I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

From Scott Pruitt to Thing T. Thing, this week has been another doozy. Thanks to everyone who sent in stories for the weekly roundup.

Want to understand educational culture wars? Start with the Addams Family Goes to School. HT: JN.

Teacher strikes sweeping down the plains?

Head of EPA warns about Islam and evolution, at Politico.

What real school reform looks like, at TLFM.

American Stalinism is back, says Andrew Bacevich at AC.

Loving power, tolerating Trump: Concerned Women for America’s “Esther Moment,” at R&P.

Creationism and “hate speech” in Oklahoma: Ken Ham talks at university after all, at RNS.

  • Was this Christian love? Or something else? At ILYBYGTH.

White nationalism in the teachers’ lounge:

Life as a closeted conservative academic, at AC.

Campus Christian group wins reinstatement in Detroit, at CT.

Town government quits after losing the mayor’s office in polygamous town, at RNS.

Set your clocks to stupid: Why 100 years of Daylight Savings Time have been a flop, at RCS.

Remember those clocks! C. 1956.

Is your top cardiologist out of town? Good—your chances of survival just went up, at CHE.

Why did white evangelicals jump for Trump? Michael Gerson says they “lost their interest in decency, [they] . . . became defined by resentment.” At Atlantic. HT: DL.

  • Sounds just about right, but it’s missing one important thing, at ILYBYGTH.

Fundamentalists Against CATCH

The headlines say it all.  Concerned Women for America’s article announces, “New York City Schools: Reading, Writing, and Morning-After Pills.”  The Family Research Council denounces “New York’s Deadliest CATCH.”

The Family Research Council’s Take on “the Deadliest CATCH”

Sifting through the arguments from these prominent conservative organizations will give us some insight into what religious conservatives dislike about New York City’s Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health (CATCH) program.  As the CWA headline suggests, the program expands the district’s free-condom program to include birth control pills and “morning-after” pills.  As ILYBYGTH has reported, the NY Board of Health has insisted that a very low rate of parent opt-out suggests that most parents find the program inoffensive.

Fundamentalists beg to differ.

Both CWA and FRC point out the absurdity of a school system in which parents must provide copious paperwork in order for schools to provide basic medicine for schoolchildren, yet those same schools will administer Plan B pills without parental notification.  As the FRC briefing notes, “The same nurse’s office that demands a parents’ note for aspirin will be in the position to administer high (and potentially dangerous) doses of hormones to children as young as 14 without so much as a permission slip.”

Such contradictions, both groups insist, indicate the plan is both dangerous and insidious.  “Suppose [a student] has severe side effects from the pill but is afraid to tell her parents?”  CWA’s Brenda Zurita asks.  “It’s late at night or perhaps a weekend, what will she do? Who will she call?. . . Let’s pray that no young girl will die due to complications she was afraid to tell her parents about after she was encouraged at school to hide her sexual activity from her parents.”

Also worrisome, according to both reports, are the results of increased sexual behavior among teen-age girls.  The FRC report cites a 2010 study that finds such birth-control medications increase STIs among young women.

According to the FRC, the root of this problem is an inverted understanding of the proper role between parents, children, and government.  The FRC describes the “Nanny State” ideology at play: “If moms and dads can’t be trusted to ensure that their kids are eating well, then they certainly can’t be trusted with decisions about sex and abortion. So the government takes away chocolate milk because it’s too fattening–only to turn around and give kids the morning-after pill, which can really kill.”

Concerned Women for America’s Zurita agrees.  This program, Zurita insists, is yet another example of an “out-of-control bureaucracy.” “It is frightening and tragic,” Zurita warns, “that there are parents who do not care what their children are doing, and with each example of government intruding between parents and children, this story is fast becoming the norm.”

