A new study from the Public Religion Research Institute reveals just how badly social conservatives are losing the battle over marriage and sexuality. Not only do two-thirds of Americans polled support so-called gay marriage, but even among evangelicals, support is rapidly growing. The majority of evangelical youth now reject Christ’s teaching on the subject.
Outcomes like this surprise too many of us because we underestimate both the power of rhetoric and the extent to which conservatives willingly submit ourselves and our children to it. Anyone who is competent in the art of rhetoric knows the value of “frame,” deliberately using the unspoken assumptions that shape a discussion. The quintessential example, of course, is the loaded question, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”
The way the question is framed assumes a history of violence regardless of whether that’s actually the case. It slips an assertion into the dialogue without having to make an argument in support of it, and when people fail to notice what happened, the assertion quickly becomes an assumption that changes the course of the discussion.
It’s a powerful rhetorical tool that lends itself to deception, as can be seen in that failing debate over gay “marriage.” The Left was quite adept in framing the discussion as whether we allow gay couples to get a government license. Of course, such talk of permission presupposes that a man could actually marry a man or a woman marry a woman in the first place—an assertion that flies in the face of natural law, human biology, and history.
Yet conservatives largely took the bait on that one, and as a result, public perception went from “unthinkable” to “of course” in a remarkably short period of time. After embracing, without argument, the dubious assumption that two men can actually get married, it’s virtually impossible to effectively argue that they shouldn’t be permitted to marry.
This Framing Device Is a Pervasive Tactic
On this and other key issues, rhetorical devices of this kind hit far closer to home than conservatives like to admit. Too many of America’s educators are happy to use this same kind of deception against the children entrusted to them, as a friend of mine recently discovered.
His granddaughter is attending a public middle school in Iowa, where all parents were recently given a typical notification about an upcoming class. They called the topic “personal development.” Back when I was in school, it was called “health class.” Putting aside the various euphemisms that have been adopted over the years, it’s essentially sex education.
Upon learning that subject is coming up, wise and dedicated parents are going to investigate the curriculum to see what their child is going to be taught. That’s exactly what this student’s mother did. She asked the teacher for more details, and along with an assurance that the teacher’s personal beliefs would not play a role, she was given a list of subtopics including puberty, reproductive systems, sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence, birth control, sexual orientation, and gender identity. She was also invited to take a look at the curriculum if she wanted greater detail—an offer she accepted.
As it turns out, the curriculum (“Rights, Respect, Responsibility: A K-12 Sexuality Education Curriculum”) is being used throughout the district and was produced by the far-left political advocacy organization Advocates for Youth. It is a great (which is to say terrible) example of the way hyper-progressive political ideologues team up with public educators to weaponize our schools against our children and any parents who aren’t on board with radical Left’s agenda.
Hidden Indoctrination Is Real
Now, the list of subtopics the teacher gave certainly contained some red flags for Christians, conservatives, and others concerned with the West’s moral decay. More interesting, however, were the items that weren’t listed but showed up in the curriculum nonetheless—abortion, for example. In the lesson “Great Expectations: Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy,” consider what teachers are instructed by the curriculum to tell students regarding pregnancy:
Say to the students, ‘Once a person confirms they are pregnant, they need to decide whether they are going to have the baby and become a parent, have the baby and let someone adopt it, or end the pregnancy (at its earliest stage). The second two options are available for a number of reasons, including that the pregnant person may not feel they would be able to take care of a baby because of their age or life circumstances.’
The statement doesn’t explicitly argue in favor of abortion. The word itself doesn’t even show up anywhere in the lesson. One might even claim it’s neutral in that it offers both abortion and adoption as choices. Nevertheless, it frames the issue in a way that brings the entire pro-abortion mindset in through the backdoor—without argument, without evidence, and without even the acknowledgment that any controversy on the subject exists.
To say that a “pregnant person” (we’ll get to that in a moment) has to decide whether “to have the baby and become a parent” presumes that an expectant mother is not already a parent, and that she does not already have a baby. It’s a rhetorical sleight of hand meant to obscure the reality that abortion is a grisly decision mothers make regarding the baby they already have.
The second deception is that the curriculum frames the lifecycle of a pregnancy as though abortion were just one of the natural outcomes. Entirely missing are any of the factual details on exactly how abortion ends a pregnancy—by deliberately killing a helpless and innocent human being. It’s like teaching that death is just a natural part of life when you’re talking about assassination.
