by: Paul Driessen
Labor Day is over, and millions of American children are back in school for their first in-person classes since March 2020. They and their parents are dealing with anxiety and mixed emotions that promise to make this academic year far more stressful than most.
Students and families are being thrown into a maelstrom of uncertainty and unrest, amid Covid variants, mask and vaccine mandates, and programs to address the “pandemic” of “racial inequity.” Some classes are even being segregated by race, 67 years after the Supreme Court ruled against segregation, and 57 years after Congress passed the Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination by race.
Judging children based on their immutable genetic characteristics and dividing them into “oppressors” or “oppressed” appears to be the “new normal” in many schools. Civics, history, literature and even math are focused on “social justice,” “critical race theory” and ever-expanding “victimhood.”
In the name of “fairness” and “racial equity,” Advanced Placement classes that allow high-schoolers to earn college credit are being eliminated, access to charter schools restricted, and merit-based admission for science-technology magnet schools replaced with color-focused standards.
Non-academic, activist cultural issues and new racial and sexual sensitivities loom large, requiring careful navigating, and consuming time, energy and anxiety that were once devoted to education and homework. Schools are hiring consultants to teach anti-racism, and explain why hard work, objectivity, nuclear families and respect for authority are examples of “acting white.”
Children too young to understand the questions are polled on their gender and pronoun preferences. Gender dysphoria is affirmed with or without parental consent, and “sex reassignment” is presented to minors as a solution to teen anxiety, often behind their parents’ backs.
Programs like “Woke Kindergarten” demonstrate that even the youngest children, who once were learning to tie their shoes, are not exempt from what increasingly resembles indoctrination far more than education – on race, sexuality, Marxism, the “climate crisis” and more. Picture books like Woke Baby and The Antiracist Baby for readers 0-3 years-old offer lessons in “social justice” for infants and toddlers.
Teachers actually brag about how much they enjoy indoctrinating and radicalizing our young people, leading to greater divisiveness in the future. Students are taught how and what to protest. Many even get extra credit for doing so – and demerits for having the “wrong” views on issues.
Sacramento-area high school teacher Gabriel Gipe unwittingly told Project Veritas how thrilled he is to “have 180 days” every year “to turn [students] into revolutionaries.” His classroom has an Antifa flag, a gay pride flag and a photo of mass-murderer Mao Zedong. He wants to “attack” the United States on cultural and economic fronts, to “root out this culture that keeps perpetuating hyper-individualism, hyper-competitiveness, capitalist exploitation and consolidation of wealth.”
He’s hardly alone. Within his own department three other radical teachers are “definitely on the same page” as Gipe – and liberal-progressive-leftist-Marxist instructors and ideologies now dominate K-12 and college through graduate school. What is said and done in California rarely stays in California.
The Anti-Defamation League has produced a “self-directed” No Place for Hate program for educators, families and students as young as pre-K, to prevent “hateful” or “discriminatory“ conduct based on race, gender or sexual orientation, and encourage students to report “hateful” behavior to the “proper school authorities.”
This ADL program is a sad reflection on how well-organized activists and “educators” have turned America’s tremendous (though difficult and still unfinished) racial and ethnic progress on its head.
Equally alarming, questioning and conservative political views and speech are not protected, indeed are vilified and cancelled, while “progressive” viewpoints are extolled and imposed.
This “social justice warrior” agenda could be profoundly negative, even destructive, for children and families, the competence of our future workers, and a United States of America.
Teachers have long been highly protective of their asserted privacy of interactions with students. However, virtual instruction during the pandemic effectively put cameras in every classroom, giving parents a chance to watch on Zoom how – and what – their children are being taught. Many parents were shocked and appalled and are now demanding reform.
Many teachers don’t appreciate this parental involvement, and some school boards and parent-teacher associations have tried to prevent parents from speaking up. Some teachers and school boards are even using private social media to single out, attack and even arrest “troublemakers” who speak “out-of-turn” during school board meetings.
Sports teams predominate with black athletes deservedly raise no questions. But magnet schools and academic programs with majority Asian participation raise progressive cries of racism and inequity – and demands that populations be “rebalanced” and PTAs be purged of Asians or disbanded altogether.
No wonder parents have increasingly responded by abandoning public and even independent schools, in favor of parish, charter, pod or home schooling. Earlier this past summer, National Center for Education Statistics reported unprecedented decreases in public school enrollment across all grades, regions and U.S. territories, with the steepest declines (by as much as 22%) among the youngest students.
Caught in the middle, children of all ages are anxious and confused, alone on the frontlines of a cultural conflict not of their making. What can be done to alleviate at least some of the stress?
Parents must remember that schools are not assembly lines, and students need support. They must be vigilant; review course materials, reading lists and assignments; talk to their children and stand up for them; and push back against political activism that detracts from essential education, imposes ideologies instead of teaching how to think and reason, and fosters racial, gender and political division. Children should know they are not alone.
The road is long, the stakes high. But parents are more effective when they organize or join groups like Independent Women’s Forum, Parents Defending Education or Fight for Schools, which are challenging these prevailing trends. A few might even consider running for the local school board.
Some children will need additional help managing stress. Even before the pandemic and today’s polarization, one in six American schoolchildren was found to have a “mental health disorder.” The use of prescription anxiety medication in the United States is widespread, often unnecessary and even harmful. Simple exercise and spending time outdoors can help reduce stress naturally.
Chewing gum can also help. Like singing, chewing helps calm heartbeats, breathing and “butterflies” in the stomach. It lessens anxiety by stimulating the vagus nerve that runs to the heart, lungs, and abdomen.
The notion that students should chew gum in school is certainly contrarian. But who could tell whether they are doing so behind their compulsory masks? And as long as they dispose of their chewed morsels properly, should anyone care? Surely, natural stress reduction is preferable to drugs.
So far, this back-to-school season doesn’t look back-to-normal. Considering all the harm they have been causing, teachers and administrators at least need to help parents make it less stressful for kids who have no say and never asked for any of this.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, environment, health and human rights issues.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal