Training up children in the way they should go

Towleroad reports on a Boston Globe editorial debunking a popular anti-gay lie: The claim that public schools are “indoctrinating” children.

From the editorial:

Voters should also know that Massachusetts is not, in fact, teaching children to read, write, and have same-sex marriages. In 2006, a teacher in Lexington did read second-graders a book about a prince who marries another prince. But it wasn’t a regular subject. … And the books had previously been made available for parents’ review. Not surprisingly, the scary ads omit these details.

The Lexington litigation was highly unusual, and the scores of other school districts in the state simply haven’t been convulsed with controversy about same-sex marriage. That’s not to say the issue never arises; children increasingly have peers whose parents are married to adults of the same sex, and they’re bound to ask questions. But it’s noteworthy that the one case of pro-gay indoctrination that marriage opponents regularly cite is more than half a decade old — and misleading to boot.

Misleading? There’s no way to be sure of that just yet. What we know is this: One teacher in Lexington, Mass., read children a story about a prince who marries another prince. But what about the long-term effects?

Mark Regnerus and Bradley Wilcox should conduct a longitudinal study of that second-grade class — now in eighth grade — to measure whether, as predicted by the scientists of the religious right, they do, indeed, all turn out to be gay because of this horrific misconduct.

I’m exaggerating, of course. The religious right isn’t really deathly afraid that these children will all turn gay because they once heard a nice story about a same-sex couple. The religious right is actually deathly afraid that having once heard such a story these children will grow up to be more tolerant of and kinder too same-sex couples.

And the prospect of such tolerance and kindness terrifies them.

* * * * * * * * *

These photos of smiling college students cheerfully recording their opposition to same-sex marriage and their support for Minnesota’s failed anti-equality ban makes me sad in two directions.

First there’s the top-level contempt for others being expressed there — the eagerness to see the law used to further marginalize the marginal, which is always just a generally mean thing to do.

But then there’s the harm being done to these kids, too. And yes, these are kids. They’ve been encouraged to do this, instructed to do this, and praised for doing this. But in not too many years, though — maybe 10 or 15, maybe less — they’ll regret it.

And then what? It may be part of a larger crisis of faith in which they turn their backs on everything they learned at their “Bible-based” alma mater — Jesus and the Bible along with the presumption of homophobia.

Or that crisis may force them to double down in order to preserve their identity and never have to regret being the smiling haters in these photos. That kind of white-knuckled clinging to the indefensible isn’t uncommon, but I’ve never met anyone it allowed to be happy.

(Oh, and note this is Northwestern College in Minnesota — a private evangelical school which is not at all the same thing as Northwestern University.)

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    That’s not to say the issue never arises; children increasingly have peers whose parents are married to adults of the same sex, and they’re bound to ask questions.

    I am fascinated by the language in that article.  “Children increasingly have peers whose parents are married to adults of the same sex, and they’re bound to ask questions.”

    Children’s peers are also children, yes?  So why didn’t the writer think to say, “Children increasingly have parents married to adults of the same sex, and they’re bound to ask questions.”  Of course children whose parents are adults of the same sex are bound to ask different questions from those with married opposite-sex parents, or those whose parents are not married, or those with single parents, or those whose parents are missing entirely.  I just think it’s interesting that the children with married same-sex parents get relegated to “peer” status here–instead of being children themselves, they get to be part of the alien peer group who undoubtedly exert peer pressure.

  • vsm

    Using a story about a prince to teach egalitarian ideas to children? What a paradoxical idea.

  • WalterC

     I think the target audiences here are the heterosexual parents of (assumed heterosexual) children, who are supposed to be concerned that their children might be negatively affected by knowing the child of two homosexual parents.

