Your children could become what they drink, metaphorically speaking, in the classroom and at home.
Marybeth Hicks, editor of Family Events, a weekly e-newsletter, and mom of four, is the author of the new book Don’t Let the Kids Drink the Kool-Aid: Confronting the Left’s Assault on Our Families, Faith, and Freedom. Hicks talks about children and the book with National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Socialist Kool-Aid? I try not to linger in the quasi-juice aisle too long, but I know I haven’t seen that. Does such a characterization potentially harm your message, or is the effect truly that pernicious — that our children are drinking in socialism daily?
MARYBETH HICKS: I wish the Kool-Aid weren’t so pervasive, but unfortunately, the numbers about our young generation don’t lie. By every measurable standard I could find, they believe what the Left tells them about virtually every hot-button issue of our day. And it should not surprise us. The institutions with the greatest influence on our kids are decidedly leftist — that is, the schools and educational infrastructure, the media, and pop culture. So it’s not just this conservative mom/columnist suggesting that the Left is whistling the only tune our kids hear. The Left is proud of this fact!
LOPEZ: To quote from your book, “I personally have sat through dozens of youth basketball games in which players and their parents counted the score in their heads because official scoring was not allowed.” But, come on, we still watch sports games that do keep score. How bad is it really that tykes play just for the sake of playing?
HICKS: The whole “equality of outcomes” movement in education has morphed into a weird preoccupation with ensuring that all kids always feel great about everything they do, and that includes sports. Kids can learn solid character through athletic participation because sports are a perfect metaphor for life. And nobody likes to lose, but if we don’t teach children to lose, we also won’t help them develop the drive to succeed. (Actually, I did say in the book that wee ones should enjoy non-competitive instructional sports for the sake of learning new games.) The point is, there’s an obsession with “fairness of outcomes” that has permeated our children’s experiences, and that’s a cornerstone of a socialist worldview.
LOPEZ: This “no losers” attitude: Is it especially bad for boys?
HICKS: It’s especially bad for all kids if you’re trying to raise a generation that is willing to work hard, persevere, overcome disappointments, focus on goals, and win in the end! The idea that no one loses — or that no one should lose — creates expectations of entitlement that most of us recognize as dangerous and all too evident already. The finished product of such an upbringing looks a lot like the rioters in London — young people running amok without conscience or conviction, believing they’re entitled to get back at people who have more than they do.
LOPEZ: You write, “Before our children are old enough to shop for mom jeans and minivans, mark my words: America will be a place where all children are required to learn (and thus believe) that gender confusion isn’t a disorder but a normal phase of human development, and that differences between men and women are irrelevant, destructive, and useless.”
HICKS: By the time today’s children are young adults with little ones of their own, the issue of gender confusion will have been normalized. It won’t be considered a disorder, but just a “normal” aspect of sexual questioning, which will include other “normal” phases of hetero- or homosexuality in one’s life. That’s a radically different idea about sexuality than has been promoted even in our generation.
LOPEZ: You highlight the example of a Spring Valley, N.Y., public-high-school teacher who represented “the LGBT Caucus of the National Education Association” at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women’s 55th session in 2001. She argued, as you sum it up (it is much more graphic in the original): “Because of backward notions taught by their parents and in their churches, American children are homophobes. Educators can eliminate homophobia by undermining the lessons about human sexuality taught at home and in church, and indoctrinating children from a very young age to believe instead that gender and sexual orientation are social and cultural constructs.” But we both know that is not every public-school teacher.
HICKS: Then I guess we both also know that every public-school teacher is not responsible for the curriculum he or she is required to teach. The goal of the Left is to bring so-called comprehensive sexuality education to every school district in America. Currently, parents can opt their kids out of these programs, but that’s changing because information about homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, and gender identity is included in “school safety” programs as well as sexuality education, on the theory that this will reduce bullying. (It won’t.) By the way, you were right (and tasteful) not to put the more graphic material from the book into your question, but unfortunately, our nation’s kids aren’t always able to avoid it. Yuck.
