The Briefing, Albert Mohler

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

It’s Tuesday, January 24th, 2023.

I’m Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Part I

Public Schools vs Parental Rights: Educators Assume Right to Affirm a Child’s Trans Identity and Hide it From Parents

When it comes to parental rights most Americans believe those rights to be secure. After all, who in the world would intervene in the relationship between parents and a child, unless there is some kind of sudden emergency. Or there is some declaration by a court or others that a parent is incompetent or worse in relationship with the child. Parental rights we need to note, acknowledge that the state comes after the pre political institution of the family. And at the center of the family is the mother and the father and the children who are under the care and under the authority and are the responsibility of those parents. The state must defer to the parents unless there is some compelling cause that would lead even in public review to some justified intervention by the state.

It should be rare and it must be justified. But then we need to note that modern America comes with new complications and it’s not just the United States, it’s the modern age itself. But modern societies include vast bureaucracies of vastly expanded government, and with the vast expansion of government’s reach comes the reach of the government into the family. What we’re witnessing in this particular moment is the fact that the state is becoming increasingly hostile to parents. We saw this as we discussed on The Briefing just a matter of days ago, the issue of whether or not school teachers have some kind of moral responsibility to keep information about the sexual and gender identity claims of the parents’ children from the parents themselves.

Conor Friedersdorf writing at the Atlantic asked the question in the most chilling way he asks, “Is defying parents the only ethical alternative?” Just imagine the way the question is asked. “Is defying parents the only ethical alternative?” In other words, the unquestioned right thing to do, defying parents how? Well in this case, Conor Friedersdorf was writing about a teacher’s association policy encouraging those teachers involved in early childhood education to defy parents’ wishes. And even to keep parents in deliberate ignorance when it came to such issues as gender identity, sexual identity, and even the use of personal pronouns in the classroom.

Now interestingly, as we saw, and I discussed this on the briefing for January the 12th, as we saw Conor Friedersdorf was actually boldly asking the question, if parents are always the problem. Or if at least they need to be involved or informed in the situation related to their own children. What we noted is that you had very liberal early childhood education authorities and associations saying, “No parents are the problem. Keep them in the dark.”

Well, at this point we need to recognize another dimension of the problem and that is the fact that when you’re talking about the public schools, you’re talking about government schools. And when you’re talking about government as represented in the public schools today, well, those public schools increasingly do not really respect parental rights. And furthermore, in many cases, they actually represent the worldview that was demonstrated in that series of policies that was covered by the Friedersdorf article in the Atlantic.

Those teachers associations, representing, by the way, the generally very leftward direction of the teachers unions and teachers associations, they very clearly were stating that there is an ethical imperative for agents of the government, particularly the teachers of young children. Extend that of course, even more importantly when you’re thinking about adolescents and teenagers, the argument is parents should be left in the dark. If there’s any chance whatsoever that they would not be enthusiastic champions of whatever sexual experimentation and gender identity their offspring may be contemplating.

Furthermore, you simply need to note that this means that the schools have been transformed into cheerleaders for the sexual revolution and indeed many of them are themselves sexual revolutionaries. Now, of course, I’m not talking about most of the teachers in the public schools. The problem is the teachers don’t run the schools. But even as we’re looking at this issue, we need to recognize that there is a growing number of teachers who actually do see themselves as intentional agents of the sexual and moral revolution.

Now, as we’re thinking about this, we just need to recognize a couple of things have happened that have transformed public education over the last several years. For one thing, you do have the power of teachers unions and that power is decidedly to the left. You also have the increasing power of government bureaucrats and in most states, and that’s a very dangerous thing when it comes to parents and their children.

You also have to face the fact that you have very liberal education schools in very progressive universities that are in so many ways setting the rhythm and establishing the future for the public schools in the United States. And then you have the Department of Education, a vast federal bureaucracy, even President Ronald Reagan elected in a landslide in 1980 promising to eliminate the Department of Education. By the time he left office, not only did the Department of Education continue to exist, it was even better funded, its tentacles even more thoroughly extended into local communities.

