Marcia Segelstein has covered family issues for over 25 years as a producer for CBS News and as a columnist. She has written for FoxNews.com, “First Things,” “World Magazine,” and “Touchstone.” She is a Senior Editor for “SALVO” magazine and author of the book Don’t Let the Culture Raise Your Kids.
Mary Rice Hasson, J.D., and Theresa Farnan, Ph.D., daughters of renowned Notre Dame law professor Charles Rice, are co-authors of the new book, Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late. The fact that nine out of 10 children in the U.S. are educated in public schools – including 88 percent of Catholics – means their potential influence is enormous. The co-authors argue that the never-before-seen rate at which young people are embracing progressivism in all its harmful forms is a direct result of public school education.
While government-run schools have been heading in a progressive direction for years now, the “game changer” for the authors is their full-on embrace of the gender revolution.
Take the case of Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, a K-12 public charter school. “Thanks to shared educational ideals and an atmosphere of respect, the school community peacefully comprised families of varying political and religious views,” they write. “Until the gender crusaders rode into town.” In 2015, parents were informed that a gender-nonconforming boy “who liked girl things” would be enrolling in kindergarten. The school laid out its plan for making sure he was welcome, which included introducing the concept of gender identity by reading My Princess Boy to students. Many parents protested, concerned that their young children weren’t ready for the concept of gender fluidity. The school worked with the trans boy’s parents, coming up with a “gender inclusion policy.” But the day before it was to be implemented the school announced that parents could opt out by having their children excused from classroom discussions about the boy’s transgender identity and transition. The boy’s parents withdrew him, but not without also filing a discrimination complaint. The case was settled only after Nova Classical Academy agreed to implement new gender-inclusion policies which now affect the entire student body.
But this is by no means an isolated case. “School districts in nearly every part of the country have adopted gender inclusion policies like the one imposed on Nova Classical Academy,” the authors write. “These policies, which bake gender ideology into the school experience of every child and demand conformity from the entire community, point to a new normal in our neighborhood public schools – the transgender normal.”
At Rocklin Academy in California, one of the state’s top-ranked charter schools, a kindergarten teacher took it upon herself to read her students the book, I Am Jazz. It’s another book about a boy “becoming” a girl, apparently chosen by the teacher to support a child who had begun to “transition.” However, parents had not been given any prior notice and many were upset. One parent reported, “My daughter came home crying and shaking so afraid she could turn into a boy.”
Unfortunately the parents had no recourse. The school board supported the teacher. And since California law now requires that LGBTQ material be incorporated into classes from elementary school through high school, the parents were out of luck.
According to Hasson and Farnan, “most school districts across the country have embraced gender ideology on their own…” In DeKalb County, Georgia, a mother was shocked to learn that her daughter had been given a “sexual identity assignment” in her sixth-grade health class. The students were told “to identify and differentiate between various sexual orientations and identities.”
The effects of the new gender ideology in public schools isn’t confined to the classroom. At the 2017 Connecticut girls’ high school state track meet, Kate Hall was favored to win the 100 and 200 meter races. An outstanding runner, Hall was bested not by another girl, but by a boy who had joined the girls’ track team as a newly “out” transgender “girl.” “No matter that he’d competed in middle school as a boy,” the authors write. “No matter that his body was bigger and stronger than the girls’ bodies. And no matter that his times would have put him in last place in the boy’s hundred and two-hundred races. He was the new ‘girls’’ Connecticut state track champion.”
But there are other serious problems with government-run schools beyond gender ideology. Religion has been forcibly removed from most public schools, both in the classroom and on athletic fields. “At best,” the authors write, “this secular approach teaches our kids that they don’t need God – that faith is irrelevant to their personal choices and to the practical challenges of the community.”
Then there is the strain of anti-Americanism that runs through much of public education. To most progressives, America is a deeply flawed country and patriotism is no virtue. “Students are trained to see America as blighted by racism, white privilege, sexism, classism, patriarchy, colonialism, ableism, and a slew of other ‘isms,’” write the authors.
Sex ed is another huge issue facing parents with kids in public school. In an earlier column I wrote about the benefits of abstinence-based sex education, which stresses that abstinence is the safest and healthiest option when it comes to sexual activity. The Clovis Unified School District in Fresno, California was sued by the ACLU and other activist groups over its use of an abstinence-only sex ed curriculum. A federal judge ruled that “access to medically and socially appropriate sexual education is an important public right,” according to Hasson and Farnan. The ACLU of Northern California had this to say about the ruling: “This historic ruling is the first to find that abstinence-only-until marriage instruction is unlawful on the groups of medical accuracy and bias [against non-heterosexuals].”
In my book, Don’t Let the Culture Raise Your Kids, scheduled for release this spring by Our Sunday Visitor, I discuss a variety of educational options for Catholic and other Christian parents concerned about the dismal state of public school education. Catholic schools can be a great alternative to public education, with the caveat that parents should do their homework on these schools, too. In a piece written for the National Catholic Register, Denise Donohue and Dan Guernsey of the Cardinal Newman Society provide some great suggestions for what to look for in a Catholic school. Many families may assume that tuition costs put Catholic schools out of reach. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website has good information about a wide variety of financial assistance programs available to parents. In addition, many Catholic schools offer scholarships.
Parents who want to homeschool have several options. There are homeschooling curricula that parents can use on their own, or with online support for both parents and students. Many homeschooling families have formed cooperatives, which can give homeschooled students the chance to play sports, play in an orchestra or band, take field trips, or take classes together. Another option is the homeschool/hybrid model, in which children learn part-time at home and part-time in a formal classroom setting. Regina Caeli is one such program, offering what it calls a “classical hybrid education in the Catholic tradition.”
In their book, Get Out Now, authors Hasson and Farnan believe that we shouldn’t stop trying to save public education. However, they write that “American parents must face the reality that public schools are not going to improve in the next few decades. As parents, you must first take care of your own children… If you are concerned about your child’s faith, intellectual formation, and patriotism, public schools are working against you. It’s time to get out now.”