Fix Public Schools? Nah.

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For a stroll down the public school memory lane, Mary Rice Hasson and Theresa Farnan offer this pleasant throwback:

“If you’re like most Americans, you attended public schools. You emerged with a strong connection to the community, received a good education, and made lifelong friends who shared your values and faith.”

But those Happy Days are no longer here. “Times have changed,” Hasson and Farnan write in their recent book, which contains a litany of problems with public schools.

Hasson and Farnan do not offer recommendations for the public school system. They say it’s too late for that. In fact, their final chapter is titled “You Cannot Fix These Problems (Not in Your Child’s ‘School Lifetime,’ Anyway).”

Their book offers only one solution for parents of public school children, a solution planted not-so-subtly in the book’s title:  Get Out Now (Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late).

Hasson and Farnan both have advanced degrees from the University of Notre Dame; Hasson in law, Farnan a doctorate in philosophy. Both are frequent commentators on culture, family, and education.

There is no doubting the decline of public education, something pointed out recently in this space, in a criticism of the National Education Association.

Hassan and Farnan dump on the NEA but also point out that problems are much deeper than one misguided union.

In their book, the authors:

  • Highlight the dominant and dictatorial agenda of gender identity and sexuality
  • Spotlight the absence of faith and solid values
  • Note the change in social studies, with a decline in actually teaching U.S. history
  • Warn parents that they have little say in their child’s public school education

“Time after time, through regulation and litigation these … well-funded, radical advocacy groups … have imposed their agendas on local public schools and silenced parent opposition,” the authors say.

Many good people work in public schools. A criticism of the system seems to be a criticism of them, but the authors offer this disclaimer:

“We do not criticize or disparage public school employees who are dedicated and passionate about helping children … The question, however, is not whether to work in public education but whether to put your kids in public schools.”

The authors refer to the “the gender crusade” as “the game changer” in school culture. Several examples are presented, beginning with the case of a (public) charter school in Minnesota, Nova Classical Academy, that was sued by the parents of a kindergarten boy who identified as “gender-nonconforming.”

The school had offered to conduct conversations through the school to talk about gender identity – including the reading of a children’s book, My Princess Boy. But the parents were upset that families could have their children opt out of the conversations.

The result of the lawsuit was that the family received $120,000 (even though the boy no longer attended the school). The settlement also featured substantial changes to the school’s gender-inclusion policies, including “access to sleeping, changing, restroom, and showering arrangements that align with the student’s gender identity.” Students could choose their own pronouns and school uniform (regardless of gender). And there would be no more “opting out” by students (or their families) who disagreed.

And that was just one example of many, according to the authors.

“School districts in nearly every part of the country have adopted inclusion policies like the one imposed on Nova Classical Academy. These policies, which bake gender ideology into the school experience of every child and demand conformity from the entire community, point to a new normal in our neighborhood schools – the transgender normal.”

What if parents have a child who is gender-confused, but they don’t buy into the trans agenda? Jay Check wrote about his situation in USA Today:  “My then 14-year-old daughter became convinced that she was my son. In my attempt to help her, her public school undermined me every step of the way.” The girl came out as transgender in school. Teachers and staff immediately called her by her new name, along with male pronouns, and allowed use of gender-neutral bathrooms. The parents were not informed. When they eventually found out and requested the staff refer to their daughter as a she, they were ignored.

In a growing number of public schools, the curriculum covers gender identity education for all ages, including use of the gender unicorn to explain that biology can be ignored.

One result, according to the authors, is that “researchers have identified ‘sudden-onset’ gender dysphoria, in which clusters of teens, usually girls, who previously showed no evidence of gender confusion, diagnose themselves as transgender …”

That correlates with a new book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People, in which varied professionals and experts demonstrate the “invention” of transgenderism, how it harms young people, and “how adults should intervene to protect them.”

Could you find such adults in public schools, who would be allowed to intervene?

Along with gender is the idea of sexuality, and who teaches what to students. The book mentions one “reproductive health program” conducted by Planned Parenthood. New Boston Post readers know all about Planned Parenthood’s efforts in Massachusetts, which included instructions on various sex techniques – for seventh graders.

In its chapter on “losing religion,” the book notes that schools cannot sponsor prayer, but they’ve also become institutions where faith and God are completely excluded. If faith is brought up, it’s often in a negative or cynical sense. The authors:

“Public education today purposely inculcates secularism, irreligion, and practical atheism … [schools foster] a premature sense of autonomy and self-direction, detached not only from parents and family but also from God or any other source of objective moral truth.”

The title of the chapter on civics says a lot:  “Cultivating Activists, Not Americans.” The authors cite re-directed U.S. history classes, which offer more criticism than history. Students are ignorant of their country. According to the book, only 18 percent of American eighth graders “performed at or above the Proficient level in U.S. History” in 2017.

Learning is not just a problem for history. The Proficient level for reading and math was reached by only one-third of eighth graders.

The options aside from public schooling are varied, each with its own challenges.  Private and parochial schools have their benefits – depending on the school – but also tuitions. That’s a challenge that school choice policies would help; especially benefitting the poor. But teacher unions are against school choice, and union-backed legislatures defeat policies that could help parents (and their children).

Homeschooling – which can include homeschool co-ops and online schools – is on the rise. (For the record, my children have been both homeschooled and instructed in Catholic schools, and I currently teach in a Catholic school.)

It cannot be said enough that there are able and committed teachers in public schools.

But the public schools themselves … these are not your grandparents’ classrooms. I’ll leave the authors the final word:

“Public education in America is a sinking ship. Whatever you think about the idea of state-run schools, the system is, for the time being, corrupted beyond repair. It is a monopoly run by a ring of teachers’ unions and ideologues intent on denying parents not only the freedom to choose the school where their children spend 35 hours a week but also the right to be informed about the values and beliefs in which those schools are indoctrinating their children … Our best option is to shake up the system by pulling our children out, forcing it to change or become irrelevant.”


Kevin Thomas is a teacher and writer, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.