From the Sept/Oct, 2016 issue of Touchstone
School's Out by S. M. Hutchens

Editorial

School's Out

Where Not to Send Young Children

On the May 13 National Review website, David A. French posted an article titled, "The Transgender Straw Broke the Camel's Back: It's Time to Declare Independence from Public Schools." He says,

You may not have realized it yet, but the Obama administration just destroyed the traditional American public school. Without an act of Congress, without a ruling from the Supreme Court, and without even going through the motions of the regulatory rule-making process, the administration issued a letter drafting every single public educational institution in the country to implement the extreme edge of the sexual revolution.

The Department of Justice and the Department of Education have declared that they now "interpret" federal law to not only support the fantastical notion that boys can become girls but also to impose new legal requirements that impact every aspect of school life. The administration's letter sweeps far beyond bathrooms—imposing a new speech code on school employees and even students, opening girls' showers to boys, requiring schools to allow boys to sleep in girls' rooms on overnight field trips, requiring boys to room with girls even in single-sex dorms, and putting boys on girls' sports teams.

Moreover, schools are prohibited from making any inquiry to ensure that the boys using girls' facilities are, in fact, transgender. They can't ask for medical documentation. They can't ask for treatment information. They can't ask for identification. They have to take the boy at his word. . . .

Pastors and families often idealize the public-school experience, calling it a "mission field," and holding out hope that their children can be "salt and light" in a difficult environment. But the process of education largely involves one-way communication, with the teachers and administrators seeing the students as their secular "mission field." Isolated young children are more vulnerable than powerful, and I've seen many parents come to grief as fully indoctrinated, peer-pressured kids make mistakes with lifetime consequences.

I have never liked "Christian hothouses," cultural establishments that protect people from non-Christian ideas. Intelligent young people will be pressed by natural curiosity to look beyond the borders of their religion, which I believe to be a good thing—indeed, how could those raised with faulty beliefs, including those of liberal households, find their way out of error without being able to think critically past the boundaries imposed on them by their sect or ideology? And how could those who are raised in truth effectively confirm what they have been taught?

Realization of the inevitability of wide curiosity among those whose minds are fit to influence the future logically gives rise to two basic courses of action among the convinced. One is for them to batten down the hatches, to attempt to make the sectarian membrane stronger and less permeable—in short, to fortify their isolation from the world. But this course gives rise to a reasonable assumption of uneasiness about the defensibility of their beliefs. The other course is for them to strive to find and correct errors, to suspend difficult questions instead of denying them until resolution is available, and to purify the truths and sharpen the understandings to which they hold, thereby opening the way for their young people to claim them as their own. In such a case, the community, gathering the strength to stand in opposition to the world, is still able to hear it and to act upon what it hears, at least where the world can still make itself intelligible.

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A Critical Point

Christian children, however, can only be given over as "salt and light" up to a certain point, and to which point is a critical matter of advised parental judgment. Young children are too vulnerable to be sent to schools whose agendas include indoctrinating them in morbid habits of mind and body that tend toward destruction of both. The younger the child, the tenderer the plant. There is a very significant difference between an elementary schoolchild and a Christian young person in his mid to late teens who has been trained to think Christianly and well, who has authoritative, godly resources to consult on challenges to his faith—and who does not, for reasons of his own, want to depart from it.

It seems to me that the salt and light phenomenon in the lives of young children in the school context is provided primarily by parents who oversee and help control the learning environment. When they do not or cannot effect this so the children can be educated without the inculcation of corrupting ideas, such as the belief that "gender" is a matter of personal choice—now mandated as a school teaching in theory and practice by the federal government under President Obama—they are irresponsible if they keep their children in the schools where it is happening.

If the next president of the United States does not immediately and fully revoke this Executive Order, it will be hard for me to see how Christian parents will any longer be able to send their young children to the public schools, except perhaps to those that court defunding by defying this monstrous president and his myrmidons. The "salt and light" argument is valid to the point where it is possible for children to act as such and thrive spiritually. But when the appropriate analogy looks more like "throwing them to the lions," the public schools themselves have ejected the Christians, who must shake the dust from their feet and educate their children elsewhere. •

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor and the book review editor of Touchstone.

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more from the touchstone online archives

School's Out

29.5 — Sept/Oct 2016

School's Out

Where Not to Send Young Children by S. M. Hutchens

The Light of Everyman

27.5 — Sept/Oct 2014

The Light of Everyman

Benedict XVI's Regensburg Lecture, St. John's Proemium & Intercultural Understanding by Graeme Hunter

The Spy Who Turned Witness

28.3 — May/June 2015

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Whittaker Chambers's Lonely War Against Godless Collectivism by Hunter Baker

Higher Order Marriage

29.1 — Jan/Feb 2016

Higher-Order Marriage

David J. Theroux on Progressive Myths & Christianity's Deeper Revolution

The Little Jesus Who Would

29.2 — March/April 2016

The Little Jesus Who Would

Robert Hart on Cutting Christ Down to One Size Fits Whatever We Want

The Still Small God

29.6 — Nov/Dec 2016

The Still Small God

The Mustard Seed & the Wonders of His Kingdom by Anthony Esolen

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