  • Hth

     Generally the children of same-sex couples don’t have that many questions.  It’s just how their household is.  In fact, what is most likely to raise questions for these kids is why talking about their families is troubling to peers and schools, but it’s funny how nobody ever seems to worry about how to answer *those* kids’ questions.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Well, to be fair, the rate at which peers-of-children-of-married-same-sex-couples grows is much higher than the rate at which children-of-married-same-sex-couples grows. So it is more true that children are increasingly in the first group than that they are increasingly in the second.

    This is in much the same sense that when I married my husband and we invited three hundred people to our wedding, the number of people married to members of the same sex went up by two, and the number of people invited to weddings of same-sex couples went up by… well, I don’t know exactly, but quite a bit more than two.

  • David Starner

    Notewise, I graduated from Northwestern (Oklahoma State University). It’s much nicer to just abbreviate it Northwestern.

  • readerofprey

    What interests me is the kid in the picture holding the sign that says “I’m voting yes because marriage is a spiritual covenant, not a secular issue,” which seems to imply that he should be against the government recognizing marriage AT ALL, not just recognizing homosexual marriage.  And yet, he’s not campaigning against secular marriage.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Just looking at some of those signs the college students held up… did they learn nothing in their civics classes about the separation of church and state?  Because if so, this represents a real failure of our education system.  

  • P J Evans

     It’s possible they don’t get civics in school any more.

  • Guest

     Fairy tales are often about princes and princesses, because at the time a lot of these stories were being repeated and passed on, princes and princesses made a useful metaphor for young people who haven’t come into the personal sovereignty of their adulthood yet.

    The hero/ine symbolically earns adulthood in these stories, through the metaphor of the prince/ss becoming a king or queen– someone who is responsible for taking care of others.

  • Jurgan

    I’m really curious about picture #10 in the college student article.  They don’t support gay marriage, but they do support giraffe-on-tiger relationships?  I’d very much like to know the story behind why they dressed that way.

  • Loki100

    Ten years from now this will be their secret shame. Just like voting for George Wallace is the Southern Baptist Convention’s secret shame.

  • Kadh2000

    From the comments on that webpage, they were Halloween costumes over which they wore the t-shirts.

  • Nick

    I can’t be the only one who sees picture #6 and thinks “closet case”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    That’s a little hard to buy. I think they just don’t value the rights of others. It’s a pretty common thing regardless of what you learn about the law.

  • Scrawl

    I feel like I grew up with some of these youth and their perspective. They are coming from very sheltered upbringings and do not fully understand what they are saying here. Not that it excuses their ignorance, but it does take some time to get away from that…especially if they continue to be surrounded by that atmosphere at their college.

  • Justme

    I think these “kids” are adults, albeit young ones, and able  to make up their own minds about how they feel about same sex marriage.  I don’t think, Fred, you can just pass the buck.  They’ve made the choice to get themselves photographed for the campaign.  Were they encouraged to do it?  Almost certainly.  Will they regret it 10, 15 years down the road?  Maybe some of them.   But if you hold that opposition to same-sex marriage is immoral, they’re not without moral culpability here.

  • Tricksterson

    Note, it’s an evangelical college, so no, probably not, at least not anything we would recognize as seperation of church and state

  • Scrawl

    Exactly. Preceded by private high schools, private junior high or middle schools, and private elementary schools. Also, most likely spending a good deal of time in church and youth group. It takes actually having other life experience to see anything wrong in that kind of indoctrination.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    Yeah, but heck, that sort of thing should be taught in high school American Government classes.  At least, I thought that was a basic course required to graduate high school in the U.S.  I know I had to take it, I assumed it was mandatory everywhere else.  

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    What, because he’s not conventionally attractive and looks “wispy”, he’s got to be gay?

    Come on. It’s one thing for people who doth protest too much (like George Rekers and his whole career built on being an “expert witness” to destroy families of same-sex partners) to be tagged as being a little too eager to proclaim their heterosexuality, and it’s another to make a snap judgement based on one picture.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    There is a sizeable contingent of people who, when pressed, beat the “government should get out of the ‘marriage business’ altogether” drum.  That marriage should be an entirely religious institution.