The beast of bureaucracy is not only incredibly difficult to kill, it is increasingly progressive and that’s just the way most government bureaucracies work. Very, very rarely do the bureaucracies exercise any kind of conservative influence on society, by the very fact that they represent progressivist understandings of government authority. Well, the worldview permeates the entire ethos of a modern government bureaucracy.

We also have to recognize that the ideologies behind so much of what is taught in the teachers colleges and then extended through the bureaucratic reach of state departments of education, the Federal Department of Education, and then of course turbocharged by the teachers unions and teacher associations. What you also have to recognize is that there is enormous progressivist political energy that is directed towards influencing the future of the public schools. As sometimes is actually almost openly expressed, and in some cases actually openly expressed, you drop off your children at the schools, we will deal with them as we see fit and we might even encourage them to consider another gender identity, and we will consider it our responsibility not to tell you the parents. Well, as I said, I discussed that particular issue as raised by the Conor Friedersdorf article in the Atlantic on The Briefing on January the 12th.

Now, we’re going to go to this issue again, it’s in a slightly different form, but the point is this really is an indication that this is a very widespread conversation among public educators. And furthermore, it is one that is directly subversive of parental authority. As you think about cultural analysis, one of the things you need to note is that when you see major media sources that have an influence in the society, particularly among the intellectual elites.

When you see a pattern of articles and commentaries and essays all directed toward the same issue, all of a sudden, well, you are not a conspiracy theorist to think something is going on. Indeed, you would be a fool to think that nothing is going on.

Part II

Whose Morality? Whose Authority? Educators Claim Moral Imperative to Undermine Parents on Gender Issues

So why are we talking about it today? It is because the issue landed on the front page of yesterday’s edition of The New York Times with the headline, “Parents and Schools Clash on Gender Identity,” so there you have it.

The front page of the most influential newspaper in the United States declares the same issue and makes it front page news. Katie J.M. Baker is the reporter on the story and it’s clear the New York Times has been working on this story for some time. It could not have been merely occasioned by the Atlantic piece that ran earlier this month. Baker and her associates interviewed a vast number of parents, educators, and others. And what is communicated to us by means of this front page news article is the fact that we are in even bigger trouble than you might have thought, just a matter of days ago when you already knew this was a problem. Baker begins the article by telling us about a mother of a 15-year-old Jessica Bradshaw is the name of the mother. And she, according to the Times, “found out that her 15-year-old identified as transgender at school after she glimpsed a homework assignment with an unfamiliar name scrolled at the top.”

So that’s just the opening sentence of the article, the lead, what it tells us is that this mother was alerted to the fact that something big was going on in the life of her 15-year-old when the name at the top of an assignment was not a name she recognized. Immediately thereafter, the article tells us that the mother asked the student about the situation and the student reported that at school the student presented as a male rather than as a female. Even with permission using the boys’ bathroom and also using male pronouns. The next sentences, “Mrs. Bradshaw was confused. Did the school need her permission or at least need to tell her?” A teacher at the school informed her that the answer to both of those questions was no. The school had no such responsibility.

The dispute between this mother and the school district according to the New York Times represents, “A dispute that illustrates how school districts which have long been a battleground in cultural conflicts over gender and sexuality are now facing wrenching new tensions over how to accommodate transgender children.” The closer this mother looked into the situation, the more troubled her child appeared to be and the more troubled this parent became. And in this case, the mother said that “she resented the fact that the school had made her feel like a bad person for wondering whether educators had put her teenager a minor on a path the school wasn’t qualified to oversee.” Shortly thereafter, the paper explained, “Although the number of young people who identify as transgender in the United States remains small, it has nearly doubled in recent years and schools have come under pressure to address the needs of those young people.”

Amid a polarized political environment where both sides warn that one wrong step could result in irreparable harm, it turns out that the school system involved here is one that is representative of many around the country that allows students to choose a personal pronoun and other gender identifiers at school, and the school enforces that choice of pronoun and identifier and there is no requirement whatsoever for parents to be involved or informed. Consider this section of the report, “Schools have pointed to research that shows that inclusive policies benefit all students, which is why some education experts advise schools to use students preferred names and pronouns. Educators have also said they feel bound by their own morality to affirm students gender identities, especially in cases where students don’t feel safe coming out at home.”