Finally, CWA’s Zurita raises a powerful point.  The NYC Board of Health has claimed that a low parental opt-out rate means this program is not upsetting parents.  But as Zurita notes, many parents could simply be unaware of the program.  Since when do schools assume that every announcement sent home with students has been dutifully delivered to parents?  With non-controversial notices such as bad report cards, students are required to return parent signatures to prove that parents actually saw the notice.  But with a more profoundly morally complex notice such as this, the school district simply assumes that students shared the information with parents?

In the eyes of these fundamentalist activist organizations, something stinks with New York’s CATCH.

Cross-Dressing for Kindergartners: A Fundamentalist Cause?

Are there fundamentalist activists out there who promote what they call the “radical homosexual agenda?”  It doesn’t seem to fit, but a survey released recently by the fundamentalist activist organization Concerned Women for America raises some puzzling questions. 

The organization claims to be the largest public policy women’s organization in the United States.  Its founder, Beverly LaHaye, tells the story of the day she decided to start her own fundamentalist women’s organization.  She was watching Betty Friedan on TV with her husband, the prolific fundamentalist author Tim LaHaye.  It was the late 1970s, and Friedan promised to keep working until American had embraced “humanist” values.  LaHaye remembers jumping up and exclaiming, “Well, Betty, I’m going to spend the rest of my life seeing that American doesn’t become a humanist nation.”

The organization that resulted from that resolution has become a leading voice in favor of traditionalist family structures, Biblical values in the public square, and other fundamentalist causes.  CWA now claims 500,000 members who have joined LaHaye’s fight for the values of fundamentalist women.  One of the most influential has been Michele Bachmann, who attributed her start in conservative politics to the influence of LaHaye and CWA

So when this leading fundamentalist women’s activist organization released the results of a poll of its members recently, it is not surprising that overwhelming  majorities of CWA’s members oppose what they call the “homosexual agenda” in public schools.  What is surprising is that there are a significant minority of CWA members who seem either ambivalent or even supportive of homosexuality as part of public-school curriculum. 

For those of us outsiders who are trying to understand what we’re calling Fundamentalist America, the results of this survey are truly perplexing. 

For instance, consider this question.  The CWA claimed to have “uncovered proof that children in grades as early as kindergarten are being taught that cross-dressing is an acceptable practice and may be encouraged.”  The CWA asked its membership what kind of impact this would have on children.  Not surprisingly, 84.6% of CWA thought this would have a negative effect on kids.  But here’s the stumper: 6.2% of CWA members answered that this would have a positive effect. 

Here’s another example: the CWA asserted, “The overriding interest of the radical homosexual agenda is to change the moral character of our young people and the moral landscape of our nation through the schools.”  When the CWA asked its members what effect this “radical homosexual agenda” will have “on our nation and the next generation leading it,” almost all CWA members (91.4%) said “negative.”  No surprise there.  But again, a puzzling 5.2% of CWA members answered that the “homosexual agenda” will have a positive impact!

What are we to make of these results?  Is it possible that roughly 1 in 20 CWA members–for a total of roughly 25,000 nationwide–support the homosexual agenda in public schools?  Who think that teaching cross-dressing to kindergarteners is a good thing?  That just doesn’t seem possible.  After all, the CWA’s self-declared reason for existing is to “bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policies.” 

But then how are we to understand these survey results?  A few possibilities spring to mind.  The first is that this survey is simply fake.  The CWA could have simply added in a few minority voices to make their survey results seem more credible.  They might have wanted to project an image as a diverse organization.  But such a fake seems far too obvious.  After all, who could believe that a full 5% of CWA members think that “sexual activity between minors and adults” will have a positive impact on children?  I wouldn’t think that 5%–or even 0.01%–of the American public as a whole could support such things.

Could it be that some CWA respondents did not understand the questions they were being asked?  They might have thought that they were being asked different questions, such as, ‘do you think a fight against cross-dressing curriculum will have a positive impact?’ 

The most difficult of all to believe is that there are a sizeable minority of CWA members who support what the CWA calls the “radical homosexual agenda” in public schools.  That would confound our understanding of what fundamentalists want in American culture, politics, and education.