The words on the page took us by surprise. The graphic description of the rape of a young boy was not something we expected to find in required reading for our 15 year-old daughter. We did not expect the faculty of a public school to go out of their way to encourage morality or protect the innocence of students but we did not expect that vulgar material would be chosen and assigned.
I arranged a meeting with the teacher and the principal to bring my concerns to their attention and see if there was a possible remedy. My concerns were summarily dismissed. While I expected my concerns to be ignored the reason given for the choice of reading material was not expected at all. One of the teachers said, “It is our job to expose children to mature content.”
I did not hide my anger well when I replied, “No, it is your job to teach them how to read and write. It is the parent’s job to decide what children should be exposed to.” The reality that teachers and administrators believed it was their responsibility to determine when and how children should be exposed to sexual content was deeply disturbing to me. The belief seemed to be that it was up to parents to simply shut up and go along, to allow the “experts” to teach morality to their children.
I had two goals in meeting with the principal and teachers. The first was to get an alternative assignment for my daughter. The second was to get them to reconsider their policy on assigned reading. While I was able to get an alternative assignment for my daughter, I eventually gave up the second fight, convinced that there was nothing I could do to change the minds of the faculty and administrators. For the remainder of her years in school I did my best to teach Biblical values to my daughter and to teach her how to determine right and wrong. There were a number of times when that meant correcting things her teachers said but I did not make any further formal protests. She graduated from high school a few years ago and the issue faded from my mind.
The issue returned to my mind this week. Recent developments in the state of Washington reveal that the sentiments expressed by my daughter’s teachers are not isolated. It seems that the belief that public schools are responsible for determining when and how children should be exposed to sexual concepts is widespread.
The State of Washington’s recently released K-12 learning standards include a section of “core ideas” to be a part of the sexual health portion of the health and safety education of elementary age students. It is suggested that kindergarteners “understand that there are many ways to express gender” and that by second grade children should “understand there is a range of gender roles and expression” and that by grade 4 children should be able to “define sexual orientation.” In the eyes of educators, hand washing, tooth brushing and basic nutrition are no longer enough. 5 year-olds need to be introduced to the concepts of gender identity.
The presumption that all children need to learn these concepts at such a young age is absurd. There are many families who try to protect the innocence of their children. I did not know where babies came from until I was 11 years old. My son was 10 when we had “the talk” and he was clearly overwhelmed with the concept. I did not think he was emotionally ready at that age but was compelled by the reality that his elementary school was going to have a class on the topic the following month. I had to change my parenting plans because of a school program.
Parents who wish to defer exposing their children to sexual concepts are going to find themselves increasingly at odds with their school districts. According to the state of Washington, almost all children as young as 9 are all old enough and mature enough to be able to understand sexual orientation. The fact that a significant percentage of families of faith do not believe that all sexual orientations should be expressed and acted upon seems to be irrelevant. It is the responsibility of the public system to teach morality.
I am left wondering how it is that our society has evolved to this point. Public schools across the nation are failing in their essential responsibilities to teach children reading, writing and arithmetic, but they are deciding to take on the additional responsibility of teaching young children about sexuality. More remarkably, parents are allowing it.
It is clear that concerned parents need to be increasingly involved in the education of their children. Parental responsibility extends far beyond simply making sure students get their homework done and have good attendance. Parents need to know exactly what their children are being taught and be willing to stand up for their innocence. It is likely no one else will.
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