe Space stickers being peeled from classroom windows, districts refusing to recognize LGBTQ History Month, and LGBTQ families preparing to leave the state altogether.” Equality Florida’s public policy director John Harris Maurer contended in a press release, “This legislation is about a fake moral panic, cooked up by Governor DeSantis to demonize LGBTQ people for his own political career.”
Supporters of the 2022 law argued that the legislation is meant to allow parents to determine when and in what way to introduce LGBTQ topics to their children. During a press conference ahead of signing the law, DeSantis said that teaching kindergarten-aged kids that “they can be whatever [sex] they want to be” was “inappropriate.”
In opposition to the original law, another pro-LGBTQ organization, the Trevor Project (whose website advertises its “Coming Out Handbook”) warned that while gay and lesbian youth face “higher health and suicide risks than their cisgender or straight peers,” the risks decline when youth are given access to “spaces that affirm their gender identity.”
According to the Trevor Project, the law also erases “LGBTQ identity, history, and culture – as well as LGBTQ students themselves” (whatever “erasing” them might mean). The group further challenged a provision in the law that requires that parents be notified of any health or “support” services that their children are offered at school, and be given the opportunity to prohibit the provision of such services. It feared that that provision could “effectively require teachers to ‘out’ LGBTQ students” to their parents, regardless of whether the parents would be “supportive” of their identities.
Those who examine so-called “comprehensive sex education” curricula being adopted in public and private school systems throughout the United States and who believe that it is the primary responsibility of parents, not teachers or administrators, to guide the moral development of their children, will find good reason to favor both the original Parental Rights in Education law and its proposed extension by Rep. Anderson.
The temperamental nature of adolescents’ self-perception is a fact long recognized by both mainstream psychology and basic common sense, so the Trevor Project’s notion that even kindergarteners already have a fixed “sexual identity,” which schools should “affirm” and nourish – long before kids have any conception of what sex is all about, is nonsensical. The notion of encouraging children to “choose” their pronouns can only serve to confuse them further – and put them at the mercy of ideologically-influenced teachers and school counselors who think it their professional duty to push them to rethink their identities.
As parents Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz, authors of the new book Stolen Youth, write, “The way kids are being indoctrinated from early childhood into the idea that they might be a different gender than the one of their birth is a critical part of the indoctrination campaign targeting American kids” today. And who ever thought, prior to the rise of the LGBTQ lobby, that it was the responsibility of teachers to celebrate “Pride Month,” or post stickers on their classroom windows promoting the gay lifestyle?
The claim that school officials and teachers have a right to supervise children’s moral and sexual development that transcends parental authority in these matters was already anticipated almost three decades ago by Hillary Clinton’s book It Takes A Village – the title supposedly based on an African saying about what it takes to raise a child.
In fact, the saying referred to the village’s responsibility to arrange a marriage. But in Ms. Clinton’s view, the real meaning was that children “belong” to “society,” so their rearing must be guided by education bureaucrats and other officials who have the “expertise” parents lack.
But despite their objection that the Parental Rights in Education law sets improper limits on what teachers may “say,” it shouldn’t be thought that today’s woke activists are dogmatically opposed to all sorts of censorship.
To the contrary: Mandel and Markowicz, frequent contributors to the New York Post, report great difficulty in finding even a conservative organization to publish their book, owing to the fate that had befallen two recently published, deservedly acclaimed critiques of the movement to encourage children and adolescents to reconsider their gender, often without parental notification, and to promote irreversible “medical” treatments that many young people later regret.
In 2019, Amazon removed from its listings Ryan Anderson’s When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment. And two years later Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage, concerning the “social contagion of transgender ideation affecting teenage girls across America,” had been pulled by Target, while Amazon considered doing the same. When Amazon reinstated the book, several of its employees quit in protest. In consequence, conservative presses feared that if they took on the Mandel/Markowicz book, they’d have nowhere to sell it. Such is the power of the LGBTQ/transgender lobby.
In another instance of the contemporary left’s avidity for censorship when it serves their cause, the Democrat-controlled Virginia Senate just killed a bill which had passed that state’s Republican-majority House of Delegates that would have required public schools each November 7 to honor the over 100 million people killed by communist regimes around the world, and to organize their curricula to take account of that fact. (November 7, 1917 was the day that Vladimir Lenin overthrew Russia’s provisional government and proclaimed the establishment of the Soviet Union.)
Remarkably, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Education Union (the state teachers’ union), which had pushed for the bill’s defeat, said that the bill “would subject Asian-American students to anti-Asian sentiments,” simply because four of the world’s five remaining officially proclaimed communist states (China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, and Vietnam), are in Asia.
But this reasoning is absurd. Not only does it obscure the fact that Marxism-Leninism is a doctrine that originated in Europe, not Asia, it assumes that students – and even their teachers – are incapable of distinguishing between a country’s people and its political regime.
That distinction is crucially important, and obvious, when the regime in question is one that rests on force and strict ideological indoctrination, rather than in any sense representing the people it rules. Are the leaders of the Virginia Education Union unaware of the existence of such firmly anti-communist Asian regimes as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines? Have they not heard of the Chinese Communist Party’s brutal suppression of fighters for freedom at Tiananmen Square, or their endeavor to abolish Hong Kong’s autonomy at the present time?
Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-Tung’s also murdered tens of millions of Chinese people in the “Great Leap Forward” of the 1950s and the “Cultural Revolution” of the 1960s – to say nothing of the nuclear-armed North Korean regime’s repeated threats to launch a war of destruction against its free, South Korean neighbor. Would not a genuine concern for Asian Americans dictate ensuring that their fellow citizens are aware of this history of communist oppression?
Far from evincing any genuine concern for the welfare of Asian Americans, just two days before their committee vote against the Republican bill, Virginia’s Senate Democrats rejected Governor Glenn Youngkin’s nomination to the state school board of an Indian American mother known for opposing anti-Asian discrimination at the state’s selective Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, with one Democrat accusing her of “alignment” with “white-supremacist groups.”
Nonetheless, a teachers’ union spokeswoman explained its opposition to teaching about communism on the grounds that “there is a strong association between communism and Asians.”
Of course, not all professed liberals or Democrats in this country would oppose teaching schoolkids about the nature and history of communism. Some might even question the authority of teachers and administrators to “affirm” (or rather, “engender”) their pupils’ transformed sexual identity.
But the juxtaposition of these two incidents illustrates a fundamental incoherence at the core of today’s liberal ideology. The one consistent theme uniting the ostensibly liberal position in these instances is a deprivation of what had traditionally been regarded as among Americans’ most fundamental rights: the right to shape their children’s moral development, rather than leave that development to the mercy of strangers with agendas of their own, and the right to learn the most fundamental facts about the political world, including especially its history over the past couple of centuries (which has little to do with homosexuality).
Aside from core subjects like math, reading, writing, and science, schools should be educating free and thoughtful citizens rather than enlisting students in the teachers’ and administrators’ pet ideological causes. More than ever, Americans should be vigilant (as were the voters of Virginia when they elected Governor Youngkin after he defended parents’ right to a say in their schools’ curricula) over how schools, and teachers’ unions, are educating their children.
David Lewis Schaefer is a Professor of Political Science at College of the Holy Cross