    Which raises several questions, including 1) are they really willing to give up the numerous public benefits they receive by being married and 2) how do they expect people like me, who have no religious affiliation at all, to marry?

  • Dan Audy

    I found the spread of gay marriage particularly useful in ending the squabbles between my daughter and her best friend over who got to be the princess and who was ‘forced’ to be the prince in their games.  Despite my encouraging them for several years that they could both be princesses and prevent me from having to mediate arguments, they insisted that it wasn’t realistic.  After their favourite ‘uncles’ got married when Canada (finally) got its act together and they both thought that was great, they decided that ‘Princess marry Princess’ was a much better game because they both got to be what they wanted and wear all the nicest dressup clothes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jrandyowens Randy Owens

    Or, of course, instead of private, homeschooling.  Not to disparage homeschooling in general, but the ones who might use Barton as a textbook.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    But if you hold that opposition to same-sex marriage is immoral, they’re not without moral culpability here.

    (nods) Sure. Can you clarify what in Fred’s post said otherwise?

  • Veylon

    In the first case, no, they generally haven’t realized that the public benefits do in fact come from the government and in the second don’t care. In some countries, the government only recognizes civil unions and leaves marriages as a private issue.

  • reynard61

    Mark Regnerus and Bradley Wilcox should conduct a longitudinal study of that second-grade class — now in eighth grade — to measure whether, as predicted by the scientists ignorant, whiny, pearl-clutchers of the religious right, they do, indeed, all turn out to be gay because of this horrific misconduct.

    Fixed that for ya!

  • Lori

    So, about the guy whose reason for voting “yes” is an arrow pointing at the young lady next to him, who I presume is his girlfriend/fiancee.

    Two possibilities come to mind.  The first is that he’s voting “yes” because that’s what she wants and their relationship dynamic is that what she wants, she gets. The second is that  it’s a really blatant form of “screw you, I got mine” from a guy who has no interesting in marrying another guy and therefore sees no reason why any other guy should be allowed to.

    Neither of those possibilities speaks particularly well of that young man.

  • Justme

     I’m saying that calling  them  “kids” and saying they’re being manipulated seems to imply that they don’t know what they’re doing or that it’s not their fault they feel the way they do.

  • Lori

     

    how do they expect people like me, who have no religious affiliation at all, to marry?   

    I suspect most of them don’t. I further suspect that many of them would be surprised at the idea that you would have any real desire to be able to. If you don’t think fornication will send you straight to the lake of fire for all eternity why would you want to get married?

  • Lori

     

    how do they expect people like me, who have no religious affiliation at all, to marry?   

    I suspect most of them don’t. I further suspect that many of them would be surprised at the idea that you would have any real desire to be able to. If you don’t think fornication will send you straight to the lake of fire for all eternity why would you want to get married?

  • The_insane_protagonist

    These pictures are so sad, especially for me because I was just like them at that age. They probably really don’t know any better. Some of them may very well come around to reality later in life and have to live with deep remorse over both their own attitudes and actions and the fact that their youth was stolen from them by their parents/churches/etc.

    That was my experience, anyway. I’m one of the lucky ones who escaped that twisted worldview, but as per Fred’s fears I didn’t escape with my religious faith intact.

    I mean, I’ve gained a lot of happiness and a new, better, sexier (and much queerer) self-identity, but it hurt a lot to lose something that was such a big part of who I had always been…

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     Ah. Well, OK; if that’s how it seems, that’s how it seems. Thanks for clarifying.

    For my own part, though, it doesn’t seem that way: they are kids, they are being manipulated, they do know what they’re doing, they have some moral culpability, and talking about whether the way they feel is their fault is so confused as to be equally misleading either way.

  • vsm

    I doubt that’s all there is to it. Why would the prince make a better metaphor for that than the farmboy or the young unmarried tailor, who also appear in such stories?