There is so much in that paragraph and all of it is bad. First of all, you have the statement about research and then the citation of some education experts. I just want to point out, intelligent Christians should recognize when you see that kind of language, it means absolutely nothing. It might mean something even worse than absolutely nothing. Much of the so-called research in so many of these areas is either carried out by very liberal sociology researchers or similar and they’re operating from a very progressivist worldview.

And furthermore, sometimes this kind of research is actually conducted, paid for and undertaken by activist organizations. You hear the word research until you look at it and evaluate for yourself the worth of the research. It’s absolutely worthless, and then the experts including education experts, well, you understand that the pool of education experts likely to be consulted in this case is an extremely limited pool. Limited to the left, make no mistake about that,

But then notice something else that was in just that very brief paragraph where some of these teachers said that they felt that they were driven by their own morality to affirm the gender claims and identities of these students. And furthermore, their own morality as teachers seems to be particularly important to them at the expense of parents who might hold to a very inferior morality. We just need to recognize that the very language, the words, the article that I’m citing here, all of this indicates that we are in huge trouble in this country.

And we also need to recognize that parents, and I include in this especially Christian parents, are often slow to understand that your own children, our children are being subjected to a vast social experiment driven by sexual and moral revolutionaries. And in many cases parents have no idea what is going on because there is a deliberate effort to keep this information from parents.

And parents are seen as the adversaries of the health and the progress of their students because they just might not be as affirming of LGBTQ identity as the morality of the teachers indicates that they should be. It’s all here in this article right in black and white print including a statement from a teacher who said, “Sometimes they, meaning students, need protection from their own parents.” Well, what kind of statement is that? Is there some kind of threat to these students on the part of their parents?

What is absolutely clear in this article is that the threat is that parents might not be sufficiently affirming of whatever sexual ideology or sexual or gender identity might be claimed by their children. But of course the way to avoid that is just to keep the parents in the dark because the parents after all are the enemy according to these educators. The teacher who made that statement, sometimes they, meaning students, need protection from their own parents, identifies as non-binary and also made the statement, “My job, which is a public service, is to protect kids.”

I think those are some of the most chilling words I have read in a very long time. You have an educator in the public school saying, “My job as a public service is to protect kids.” When the clear implication and only context here means protect kids from their own parents. This should be a threat incredibly clear to Christian parents who understand this is not just a matter of how the public schools are to be governed. It’s a matter of who actually has authority and primary responsibility over children. But furthermore, it’s also clear in this article that even some liberal parents see this as just a step too far. One mom said, “I’m dealing with my very extreme liberal values of individuality, freedom, expression, sexuality, wanting to support all this stuff.”

But the mother identified as tearful, also said, “At the same time, I’m afraid of medicalization. I’m afraid of long-term health. I’m afraid of the fact that my child might change their mind.” The mother whose comment began the article also has the opportunity to conclude it. She said, “The school is telling me that I have to jump on the bandwagon and be completely supportive. There is only so much and so far that I’m willing to go right now and I would hope that as a parent that would be my decision.”

Well, if anything, that statement appearing in this context appears to be rather pathetic because what is clear is that the schools do not respect her as the parent and they don’t respect parental authority. Anyone thinking otherwise is simply engaged in a massive deception of self. It’s a massive exercise of denial. The reality is here and furthermore, once again, it is not being hidden. What’s so amazing in this, this is not something that these educators refuse to talk about.

Even by identifying themselves, they were willing to come out and say, “Yes, I see myself as a public servant. I am an advocate for the LGBTQ revolution and I see parents as the problem. I take it as my public service mission in other words to separate children from their parents and to separate parents from even the knowledge of the pronouns or names by which their children are identified at school. I’ll be honest, I think if this kind of dynamic had been described to American parents when I was growing up, they would’ve assumed that this would make sense. It would make sense in the Soviet Union or North Korea or somewhere else behind the Iron Curtain where repressive, totalitarian government claimed total authority over all things including children.

But of course, we’re not talking about the USSR, we’re talking about the USA and I can only hope that parents and in particular Christian parents will finally awaken to what is going on. And so many Christian parents are living in an extended denial in which they say, “Well, that is not happening to my children and it’s not happening in our school.”