But you raise an important issue that I talk about in the book — not all teachers are raging leftists, and I’m not saying they are! In fact, I think many wonderful folks who have a heart for kids and for teaching are unwittingly drafted into the army of the Left because our education schools are populated with some of the most radical leftists in the academy. Bill Ayers, for example, is a guru of teacher education, and his ideas about the purpose of education are entirely socialist.
LOPEZ: One of your section titles is: “Bullying Is Bad, Unless It Helps Progressives.” That isn’t entirely fair, is it? In one case, you’re talking about scaring a kid into depression and worse; in another, ideological disagreements.
HICKS: Nope, sorry, it’s entirely fair! I believe the Left’s answer to the bullying problem will ultimately make it worse. The idea that kids will learn empathy by forcing them to confront issues of human sexuality for which they are entirely unprepared and immature reflects the Left’s arrogance about its own agenda. America’s bullying problem does not reflect a lack of empathy on the part of some kids for others; it reflects a lack of conscience in too many children. Kids must learn that bullying is always wrong. Period. Doesn’t matter if the kid you’re picking on is gay, fat, has pimples, is too smart, has bad breath, or just looks at you funny. You don’t need empathy to resist bullying; you need a moral compass to tell you right from wrong.
I’ll go out on a limb here and say bullying is something that bad kids do, but since we can’t say some kids have bad character and others have good character (that’s not fair!), we just pretend that the crisis is about gay kids and not about the void of character and virtue of an entire generation. The Left’s hijacking of the bullying problem is an opportunity lost. We should be focusing on character education, not sex ed, to fix what’s wrong. It’s all in the book.
LOPEZ: An International Planned Parenthood Federation report says: “Currently, many religious teachings deny the pleasurable and positive aspects of sex, and limited guidelines for sexual education often focus on abstinence before marriage.” You suggest they are talking in part about the Catholic Church. Have they read John Paul II? Not quite his approach. So they are teaching a caricature of sex education?
HICKS: Of course! And a caricature of Catholicism, but what else is new? It serves the purposes of the Left to make the Catholic Church appear sexually repressed, except for scandalous priests. But it’s not just the Catholic Church — the Planned Parenthood document indicts any organized religion that holds moral teachings about sexual behavior. Last time I checked, that’s all of them.
LOPEZ: The cat is out of the bag in many ways. So how can you shield your children from the new no-norm norms? Should you?
HICKS: I’m not suggesting we raise our kids in a cave. My husband and I certainly haven’t done that with our four, who are very tuned in to culture and politics. But the point is, we talk about things. When my son had to watch An Inconvenient Truth in science class, and when my daughter’s class sat through Human Footprint, we spent some lively dinner hours talking about other points of view regarding climate change, consumerism, capitalism, and America’s role in the world. If you’re engaged with children (or grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, the kid who mows your lawn), you need to offer the conservative perspective. Otherwise, in all honesty, they won’t get it.
LOPEZ: Why can we not move on from Bill Ayers already?
HICKS: If you don’t want to talk about him, fine, but that’s the sort of eye-rolling indifference that has allowed the Left complete control over teacher education, curriculum development, and public schools. Personally, I think he matters. Also, he’s not the only one, which I explain in the book.
LOPEZ: So where can a kid go for a decent education? Home school? Where can he go if he wants to be a teacher without joining a political movement as a prerequisite?
HICKS: I truly wish more families could choose an educational alternative to their public schools, but that’s not usually possible. But neither should we simply drop our kids at the schoolhouse door and hope for the best. As Catholic parents, my husband and I hold the philosophy that we are responsible for the education of our children, and we choose partners to assist us (we chose K–12 Catholic schools). Too many folks take the back seat to schools instead of holding the keys to the car. They’re assuming schools are getting the job done — for their kids, anyway — but all the evidence says that’s not true. As for teacher education, it’s tough because there are really no alternatives. But courageous teachers are beginning to stand up against the leftist establishment and that’s what it takes to restore intellectual diversity.
LOPEZ: What do you want to teach Wisconsin schoolchildren about their teachers?