Sure, like pregnancy, human lives “end,” but glossing over the moral weight that comes with deliberately choosing to end lives is fundamentally dishonest. Presenting the existence of another human being as some kind of innocuous consumer choice—“You can click ‘okay’ to proceed or ‘cancel’ to end your pregnancy”—is reprehensible. But then, while the teacher might have excluded her own views, Advocates for Youth are happy to force their radical ideas on vulnerable students at taxpayer expense.
‘Inclusive of All Genders and Gender Identities’
The third deception, of course, is found in all the really awkward language that occurs whenever you would expect to see gendered speech. Both biology and uniform human experience show that women are the only humans who get pregnant, leaving only activists and fake news to tell us to ignore our lying eyes. Yet the curriculum on pregnancy is filled with grammatically odd phrases all meant to avoid acknowledging the concrete fact that maternity belongs exclusively to women. This is a deliberate choice, for the curriculum explains:
Language is really important and we’ve intentionally been very careful about our language throughout this curriculum. You may notice language throughout the curriculum that seems less familiar – using the pronoun ‘they’ instead of ‘her’ or ‘him’, using gender neutral names in scenarios and role-plays and referring to ‘someone with a vulva’ vs. a girl or woman. This is intended to make the curriculum inclusive of all genders and gender identities. You will need to determine for yourself how much and how often you can do this in your own school and classroom, and should make adjustments accordingly.
So not only is the curriculum also laying the groundwork for trans advocacy, it’s also instructing the teachers to promote it this way as much as they can get away with—another hallmark of deliberate dishonesty. All without argument, in the shadows of deceptive rhetoric designed to promote the new proliferation of meaningless genders as an unquestioned assumption.
It even goes further than that. Any suspicions a parent might have upon learning his or her child’s school is teaching about gender identity are confirmed by examining the curriculum. In the lesson “Blue is for Boys, Pink is for Girls… Or Are They?,” the class is instructed to compile a list of stereotypes for boys and girls. Next, they’re told to come up with exceptions to those stereotypes that they’ve seen and discuss them, noting how the treatment of exceptions can make people feel.
From there, the teacher tells them “There are also people who don’t identify as boys or girls, but rather as transgender or gender queer. The[sic] means that even if they were called a boy or a girl at birth and may have body parts that are typically associated with being a boy or a girl, on the inside, they feel differently.” The rhetorical impression this is supposed to give is quite clear: Penises are merely “typically associated with” boys just as “be[ing] the one to ask the girl out” is typically associated with boys.
A boy who likes ballet is “called a punk” just as a baby born with a penis was “called a boy at birth.” Stereotypes are, of course, naturally fluid, as are a person’s feelings about those stereotypes. Biological sex, however, is not. Conflating the two in this way is an intellectually dishonest way of proselytizing students who attend school to be educated.
This Mom Was the Only One to Review the Curricula
After a handful of forms, emails, and meetings, my friend’s granddaughter was exempted from this portion of the class through her parents’ diligence. The rest of the class was not. When the mother reviewed the curriculum in person, she was the only parent at the school who had even come in to look at it. Their vigilance is, unfortunately, all too rare, even among conservatives who know there’s a big problem in our schools, and most parents stay in the dark.
This particular kind of abuse of public education for political advocacy is not the sort of thing that parents would even find out about without examining the curriculum themselves. A typical middle school student who is presented this material isn’t going to come home at the end of the day and tell her parents her teacher was advocating abortion, even though that’s exactly what this curriculum does. A typical middle school student is likely come away from these lessons very confused about gender, but not likely to realized she or he has just been preached to.
We want our children to learn critical thinking when they go to school—not to already need it to protect themselves from indoctrination at the hands of their teachers. In public education, no matter where individual school, faculty, and staff may stand—and yes, good people work within it—the overarching system is the enemy of your child’s moral development.
In some cases it really is just a matter of perverted teachers. My own high school sex ed teacher told the class he and his wife used our anonymous questions for sexual inspiration and particularly enjoyed someone’s question about anal sex. The larger danger, however, is that so much of our public education system has been co-opted for political purposes.
Even a good teacher is pretty limited when he or she has to keep personal views separated from a mandated curriculum like this. Whether it’s a well-known area of concern like sex education or just random lessons on things like radical environmentalism and open borders, too many educators are more concerned with social engineering than with educating.
In 2018, all competent parents know they need to be vigilant—to read the notifications from the school, meet with their child’s teachers, familiarize themselves with the curriculum, help the kids with their homework, and so forth. Even in the best of times, we should do these things simply to be involved in their education.
But the politically and morally stilted nature of our schools creates a greater urgency. It raises a deeper question that too few parents ask: If you have to police your school to this extent just to make sure they’re not teaching your sons and daughters a toxic amorality, should you really be entrusting your children to them in the first place?