What’s that popping sound? Could it be a million figurative lightbulbs clicking on above public-school parents’ heads?
The vast majority of American families send their children to public schools. Only 11 percent of children attend private schools, and fewer than 5 percent are homeschooled. And as one school board after another gives the no go signal for the coming school year, families are being thrown into crisis. And yet, the great American entrepreneurial spirit is awakening as parents are forced to rethink education for their children. And that is to the benefit of children and the nation.
Even before the pandemic, American families had concerns about the quality of education their children were receiving from our public schools. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called the latest national assessment “devastating.” Two-thirds of American students can’t read at grade level, and reading scores have worsened in 31 states.
The teaching of history has given way to the teaching of social studies, which is now morphing into lessons in civic action from a leftist perspective. A recent study of curriculum in American public schools found that the majority of civics classes teach students how to protest in favor of progressive political causes. Students are not free to disagree.
In their bracing and deeply researched book Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late, authors Mary Hasson and Theresa Farnan make a compelling case that, while education achievement markers have been declining, America’s public schools have been extraordinarily successful in “churning out youthful progressives.”
Christian families have particular reason for concern. Thirty years of research by the Nehemiah Institute shows that Christian children who attend public schools tend to lose their Christian worldview at a far greater rate than children in other education settings. The 2015 survey found that 90 percent of public-schooled Christian teens who attended church had abandoned their Christian worldview to embrace a secularist worldview.
Even before the coronavirus threat, parents were beginning to learn how morally toxic their public schools were becoming. Sex ed today is not what you remember. Increasingly, schools teach an agenda-driven curriculum that sexualizes children and promotes the concept of “sexual rights” for children. How to consent to sex, how to pleasure your partner, how to get a secret abortion.
Powerful, international pressure groups are getting in on the sex-ed racket. The Human Rights Campaign, the global leader in pushing transgender ideology, writes sex-ed lessons for public schools. As does Planned Parenthood. As does the scandal-plagued Southern Poverty Law Center.
Why? The industry leader, SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.), just rebranded its motto as “Sex Ed for Social Change.” Sex Ed is an “opportunity to shift the culture” on “LGBTQ equality” and a “vehicle” for creating a “generation of young people who affirm each other’s identities.”
Families were beginning to rethink public schooling even before the pandemic when schools started imposing radical gender-bending ideology on their children. The anti-science position that biological sex is meaningless, that some people are born in the wrong bodies, that girls can have penises, too. The growing number of children, mostly girls, who have been persuaded to believe they are trapped in the wrong body is an unmitigated medical and social scandal.
Parents should let their school know, in writing, every year, that they do not consent to their child’s participation in inappropriate sex-related lessons or activities. But the risk remains, and so do all of the other failures, which screen-delivered public school can only exacerbate.
There is no better time to make a change than right now, when public education is in chaos. Parent resource groups are forming to help families make an exit strategy and find the best education option for their children. Today, there are more options than ever.
Homeschooling continues to be a growing trend in America, where families have the freedom to hand-select every class for their child, advancing or slowing progress to meet the child’s individual needs (the antidote to boredom and frustration).
“Hybrid homeschooling” is a new option, where children are homeschooled part of the week and learn in a more traditional school setting with other students for the rest.
The most exciting new parent solution is the “pandemic pod,” a return to where families in one neighborhood or social circle hire a teacher to instruct their small group of children. It has been called a “2020 version of the one-room schoolhouse, privately funded.”
Finally, every church should start a school. Family Research Council scholar Joseph Backholm argues that the education and formation of Christian children has been outsourced for so many decades that it should surprise no one when Christian children abandon their faith and family values. If neighbors can start education pods, churches can and must start small Christian schools to meet the most important need for families: saving the souls of their children.
The last piece of the puzzle to set families truly free to make the best education decisions for their children is for states to set free public-education funds. Most counties fund public schools through collection of property taxes. The Fairfax County School Board receives $14,000 per student, per year. Imagine the possibilities if the primary educators of children — their parents — were given the freedom to spend that money to acquire the best education for their child. Or to provide it themselves, by a parent who can now afford to stay home.
Let’s rethink, not rotely reopen. If there ever was a time when parent power could defeat the power and monopoly of the education elites, that time is now. Let freedom ring!
Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow and Director of Human Dignity at Family Research Council.