HICKS: Nothing. I want to teach Wisconsin voters that their teachers’ union manipulated the media to portray their cause as one thing — upholding quality education in the state — when it was something else entirely: saving the union from its inevitable demise, because their own teachers won’t pay union dues unless the state collects the dues for them. Also, the manner in which the unions in Wisconsin used children was abhorrent. Kids were being bused to rallies and, when asked why they were there, they had no idea. They just knew they got out of school.
LOPEZ: What’s so bad about environmentalism? Good stewardship isn’t a bad thing. Plus, Johnny might clean up after himself at home too as a result!
HICKS: Obviously! I, of course, never said there was anything wrong with stewarding the earth — that’s a precept of my own Catholic faith. I just think earth worship may offend God as much as it offends a lot of us, and unfortunately, that’s the secular religion being taught in our schools. And also, as we’re seeing more and more, the science is not settled, for what it’s worth.
LOPEZ: Why are you grouchy about Sesame Street? Aren’t you at least grateful Bert and Ernie aren’t getting married?
HICKS: Oh my, yes! Okay, for the record, Sesame Workshop says Bert and Ernie are “just friends,” not gay, and not getting married. I think it’s sad that Oscar Madison and Felix Unger are long forgotten, as the puppets are such wonderful reminders of those iconic characters! And let’s face it, without Sesame Street, I’m sure I’d never have taken a shower for a solid nine years when my kids were little. But the folks at that show have a mission that is found on their web site, and it’s much more than teaching numeracy and literacy to kids. It’s all global citizenship and multi-culti values. But not American values, as that would be jingoistic and xenophobic!
LOPEZ: You refer to John Adams as “a great American dad.” How so, and how can we encourage that in our political leaders today?
HICKS: Well, my husband once went to a fatherhood conference where he learned that the number-one thing a man could do to be an excellent father to his children is to love their mother. I think Adams did that, as evident in his letters to Abigail. But he also exemplified civic sacrifice and he helped his kids to see the big picture — he raised them to understand their responsibility as citizens. Didn’t do such a bad job, considering his son became president, too! If today’s political leaders want to follow that model, they need to be men and women who keep their egos in check and act with morality and virtue.
LOPEZ: You refer to Anthony Weiner as a “cartoon.” Considering “sexting” and online porn is a bit of an issue in America today, do you worry you might be doing a disservice there?
HICKS: The issue of sexting is serious and unsettling. His behavior was serious and disturbing. The consequences he now faces are serious and sobering. But the photos? Please. Besides, if you got that far in the book and don’t realize I love hyperbole, you were not an English major.
LOPEZ: What is Family Events?
HICKS: A wonderful weekly e-letter for women and moms from the fine folks at Human Events and me! It is not political — I know, hard to believe considering this Kool-Aid book of mine. Family Events is meant to simply uplift and encourage women in their daily lives. Lots of culture and parenting from a traditional perspective.
LOPEZ: How can a parent make practical use of your book as children go back to school . . . or get pulled out to an underground home-school bunker for fear of the nanny state?
HICKS: Kathryn, you crack me up. Bunkers are expensive and, as we all know, the resale value on bunkers is now in the basement. I don’t recommend them.
The purpose of the book is to get parents, grandparents, and concerned citizens of all kinds to be more aware of, and thus involved in, instilling values and virtue in the next generation. Ben Franklin said our government was only suitable for a virtuous people, and John Adams said, “Children must be educated and instructed in the principles of liberty.” This book is a call to action to do just that.
LOPEZ: How did you get a kid to sit still and watch Barack Obama for the book cover? I can’t do that.
HICKS: Benadryl. Kidding. Stock photography.
LOPEZ: You have a whole section on “restoration.” What are the signs of hope for the future that you are most optimistic about?
HICKS: My husband and I often joke that we’re raising taxpayers at our house, and it turns out we are. Our eldest daughter is now a college grad with a job. So much of my hope rests in the knowledge that millions of American families like ours are working hard to instill the values that have made our nation the freest, most prosperous, most inventive nation in human history. The book is meant to take the blinders off so more people understand just what we’re up against, and exhort them to get in the game and take responsibility for our nation’s future by focusing on the character of the next generation. It’s not enough to shrug our shoulders, or to just assume everything in America always turns out okay. Our legacy is our children . . . we can’t leave that to chance, or to the professional Left.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.