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    I think these “kids” are adults, albeit young ones,

    I work in a Walmart that’s about half a mile from a college with over 20,000 students.  I see students in this age group pretty much all day, every day.

    They’re kids.  Trust me.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    Oh, I know it.  I once asked a couple of people on another site what they thought I should do about this, and the consensus was that I should either not get married, or pick a Random House of Worship and get them to do it for me (the implication being that I would either lie about my religiosity, or that they would be open-hearted enough to marry a heathen, and if they were, I should just suck it up and be happy I got to compromise my principles).

  • Wednesday

    Speaking as someone who teaches this age group, I’d say: yes, they’re kids… but they’re kids who are frequently capable of behaving like adults, and in certain circumstances should be expected to do so. It’s a tricky balance to find.

    In this case, I think we should show them that we expect them to behave like adults
    (read: not making shitty arguments like “I want to amend the constitution to upgrade the ban on some marriages that my religion disapproves of in the name of freedom of religion!” and “pot should be legal because the Declaration of Independence says Pursuit of Happiness! Therefore I have a constitutional right to pot!”), but understand that sometimes they’ll still make those shitty arguments because they are still kids and therefore still learning, and part of the learning process requires a certain amount of making shitty arguments as you learn to make better ones. So we should show some amount of patience when we explain why those are shitty arguments.

    By contrast, full adults who make those same shitty arguments are not owed any patience. We can choose to give it to them, but it’s perfectly reasonable to give them none.

  • Wednesday

     And unlike the rest of you I can’t edit, but I want to mention also… there’s huge variation in the maturity of college kids, even if we consider only those in the traditional age range of 17-23. Some of them are full-fledged adults even as freshmen; some* are still kids at graduation.

    *Full disclosure, I was one of these.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

     One thing I’ve noticed is that people only started arguing that marriage should be abandoned by the state once gay people started wanting it.

    Funny that.

  • PandaRosa

    One thought on the prince-marries-prince book, is that I trust it’s well written. Children enjoy a good story, not polemics, no matter which side they come from. If the two princes have adventures, share ideas, and are friends, that’s often what children are drawn to and will remember, what stays with them, and the business of the princes  getting married will seem natural. If it’s set up like one of those “morality lessons” like in my old Sunday School readers the book will just gather dust, reducing We Must All Get Along to We Must All Wash Our Hands And Eat Our Peas just bores children.
    Puts me in mind of The Giving Tree.

  • Dash1

    @Loki100:disqus 

    Ten years from now this will be their secret shame.

    Not that secret, unfortunately for them. As someone who emerged from this kind of background, I’m grateful that at least a goodly bunch of the idiotic things I said and did to try to prove to my parents that I was really trying to be a good Christian aren’t readily accessible all over the internet.

    @Ruby_Tea:disqus 

    Random House of Worship

    Thus giving a whole new meaning to “publish the banns.”

  • Guest

     Of course that’s not all there is to it. For instance, princes and princesses are probably often heroes because royalty could be presumed to have a lot more freedom to do as they pleased, including gallivanting around on adventures.

    Still, while our current culture has made “princess” mostly about dressups and materialism and privilege, I think in the original fairy tales, the metaphor served other purposes besides venerating wealth. “Prince” and “princess” are symbols of potential. The main task of princes and princesses is to get ready to become something else. The inherent definition of a prince or a princess is that they are prepared to one day take charge of the task of caring for others.

    When a young tailor grows up and becomes a tailor there’s not much demarcation from adolescence to adulthood there. When someone becomes a king, he becomes responsible for other people, which is nicely symbolic of achieving adulthood. “Tailor” and “farmer” don’t really express adulthood metaphorically to the same degree. Even in quite a few stories that feature farmboys, tailors, shepherds, soldiers, and simpletons, they end up becoming kings, partly to show their boldness being rewarded, and partly to symbolize the fulfillment of adulthood.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea
  • Dash1

    Indeed! So, given how Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan ended up handling the event, we can hope at some point to see at least one of these young people showing us the picture of him/herself to illustrate the speech s/he is making in support of equal rights in one of the last holdout states: “If I can change, Alabama can change!”

