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Should Conservatives Leave Public Schools?

Heartland high school teacher forced out for rejecting gender ideology. Canary in cultural coal mine is chirping like a klaxon
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A wicked public school teacher in Indiana — not in Boston or San Francisco or New York City, but the large town of Brownsburg, Indiana — is having diversity celebrated upside his head. A local TV station reports:

A Brownsburg teacher came forward last week claiming administrators forced him to resign for refusing to use a transgender student’s new name, but one of his former students says getting names right is a matter of student safety.

“School will be a more comfortable environment,” Brownsburg High School sophomore Aidyn Sucec said. “I think that it’s dangerous to have a teacher and trying to enforce his religious beliefs under the guise of morality on students.”

Former orchestra teacher John Kluge says the school forced him to resign because he refused to follow a policy that requires teachers to call transgender students by their preferred name instead of their birth name.

Ah, yes: safety. The teacher simply called kids by their last names. If you watch the report at the link, you’ll see that that was not enough for the trans kids. They demanded that he affirm them in every way. (And note well, in this high school serving a town of 21,000, there were three trans kids in Kluge’s class. Hmm. It’s almost like there’s social contagion at work here.) Kluge did not want to call the trans kids by their new first names. Personally, I don’t see why this was a big deal; it’s not like he had to use their preferred pronouns. In any event, he wouldn’t have succeeded. He tried to get around it by calling all students by their last names — names that are legal, and that they affirm — but they were on to him. They knew he was a HATER. Sucec’s mom accuses Kluge of “bullying,” and Sucec blames him for having the kind of attitude that drives trans teens to commit suicide.

You need to watch the report. It’s astonishing how all-in the reporter is for the trans teen’s cause. There’s not the slightest pretense of objectivity. He opens the report referring to Sucec as a “rising sophomore,” and shows her playing with puppies.

This week, parents and others on both sides of the Kluge issue packed the school board meeting in which Kluge’s resignation was formalized. Excerpt from a local report:

While the board has already taken action on Kluge’s employment, this is likely not the end of this issue for Brownsburg schools. Many in the crowd called for a reversal of its guidelines, especially one that allows transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

Many of the parents at Monday night’s meeting said they were unaware that this accommodation was in place for transgender students and are uncomfortable with its implications for their children. Landon Chapman said he’s not comfortable with students who were born male being able to use the same female restroom as his daughter.

“Why is it that parents weren’t notified?” he asked the board.

Because they don’t want you to know, Mr. Chapman. That’s why. (Here’s a video report on the meeting from a local news channel.) I hope the parents who are trying to fight this thing locally will prevail, but they are going against the cultural and legal tide. Eventually the US Supreme Court will have to decide on the scope of SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) laws, and how they relate to Title IX. The case of a Virginia transgender public school student may well end up before SCOTUS soon. Lower courts have ruled that Title IX requires public schools to accommodate transgender students as they wish to be accommodated. If SCOTUS agrees, that’s game, set, and match.

And if it doesn’t agree, that only sends the issue back to local school boards. The issue is quite divisive, obviously, but the idea some conservatives have — that transgender is something progressive elites are pushing on the unwilling masses — is not generally true, according to polls. And we know from poll after poll that Millennials and younger Americans are far more affirming of transgenderism and trans rights than older ones. This is not a battle social conservatives are likely to win, in the long run.

This week, I read an advance copy of an upcoming (August) book titled Get Out Now: 7 Reasons To Pull Your Child From Public Schools Before It’s Too LateThe authors are Mary Rice Hasson and Theresa Farnan. Here are a couple of short excerpts:



One more:

I can’t emphasize strongly enough how little most parents know about what’s going on at their kids’ school regarding gender ideology. If they don’t know what’s happening at their kids’ school, they surely don’t understand the nature of the broader cultural challenge it poses within American education. On this front, Get Out Now is not fear-mongering, but truth-telling. It’s not alarmist; it’s realist. The book is filled with actual data and examples of the world as it is. If you don’t go along with the transgender madness, you will be a pariah, both within the school and in the public square (e.g., that local TV report) — and if you’re a teacher, you will lose your job. In The Benedict Option, I wrote about how Christians (and others) who don’t go along with the gender ideology revolution will not be able to work in professions it has conquered.

Think about it. Let’s say you’re a public school teacher in a small town. You’re a traditional Christian or, like Jordan B. Peterson, a non-believer who does not accept gender ideology. All it will take is a single trans student and his parents to compel the school to deal with the issue. Which side do you think they’ll come down on? How eager will they be to defend against a civil rights lawsuit? And how do you think the courts are going to rule?

A few years ago, a friend of mine’s daughter, an Evangelical Christian, was in a public school in a Bible Belt town about the size of Brownsburg. The school’s administration had gone all-in on LGBT, particularly on transgender, and the school’s culture was celebratory to the point of militancy. The daughter — a sweet, small-town church kid — was constantly challenged by other students about her hateful religion. The simple fact that she was openly Christian put a target on her back in the culture of that school.

