As school is ready to resume, new battle lines are being drawn over the content of curricular materials being taught, particularly in the elementary classrooms across the country. Children, at an early age, are confronted today with adult topics that are divisive and far removed from the fundamentals of traditional reading, writing and arithmetic. More and more teachers are being forced by their school boards to explore subjects with young minds that previous generations of elementary students hardly knew existed – abortion, divorce, racial privilege and oppression, homosexuality, transgender, drug addiction and suicide.
In the midst of this wave of social emotional learning, parents and their children are finding their relationships being challenged on an ever-increasing basis. Education does not take place in a moral vacuum. As the Supreme Court has recognized: “Parental autonomy is basic to the structure of our society because the family is the institution by which we inculcate and pass down many of our most cherished values, moral and cultural.”
At the core of this clash over learning is a concept known as Critical Race Theory (“CRT”). CRT is an inherently divisive, debilitating and racist teaching practice that instructs students to only view life through the lens of race and presumes that some students are consciously or unconsciously racist, sexist, or oppressive, and that other students are their victims. Like all forms of political indoctrination, it has no place in the classroom, and indeed has been declared unlawful in many states, including Tennessee.
Parents who grew up during the 1950s and 1960s reflect back on the Dick and Jane (and Sally and Spot Too!) stories taught to them in the first grade. That series, which was first published by Scott Foresman Elson as a reading primer in 1930, featured short, upbeat stories and pages filled with colorful characters and large, easy-to-read typeface. By contrast, first graders today, under the new “Wit & Wisdom” curriculum are presented with graphic descriptions of death and violence, and are asked to describe their “feelings” about such horrific accounts.
As children progress to the second, third, fourth and fifth grades, they are progressively taught from a curriculum that emphasizes “self-awareness” and to challenged to think critically about such issues as slavery, racial oppression and social justice. These norms are even more
problematic when wealth and “Whiteness” are woven into the curriculum, and uncritically accepted as indicators of success. Many texts promote a sense of White racial entitlement and dominance, as well as negative
biases and stereotypes about people of color and those from low-income backgrounds.
Studies have shown that the emphasis on racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences, and the systemic racial injustice can lead to stress, alienation, and disengagement, and undermine a parent’s ability and right to direct and control their child’s understanding of morality. Instilling in the minds of six and seven-year old children a sense of vicarious blame for the sins of their ancestors, or a sense of victimization based solely on the color of their skin can have a long-lasting psychological impact. Is there a causal relationship between this form of indoctrination and the rising surge in teen suicide? According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2018, suicide was the second-leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year-olds.
Neil Postman wrote, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” This is the first sentence that opens his book, The Disappearance of Childhood, which was originally published in 1982. What living messages are we sending today? Perhaps it is time to reflect as parents on the scriptural teaching: “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward”.
Larry L. Crain, Crain Law Group, PLLC – www.crainlaw.legal