Educational Imperialism

Activism in U.S. Public Schooling Has a Long History

As if there were any doubt, it is becoming more apparent that many public-school systems in America are fully on the gender identity bandwagon.

Take Wisconsin as a particularly glaring example. The Daily Wire reported recently on a February 25, 2022 professional training for staff at Eau Claire Area School District.

During the training, teachers were instructed that their job was to keep their students safe, which included hiding students’ gender identities from the prying, malicious eyes of the people who brought them into the world.

“Parents are not entitled to know their kids’ identities,” read a slide from the presentation. “That knowledge must be earned.” This slide and others rightly provoked outrage, but the school stuck to its guns. A statement by Superintendent Michael Johnson read, “The Eau Claire Area School District has a responsibility to maintain an educational environment that is equitable, safe and inclusive of all students.” School Board President Tim Nordin told a local news station, “It’s a parent’s responsibility to help their student become the best person that they can be, to live their true self, but when those students don’t feel safe at home, where are they supposed to go?”

A Nationwide Trend

The view that parents are the enemy—the Luddites determined to smash their children’s true selves, Bibles in hand—is hardly singular to Wisconsin.

In August of this year, an organization called Parents Defending Education filed a federal lawsuit against Iowa’s Linn-Mar Community School District. The lawsuit argues that the school’s policy of hiding students’ sexual and gender identities from parents violates both the First and Fourteenth Amendments. A press release states:

LMCSD’s “parental exclusion policy” asserts that the district will not disclose a student’s “transgender status” to parents unless that student specifically authorizes it, and that “any student in seventh grade or older will have priority of their support plan over their parent/guardian” – which means that in practice, these gender-identity decisions will be made solely by the student and school administrators.

Technically, what the school district has done may also be a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). One of the requirements of FERPA is that parents have the right to “[i]nspect and review the student’s education requirements.” To bypass this clause, the Linn-Mar Community School District keeps gender support plans in a separate, “temporary” file, accessible only to staff members to whom the student has given consent. This, Parents Defending Freedom’s president asserts, directly contradicts over 100 years of American jurisprudence upholding parents as the first and foremost authority over their minor children. 

Other school districts across the U.S. are also complicit in deliberately hiding students’ gender identities from parents. The Fairfax County Public Schools (Virginia) has issued a 31-page “Gender-Expansive and Transgender Students Guidance Document.” On page eight, we find that “if a student has not shared information with the parents, the school shall not disclose

confidential information related to the student’s transition with the parents or guardians.” Similarly, the Montgomery County Public Schools (Maryland), has issued a document that states, “staff will support the development of a student-led plan that works toward inclusion of the family, if possible, taking safety concerns into consideration, as well as student privacy, and recognizing that providing support for a student is critical, even when the family is nonsupportive.”

But Why?

Why do schools, which require signed permission from parents before going on field trips, administering Tylenol, or even applying sunscreen, feel it is their moral obligation to hide a child’s gender transition from the parents?

The answer to that question goes back to the very founding of American public education—with Horace Mann in in the 1830s. Mann was a lawyer who became involved in politics and  eventually became Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Mann was an ardent advocate of “common schools”—free, government-supported schools where all children could learn the attributes necessary to uphold a free society. He firmly believed in the ability of man to change society. He believed mankind was basically good, and it was only miseducation (punishments and rewards, for example) that encouraged him to be evil. Education, therefore, was also useful in creating new little Americans, in an era when concerns about immigration ran high.

Mann’s common schools were the beginning of secular education. Mann believed “our Public Schools are not Theological Seminaries,” but were “debarred by law from inculcating the peculiar and distinctive doctrines of any one religious denomination amongst us . . . or all that is essential to religion or to salvation.” He nonetheless reassured the public that the schools taught basic Christian morality. The Bible and Christianity were useful, Mann thought, in promoting civic virtue. In a society that was predominantly still Christian and where public life still upheld basic Christian standards of behavior, education remained more or less Christian. But over time, of course, the watered-down Unitarian Christianity of that period became the all-out multiplurality of our current education system, with its emphasis on “living my truth.”

Education as Salvation?

In his book The Messianic Character of Education, American philosopher Rousas Rushdoony wrote:

The common schools were thus the cure-all for sin and crime. Education meant moral reformation, moral virtue, knowledge cured sin. . . . Methods were more important than subject matter, because the person, not the subject matter, was paramount.

Education, not Christianity, was to be the “savior” of the young American republic. The citizenry could be educated to create a productive, peaceful, well-functioning society. Rushdoony continued,

The messianic character of education has not changed; it has only expanded its scope, and, accordingly, its claims to support, financial and intellectual. Sex education, counselling, psychological testing, psychiatric aid, all these things are added in the abiding conviction that knowledge is not only power but moral virtue. Given these things and more, it is asserted the new society will be created. Meanwhile, social disintegration grows more rapidly, for the doctrine of universal human rights ends in the mutual cancellation of rights in either social anarchy or the surrender of rights to the mass man, to the state.

Public education has always viewed itself as savior of the populace, but it is guided not by Biblical truth but rather by whatever ideology is currently trending. Right now, the trend is gender ideology, and the Eau Claire School District is simply adhering to the founding principles of public education by asserting that ideology as one part of promoting an accepting, tolerant, “free” society.


is the managing editor of The Natural Family, the quarterly publication of the International Organization for the Family.

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