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Christian Principal Goes Into Exile

For many Christians, changing culture and government mandates are turning public education into a false idol (James Steidl/Shutterstock)

A reader sends this e-mail. I quote it with permission, provided that I deleted geographical details, which I have done:

I am leaving public education this year for a classical school in [deleted]. I already have lesbian students in my current school who are physically affectionate. The problem is: I often do not always know the difference between erotic affection and sisterly affection. Even if I did, I do not know if I want to go there as a public school principal. I am not about to try to sort out the two and discipline the ones I think are erotic. I am conservative and there are many conservative families in my school–but I firmly believe this could turn into a big mess if I tried to discipline lesbians for “inappropriate display of affection.”

One of the worst things about public schools is that they are raising our children as if they do not have souls. In a public school, discipline and motivation to do the right thing are based purely on external stimuli–school-wide behavior programs and incentives for the good kids and discipline for the bad ones. These are simply controls that do not prepare anyone to do what he ought. This Skinner based approach is pervasive and inescapable. The poor and poorly behaved get the worst of it, for they are truly treated like soulless animals and governed purely by external stimuli. Christian kids do okay, but I have seen even these struggle to do the right thing when the external stimuli is removed. Schools are teaching our children to merely respond to pain/pleasure responses. This is no way to raise children to stay in the faith or to live in and perpetuate a free society.

The reader adds in a follow-up letter:

As a Christian parent I would be worried that even a good principal is not going to protect their daughter from lesbian advances. Principals protect the weak against the strong, but we cannot in this case.

I wonder to what extent we are going to see people like this conservative Christian high school principal leaving the public schools over all this. Imagine that you are an Evangelical, conservative Catholic, or Muslim elementary school teaching in the Fort Worth ISD. Your administration has now ordered you to present material to your students that normalizes this radical gender theory. You cannot even call your students “boys” or “girls,” by order of the superintendent. What do you do? If it were me, I would simply not do it, and wait for somebody to complain, and immediately start looking for another job, hoping that I could find something before they requested my resignation.

This is exactly the kind of situation that the Benedict Option is meant to address: what do you do when they effectively kick you out of the public square (in this case, the public schools) because of your religious beliefs? This is what traditional Christians are going to increasingly face in the years to come. In places like Fort Worth, Massachusetts, and many other locales, they are facing it now.

The left will say, “Oh, you’re just saying that because you hate LGBT people.” It wouldn’t be that, not for me. It would be because I could not in good conscience teach something, or help create an environment, that seriously compromised my religious beliefs. If it were only a matter of making sure LGBTs were treated with respect and not bullied in any way, absolutely I could do that, and given my acute hostility to bullies, I would make that a priority. But the activists and their allies in politics and in administration want much more than that. As in Fort Worth, teachers and administrators now have to be positively affirming — even of transgender, which far more than gay and lesbian, deconstructs and destroys the very idea of male and female, and what it means to be a person.

I want to part of that. My conscience would not let me have any part of that. Christians who are in the public schools as teachers and administrators are going to have to make a choice, and soon. The choice is upon many of them now, and will be on many more of them in the next few years. The ideologues in the Obama administration don’t care what they destroy in the name of Progress — and the next Clinton administration will build on their work. Check out this jaw-dropping statement the US Attorney General gave in response to North Carolina’s defiance with the bathroom bill: comparing the state’s leaders to old-timey Jim Crow segregationists, and threatening to defund the state’s public safety department, and the University of North Carolina, at the federal level.

These people are playing for keeps. They think we are all bigots, no better than Klansmen.

Read the signs of the times, and make your plan.

About the way schools manage students, treating them like animals  — well, when a society loses its moral grounding, this is what you get. A Catholic university I’m familiar with refuses to address sexual violence on its campus (date rape, etc.) by standing on Catholic sexual morality. No, that would not be progressive. Instead, its leadership is standing on procedural liberalism, specifically, the idea of consent, of negotiating sex like it’s a contract. You think that’s going to work? Please.

And what passes for “character education” is very thin gruel, and has to be by its nature, because the public schools cannot proclaim moral norms, except in the vaguest sense. I know people who teach and administer in public schools who would very much like to do this, but the ongoing stripping from the public square of moral norms, in favor of the procedural liberalism model, handcuffs them.

We are rendering our population unfit for self-government. Sooner or later, we are bound to lose it. The principal who wrote me is doing the right thing, in my view. He is going to apply his talents to building up a community of education where truth and moral order can thrive. The chief political task of traditional Christians and other conservatives is to fight like hell to protect these schools, and institutions like them, as we expand them to accommodate the coming exodus of people of faith from the educational public square.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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