What They're Teaching Johnny
NEWTON, Mass. — L. George Chedid wants his eldest son to learn about math and science and all the rest of the academic subjects that children learn in elementary school. But he draws the line at his boy learning about same-sex “marriage” — especially at the impressionable age of 7.
Chedid's son was in first grade at Burr Elementary School in Newton, Mass., last spring when the principal announced over the intercom that the state was officially recognizing same-sex “marriages.” The school then sent several of its homosexual teachers to various classrooms— from kindergarten through fifth grade — to explain what this meant and to herald the law as a wonderful civil-rights advancement, said Chedid, an engineering professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.
“A kid at that age looks at anything the teacher says as absolute truth,” he said. “The teacher comes in and tells that 7-year-old, ‘It's okay for Johnny to wear a skirt. It's fine for Peter to marry Paul.’… It's indoctrination of these kids that flies in the face of the principles and morals that I'd like to institute in my child.”
The resulting uproar in the town pitted parent against parent, with a generous use of epithets such as “bigots” and “homophobes,” Chedid said.
Chedid and his wife, both practicing Maronite Catholics, decided over the summer to put their eldest son in a nearby Catholic school. They also placed their next-youngest child, who was entering kindergarten, in Catholic school, where Chedid said they are “a lot safer from gay propaganda.”
Chedid said homosexual activists are making marriage a civil-rights matter and completely taking the religious aspect out of it.
In mid-May, forced by a Massachusetts high court, the Bay State became the first in the union to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Earlier this year, legislators passed an amendment that would ban same-sex “marriages” while legalizing civil unions. Before it can become part of the Massachusetts Constitution, however, the amendment has to pass another session of the Legislature before voters can decide the fate of the issue, which should occur in 2006.
In the meantime, same-sex “marriage” and homosexual lifestyles are coming into discussions in school settings and classrooms, parents and teachers said.
Just before the official date that same-sex couples could obtain marriage licenses, the superintendent of the Boston public school system sent a memo to his staff, urging respect for the new law and reiterating a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding any acts that could create an “intolerant” climate in the schools.
“It behooves us, whatever our position may be on this issue, to use this opportunity to help our students understand it as a vital manifestation of some of the principles that have shaped our system of government … as well as another step in our continuing efforts to create a more just society for all of our citizens,” wrote superintendent Thomas Payzant.
Opt-In, Not Opt-Out
As director of Project PARENT— Parents Advocating Responsible Education Not Turmoil — R.T. Neary has been leading the fight in Massachusetts to pass a bill that would give what he believes is justice to parents. The bill would require parents to give written consent before their child attended human sexuality classes. Current state law allows parents to “opt-out” their children: If a parent doesn't contact school officials and ask that the child not participate, the child attends the classes. Neary's group advocates giving parents the power to review course materials; if they object, the child is not required to take the class.
The bill stalled earlier this year, but Neary plans to bring it back to legislators in December so that it can possibly be up for a vote next year, he said.
“It's the civil right of parents to be the prime determinants of the moral values of their youngsters,” said Neary, a public high-school teacher for more than 30 years. “And it's been usurped by the schools.”
Neary's statement is consistent with Catholic doctrine and principles, especially that of subsidiarity, a Catechism principle that, applied to families, requires that “larger communities should take care not to usurp the family's prerogatives or interfere in its life.”
In his 1981 apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio (on the family in the Modern World), Pope John Paul II talked about the importance of the parents’ role in educating their children about sexual matters.
“Sex education,” wrote the Holy
Father, “which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them.”
One organization that doesn't support the “opt-in” legislation — the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which offers sex-education curriculum materials to schools— believes it's important for sex to be discussed in the classroom.
“We believe that sexuality education is an important part of health education in general,” said Erin Rowland, the league's spokes-woman, who added that the legalization of same-sex “marriages” in the state has not led Planned Parenthood to change its sex-education curriculum.
“And so a bill that would put a barrier and make it harder for schools to provide comprehensive sexuality education, from our point of view, is a negative. It doesn't help public health. It doesn't help get accurate information out there. It doesn't help young people learn how to protect themselves (and) how to build self-esteem and have positive relationships.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America made more than $90 million from abortion in 2002, according to STOPP International, a division of American Life League.
Schools in Massachusetts don't need a classroom to present views on homosexual relationships. A substitute teacher in the Medfield school district, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, described an assembly last spring at Medfield High School, in which freshmen and sophomores were invited to listen to a female comedian.
The comedian, a lesbian who spoke for about a half-hour, talked about how she had to hide her homosexuality during her high-school years in Massachusetts, but was pleased that the climate had changed so much that now homosexual couples could marry — and she cited her upcoming marriage as an example, the teacher recalled.
He said her talk — which, in his estimation, was “advocacy” of her lifestyle — was “disappointing” to him as a “taxpayer, as a Catholic, as a Christian.”
Catholic teachers who may have to deal with a curriculum that leads to discussions about homosexual topics have to walk a fine line in their jobs — while also living their faith, said Peter Cataldo, research director at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Boston. If, for example, a Catholic teacher has to discuss a book that deals with homosexual “marriage,” he should also present materials in opposition or that offer critiques from the standpoint of natural-law ethics, he said. That would allow the teacher to avoid cooperating in providing “immoral ideas and values to the children and, at the same time, it should also avoid using specifically religious ideas in the classroom,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts bishops are formulating an “across-the-board” response to issues that have come up surrounding the same-sex “marriage” law, said Daniel Avila, associate director for policy and research at the Massachusetts Catholic Conference.
“We think that the claim that same-sex ‘marriage’ is no different than traditional marriage and this is a constitutional right is an untruth,” Avila said. “And it will be an untruth that, when promulgated by official institutions like public schools, will do great harm to people who are seeking the truth and especially to families and parents concerned about the well-being of their children.
“They will be confronted with the claims that same-sex ‘marriage’ is a constitutional right and is a good thing,” he continued. “It will force them to come to grips with what their faith and their values mean. It will be a difficult process. Because kids will come home and say, ‘Gee, this is what everyone in school is saying, and how come we're different?’ It will be a challenge and an opportunity, I think.”
Carlos Briceno is based in Seminole, Florida.
- October 10-16, 2004