Don’t think that Christian schools are always an escape. Last year, for example, a prestigious Christian school in my city revealed itself as having been queered. When I reported on it, some parents were angry that they hadn’t been told what was going on at the school. Presumably they trusted the school to be Christian. You can’t do that anymore.

In the years to come, Christians will face mounting pressure to withdraw their children from public schools.

Secular private schools may offer a better education, but their moral and spiritual ethos will likely be scarcely better. And established Christian schools may not be sufficiently orthodox, academically challenging, or morally sound. A tight communal network generates the social capital needed to launch a school, or to reform and revive an existing one.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the Christian educational mission. Aside from building up the assembly of believers in the church, there is no more important institutional work to be done in the Benedict Option.

I know there are lots of conservatives who think this isn’t going to happen to their kids’ school. Listen to me: you’re wrong. This is a cultural revolution. The day is fast coming where what was once radical will be mainstream, and what was once mainstream will be radical. If a music teacher can be forced out of his job in a small Indiana city because he will not affirm transgender ideology, then the canary in the cultural coal mine is chirping like a klaxon.

Are you a Christian conservative who recognizes that your kids will be in the minority, given their moral and religious values, but who tells himself that your kids will be “salt and light” in the public schools? You need to rethink that. In The Benedict Option, I write:

Peer pressure really begins to happen in middle childhood. Psychology researcher Judith Rich Harris, in her classic book The Nurture Assumption, says that kids at that age model their own behavior around their peer group’s. Writes Harris, “The new behaviors become habitual—internalized, if you will—and eventually become part of the public personality. The public personality is the one that a child adopts when he or she is not at home. It is the one that will develop into the adult personality.”

Harris points to the example of immigrants and their children. Study after study shows that no matter how strong the home culture, first-generation offspring almost always conform to the values of the broader culture. “The old culture is lost in a single generation,” she writes. “Cultures are not passed on from parents to children; the children of immigrant parents adopt the culture of their peers.”

You only have one chance to get this right. Last week I blogged here about a liberal friend who teaches public school in a tiny Southern town — in the heart of Bible-Belt Trumplandia — and who said that the parents there have no idea how progressive their kids are about sexuality and gender. This is not the school’s fault. It’s the culture of the kids. The parents there are under the impression that their kids carry the value of their (the parents’) culture, but in fact they have embraced the values of the broader American culture.

We in the church are not remotely prepared for this. 

If you can afford to take your kid out of public school, why aren’t you doing it? Maybe there’s a case to be made for remaining in your particular situation, but you need to make that case, if only to yourself, and be as honest as you can be. A friend from the Midwest tells me he and his wife are making big economic sacrifices to send their children to a classical Christian school, and are enduring somewhat hostile skepticism from their families for doing it. Because of his job, though, he understands better than most what’s happening to America’s schools — and he says he and his wife have to make whatever sacrifices they can to protect their children from this hostile ideology.

As I said above, don’t assume that all Christian schools are the same here. And it would be a big mistake to put your kid into a conservative Christian school merely as a strategy of avoidance. It’s not enough to run away from something bad. You have to be running towards something good. If you aren’t teaching your children what is good, right, and true on sexuality and gender, they will ultimately absorb the values of the ambient culture.

We need to come up with serious, effective strategies for strengthening the faith and convictions of kids who remain in public schools. We also need to be strengthening those faithful Christian schools that stand, or starting new ones. It is a hard economic truth that many religiously and socially conservative who would like to take their kids out of public schools can’t afford to do so. What can churches do to help them? Can we pool our resources and offer scholarships? We need all hands on deck of the flotilla of arks, figuring out how we can take on as many as who want to get out now.

UPDATE: Reader Elijah:

“If you can afford to take your kid out of public school, why aren’t you doing it?”

Because, pure and simple, most parents don’t give a hoot about Christian education. They lie to themselves about their kids being “salt and light” in the public schools and think a few doses of youth group socials on Wednesday and Sunday will right the ship. They do not care to think about the effects of being marinated in popular culture, drugs, music, etc. at public school, let alone gender ideology.

Mark me: a lot of these Christian families sincerely hold orthodox Christian beliefs, but are very very comfortable compartmentalizing them when they want to indulge in music/tv/movies/sports with explicit sexual content, gratuitous violence, racism and sexism, and so forth. Their kids aren’t any different.

The result is a boom in MTD because kids’ faith gets watered down to the lowest common denominator. Why struggle against sin when a few hundred other kids (and adults) are telling you it isn’t really a sin and you shouldn’t worry about it?

I think this particular teacher may have been unwise in picking a fight. But I am also sympathetic to teachers who have more and better things to do than remember Robert now wants to be called “Alice” – at least until he changes his mind again.

It is truly a sign of how we have lost our cultural mind, if you will, that a tiny segment of the population, most of which will resolve its gender dysphoria on its own, is commanding so much attention.