Schools shouldn’t ‘affirm all families’

Image of London Pride parade with polyamorists carrying banner, by Katy Blackwood via Wiki Commons.

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  • Teachers have enough to do trying to get their students back up to speed after all the COVID-lockdown learning loss. Making them into moral philosophers on questions of sexual ethics will just eat up more of their time teaching.

North Carolina’s Parents’ Bill of Rights (S.B. 49) has passed the state Senate along party lines, but the debate continues as the House will now consider the bill’s fate. In the spirited debates back and forth on this and similar legislation in other states, I’ve noticed a repeated theme: schools need to affirm/celebrate all families. But not only is this not a school’s job, it violates a parent’s right to raise their children with their family’s vision of sexual ethics.

To give a couple examples of this language, here is the trifecta of progressive groups (the ACLU of N.C., Planned Parenthood of N.C., and Equality N.C.) retweeting each other using this messaging. (On a side note: they seem to tweet and retweet each other’s messages a lot. Maybe the organizations are trying to save money by sharing a single communications person?)

Miami Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, when Florida had a similar bill discussed, said, “I will use every resource at my disposal to lift up and celebrate all families.” The Biden White House, Human Right Council, and many other aligned groups all use the same language.

As you can see in the N.C.-related message above, though, the concern is that if a 1st grader is asked to draw their family, the teacher won’t use the opportunity to explain in detail how the family is composed and that it is to be celebrated, accepted, affirmed.

But that is not the teacher’s role. As bill sponsor Sen. Amy Galey, R-Alamance, said, if students are confused about the makeup of other children’s families, they should be told to ask their parents. The kids can also just discuss it more on their own time. There are many ways that children are raised, and people are allowed to teach their children that some ways are healthier and more stable than others. The teacher should not undermine those lessons.

The teacher can simply say, “That’s a beautiful picture. Thanks, Jimmy. Okay, who’s next?” If there is bullying by someone over differences in family structure, deal with the bullying. But it should not be an opportunity for a monologue about how all sexual and romantic arrangements are equal.

Some children in the classroom may be living with a single parent. They should be respected. Their single parent probably works very hard to care and provide for them. But that doesn’t mean the school should celebrate or affirm single parenthood as a concept. Parents of other children present likely believe that single parenthood makes a hard job harder and that it’s best to get married before having children. Data shows that these parents have a lot of evidence on their side.

Former President Barack Obama gave a speech on the topic where he said, “We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

Other children in the classroom may be living with one divorced biological parent and one step parent. They should be respected. The biological parent undoubtedly had difficult decisions that led to this arrangement. But parents of other children present likely believe that divorce is often traumatic for children. They may also be aware of the data showing that girls are eight times more likely to be sexually abused by a step father than a biological father and at least 16 times (other studies show up to 100 times) more likely to be killed by them.

Some children in the classroom may be living with one biological parent and that parent’s cohabitating partner. The child should be respected. But other parents may have seen the data showing that these children are even more likely to be abused than even those living with stepparents (40 times more likely to be abused rather than just eight-times more). They may also have seen that it is a much less stable arrangement (with children 96% more likely in U.S. and Europe to remain with both parents until the age of 12 if their parents are married rather than cohabitating).

Some children in the classroom may be adopted or living in foster care. These children should be respected. But adoption and foster care seek to heal a wound, which is well documented to be a very difficult and long-lasting one. It has been shown to lead to higher rates of substance abuse and mental-health problems, including a four-times higher suicide rate. Teachers should not minimize this wound by suggesting this arrangement is equally healthy to the child having been able to remain with their biological parents.

Some children in the classroom may be living with a parent who has other romantic or sexual arrangements — maybe polygamy, polyamory, an open marriage, or even a “throuple.” The child should be respected with a polite, “Great picture of your family, Sage.” But any word of affirmation or celebration that a teacher has for the unfortunate home life the child has been forced to endure would be inappropriate.

That doesn’t mean the teacher should say, “Children are best raised by biological parents who are in a loving, lifelong monogamous marriage.” That’s my ideal that I’m going to teach my children, but I understand we live in a pluralistic society and some think that view is wrong. Traditionally minded people are being the tolerant, open-minded ones here by asking for neutrality. Forcing a “celebrate every possible family structure” view on students ultimately leads to encouraging risky and unhealthy arrangements that many parents do not want their children taught to accept.

So, no, government schools should not be celebrating or affirming all families. All children should be welcome at these schools and should be treated with respect. But the teachers should hold their tongue about whether they approve or disapprove of whatever family structure the child’s guardians have arranged. And schools should not be forcing lessons on these matters into curriculums. Teachers have enough to do trying to get their students back up to speed after all the COVID-lockdown learning loss. Making them into moral philosophers on questions of sexual ethics will just eat up more of their time teaching, not to mention arguing with outraged parents.

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