Let us suppose the Maryland State Department of Education has decided it needs to educate students about the health risks associated with having an abortion. It feels it is important children learn early that having an abortion not only ends the life of a child, it also poses significant potential risks to the physical and emotional well-being of those having the procedure. The state believes all students need to learn there are alternatives to having an abortion.
Therefore, after much consideration, the state has decided all students, preschool to 12th grade, will be provided, in “an age-appropriate manner,” instruction about abortion that the government believes will be helpful should students ever find themselves in a situation where they or someone they know is contemplating having an abortion.
Hard to imagine in Maryland, right?
What about in a state like Mississippi? Can you imagine the Mississippi State Department of Education mandating a curricular framework along the lines I’ve described above?
If it did, would you think Mississippi exceeded its authority in doing so?
No doubt, many of you would argue that abortion is a private matter, and the State of Mississippi has no business telling children what they should think about something for which there is such a wide range of opinions. That sort of thing is better left to individual parents and their children, whose values may differ significantly from those espoused by the state.
Back in October, the Maryland State Board of Education approved a mandatory health curricular framework that includes guidelines for instruction on such topics as sexual orientation and gender identity. The guidelines mandate these issues be taught “in an age-appropriate manner” to children from preschool through 12th grade.
According to the Carroll County Times, “the framework states that first-graders will ‘identify a range of ways people identify and express gender.’”
No doubt, many of you would argue that opinions concerning gender identity are a private matter and the State of Maryland has no business telling children what they should think about something for which there is such a wide range of opinions. That sort of thing is better left to individual parents and their children whose values may differ significantly from those espoused by the state.
Actually, I believe the government exceeds its authority in both cases, but unfortunately, most people only tend to care about the government abusing its power when they disagree with what the government is trying to accomplish.
For example, if you are pro-life, you’re only too happy to look the other way if the State of Mississippi abuses its authority by forcing its views concerning abortion on school children.
Likewise, if you happen to agree with the State of Maryland’s position concerning gender identity and expression, you tend not to care it is abusing its authority by requiring first-graders to learn about the different ways people identify and express gender.
Both issues are controversial. There is little consensus about either. Both issues deal with matters of conscience, and are steeped in the religious convictions of millions.
For some reason, however, Maryland feels compelled to do something to combat that diversity of thought, which it apparently sees as a problem needing to be fixed. I imagine the target audience MSDE views as most important is the children of parents who are learning something different at home from what the state is planning to teach them in school.
In other words, the State of Maryland has taken it upon itself to decide for parents what children should know and believe. What parents may be teaching their children at home is irrelevant.
There is a time and a place for these debates. There are venues where discussing issues like abortion and gender identity is appropriate. Even explicit instruction designed to change people’s minds concerning these issues is appropriate in some settings, but not in public schools.
Public schools should not be centers for social engineering. They should not be used as an instrument of the state to impose its values on children. It is not the state’s role to decide these matters for parents.
Unfortunately, “I’m OK with the government abusing its authority so long as I agree with what it’s doing,” is an attitude all too common these days.
There are no longer any overarching principals bigger than our immediate desires. Don’t like a Supreme Court decision? Then destroy the court by adding partisan judges who will do your bidding. The Senate won’t do what you want? Just change the rules by which it’s run. The ends justify the means, even if that means destroying the integrity of the very institutions that have guaranteed our liberties since our founding.
The government using its power to make sure children grow up to be adults who believe what the government wants them to believe sounds more like North Korea than the United States to me.
Left or right, it is simply wrong for the government to build support for any position by forcing its views on our most impressionable citizens — our children.
Chris Roemer is a retired banker and educator who resides in Finksburg. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org