Well, it might not be happening to your child and it might not yet be happening in your school. Thanks be to God, but the reality is that the entire public educational establishment is moving in this direction. Here we’re talking about something even more fundamental than just a liberal ideology being demonstrated in the public schools. We are seeing government and in this case we’re talking about in the United States of America, government disregarding and violating what is pre political. And that is the family and the relationship between parents and children and the responsibility of parents to their children and the authority of parents over the lives of their children.

I hope at the very least Christian parents and for that matter, all Christians think about this. When you see your child off to the local public school, as you say, hug him or her when they pass through the schoolroom door, is he still him and is she still her?

Part III

Sign of the Times? Digital Platforms to Ban Gender-based Advertising for Teenagers

Next, I want to shift to something related that also just tells us a great deal of where the culture is headed. The Wall Street Journal in its technology section reported this. Here’s the headline, “Facebook, Instagram ban gender-based ads targeting teens.” Joseph De Avila is the reporter of this article, and just think about this for a moment. Now, we’re being told that these major social media platforms are prohibiting gender-based ads that are directed to teenagers. So teenage boys and teenage girls, well, there is no targeting them as boys and as girls, males and females simply disappear.

That very reality is simply so outdated. It is oppressive. It could be harmful to children to acknowledge that there are boys and there are girls. Now, of course, this is going to be hard to pull off. Let’s just state that obviously, because even as you are looking at the majority of American children, and in this case we’re talking about teenagers.

The vast, vast majority idea of them thanks be to God, are absolutely clear in the fact that they are a boy or a girl and we’re born that way and they are very glad to be that way. And they are not trying to buy consumer products and particularly to dress in ways that confuse the matter. The Wall Street Journal report tells us that Meta platforms “is removing gender as an option for advertisers to target teens on Facebook and Instagram.” It’s described as “part of a broader overhaul of its ad policy for young users.”

Now, let’s be clear, some of these changes are probably right, including blocking the ability of many advertisers to track young people online. But still the more insidious issue here is the denial of gender and the fact that make no mistake, sending a lot of advertising to teenagers is what America’s consumer culture has done for a very long time. Because teenagers, even though they represent a pretty big consumer market themselves, they also have an enormous influence on the rest of the market. Young people and in particular teenagers and young adults are one of the sectors of society that actually has an upscale influence over the remainder of the economy.

That’s for a couple of reasons, by the way. The first is, they have a lot of influence and there are a lot of companies trying to influence them. The second thing is this, businesses understand that a teenager today is an adult with cash tomorrow. It’s also clear by the way that there have been organized efforts undertaken quite publicly to bring pressure on retail stores, for example, to stop making distinctions between say, boys and girls toys. Now, I’ll just simply say in one sense, tongue in cheek, good luck with that. I don’t believe that’s going to be a very winning strategy and whether or not they are labeled boy and girl toys. At least when it comes to many of them and most children, the kids are actually going to know which are more identified with boys and which are more identified with girls.

The same thing, by the way, comes down to clothing and the effort is increasingly to just deny that there is a fixed identity as male and female, even when it comes to consumer advertising and the rest of the society. This is another place, by the way, were at least at this point, not only does biological reality show itself, but also you have the basic self-identity by common grace. That means that the vast majority of males understand quite clearly they’re male and the vast majority of females, and if anything, vast majority is an understatement, are absolutely comfortable with being known as female.

But the activists for non-binary LGBTQ identities and all the rest, and furthermore, just the exhaustion of a society that is now barraged, confronted by so many of these claims based upon ideological identities and sexual orientations and for that matter, gender claims. All of this is now coming with such an avalanche that you have shareholders and corporate executives, educators, politicians, and others who are, if anything on the left, afraid that they’re not going to be able to keep up.

Of course, on the right conservatives have to fear that what is actually happening, even if by fits and the starts, is that the ideologies of the revolutionaries are taking hold. They’re taking hold in advertising. They’re taking hold in online platforms. They’re taking hold in classrooms and in schools. They’re taking hold in the toy aisle.

And, of course, in many cases, they have absolutely taken over the bathrooms, which is a declaration, I say dear listener, I never actually expected to make on The Briefing. But in increasing cases, it’s simply true.

Thanks for listening to The Briefing.

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I’ll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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