Salvo 09.29.2022 10 minutes

Kids Must Cry


Government schools have become day camps for indoctrinating a woke cadre.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a coveted blue ribbon of excellence to Rota Elementary School, which serves children of military service members abroad in Spain. The DOE singled out Rota’s commitment to “families and educators work[ing] together in partnership.” But the “partnership” between teachers and parents that the DOE praises has a weird twist, as it appears to be rooted in keeping parents in the dark about classroom activities.

According to Rota teacher Genevieve Chavez, elementary school is the “ideal time” to introduce children to gender identity ideology because “kids as young as four years old are already starting to develop a stable understanding of their gender identity.” And once they hit middle school, according to Chavez, Rota will keep students’ alternative gender identities secret from their “unsafe” parents. So much for “families and educators work[ing] together in partnership.”

Chavez’s comments were part of the Department of Defense Education Activity’s (DoDEA) 2021 “Equity and Access Summit” video, which was the basis for Claremont’s recent report “Grooming Future Revolutionaries: Woke Indoctrination at K-12 Schools on America’s Military Bases.” The report covered how schools serving children of service members are peddling critical race theory, white-shaming, queer theory, and leftist activism to children. After the report was published, the videos were hidden from public view. But one aspect of DoDEA’s “Equity” agenda deserves further emphasis: the bizarre cruelty of the pedagogical practices that estrange children from their parents.

One practice highlighted in the conference was the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Let’s Talk!” toolkit, which encourages “critical conversations” that promote “intersectionality” and discuss “the ways that injustice affects our lives and society.” The “Let’s Talk!” toolkit prepares teachers for the inevitable moment when this exercise makes their students break down and cry. Normal pedagogical practice in America post-Dewey tends to avoid lesson plans that predictably result in tears.

But not under an “Equity” framework. Just as military bootcamps promise to break down recruits’ individuality to rebuild them as members of a corps, “Equity” pedagogy will decompose a student’s worldview to impose a new one. The Equity and Access Summit suggests that students and teachers can swear an oath to their new god. “My name is ____,” the program proposes, “and I have been impacted by systemic discrimination in society, and am committed to a lifelong journey of dismantling my own bias(es). I strive to thrive in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion every day!”

For the teachers at the summit, a key tool to re-orienting students’ souls to embrace DEI ideology was Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). In an exercise aptly called “crossing the line,” teacher Michelle Nipper explained that SEL can provide opportunities for “vulnerability” and “trust-building.” Students line up on one side of the room and take a step forward when the teacher prompt applies. The prompts range from silly to invasively serious, from “You like Fruity Pebbles,” to “You know someone who was thought about or attempted suicide,” and “You know someone affected by alcoholism.” Nipper also suggests asking students daily SEL questions, ranging from “What’s your favorite winter activity?” to “What does it mean to have a crush?” and, most importantly, “What is something your parents don’t know about you?”

One presenter emphasized the importance of gathering copious data for “Social and Emotional Wellness,” including daily “wellness check-ins” that would be stored and monitored over time to “see trends” in the emotional states of children and classrooms; another eagerly awaits the day that schools could use a brain-imaging device to see “objective data” from inside students’ minds. Data collected on students would be stored in perpetuity; parental consent to this brave new world was not addressed as an important concern.

Nor are families necessarily to be informed that some teachers are working to redefine the family itself. As one teacher, Ashley Kelley, put it “We don’t want to make them feel like family has this very nuclear, traditional sense … we wanted them to understand that family doesn’t mean we share blood, family means we share love.” And when “love” can be redefined in political terms to mean anything, then “family” is up for grabs.

We cannot say on the basis of these videos alone how widespread this ideological mania is within schools serving the children of American military service members. But DoDEA’s schools clearly contain a radical core of teachers who are operating with the blessing of its top brass. In 2021, DoDEA leadership announced a new DEI division, stating “we must not simply celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion, it must be actively pursued for all our students and employees. It must be a foundational premise in every aspect of our organization.”

When Republicans retake either house of Congress, a top priority should be to haul DoDEA’s leaders in front of committees, take them to task for the politicization of education, and pass a bill providing federal funding for children to opt out of DoDEA schools. But there is a broader lesson here for all American parents. More and more public schools are prioritizing “equity,” an ill-defined word that can provide space and support for the radicalization of education. School leaders must eschew this buzzword, and parents must be on guard against it, lest it transform schools from institutions that work in loco parentis—in the place of parents—into institutions that work against them.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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