    It will be sadder if the student has to explain to his/her gay child what s/he is doing in the old internet photo  trying with self-satisfied and toothy grin to limit that child’s rights.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     

    (the implication being that I would either lie about my religiosity, or
    that they would be open-hearted enough to marry a heathen, and if they
    were, I should just suck it up and be happy I got to compromise my
    principles).

    Don’t be silly. As a heathen, they felt safe in assuming you had no principles to compromise.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Yeah; I’ve noticed even early 20somethings can still act kind of teenager-y. Full maturity doesn’t seem to set in till around 25 or so. (and even then you get some statistical outliers…)

  • arcseconds

     I think this is the best solution, actually.   The Government could have some criteria for kinds of relationships it recognises, including formally entering in to a standard, Government-backed contract, the purpose of which is for boring but necessary Governmenty things like how to tax a partnership, what happens to any children in the case of dissolution of the contract, what happens to property in the case of death, and stuff like that. 

    As it’s an entirely bureaucratic affair, and not called ‘marriage’, it would be much clearer that all that’s at stake with opening these arrangements to non-traditional relationships is whether or not they get the civil benefits of the relationships these arrangements are currently extended to.  It cuts away the whole ‘attack on religion’ and ‘redefining marriage’ – the only question that’s left is, given that same-sex couples are going to be living together and raising children together anyway, do you want to make these boring bureaucratic matters difficult and annoying for same-sex couples?

    Put like that, it makes the objection to government recognition of same-sex partnerships quite petty, quite impotent, and quite mean-spirited.  

    It would also allow religions to focus on what’s really important to *them*, as their activities could be quite orthogonal to what the Government is up to.  Remember Fred’s anecdote about saying to his pastor when it looked like the marriage license wasn’t coming through on time  “let’s just do the marriage anyway, and leave the paperwork ’till later”, and how uncomfortable his pastor was with this?   I thought that an absurd situation.  Plus if that’s not a conflation of church and state, I don’t know what is.

    As for how you’re going to get married, easy.   It’s entirely up to you (and perhaps your culture) as to what counts as marriage.    Most of my non-religious friends have had ‘religion-lite’ weddings, largely to meet family expectations, but some have opted for marriage celebrants, but whatever works for you.  Make promises to your loved one in the privacy of your own home and then come out and announced that you’re married if you like.

    Or, less conventionally, if you want to you can marry your toaster in a ceremony presided over by a 10-year-old.    If people go and complain to the Government that you’re assaulting traditional marriage, then the Government just shrugs and says “we have no opinion on what counts as ‘marriage’, no more than we have on what counts as ‘proper religion’, ‘beautiful music’ or what ‘bodacious’ really means. “. 

    Anyone who’s really interested would have to take it up with you personally, which I think is OK, so long as there’s reasonable legal protection to stop them interfering in your life too much.   Also, I doubt many people will take your relationship with your toaster very seriously, but hey, if you do, you’ve successfully redefined ‘marriage’ for those people.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    I think this is the best solution, actually.

    While I have no problem with an approach like you describe, I’m reluctant to call it a “solution”, as that presupposes agreement as to what the problem is.

  • Lliira

    It may be part of a larger crisis of faith in which they turn their backs on everything they learned at their “Bible-based” alma mater — Jesus and the Bible along with the presumption of homophobia.

    Good.

    When someone is taught a whole bunch o’lies, any crack to get the truth in there is a good thing. And they’re being taught that Jesus and the Bible means you must hate and be ignorant, including about Jesus and the Bible. Half of them are being taught that they are lesser beings than the other half, and half of them are taught they may do whatever they wish to the other half so long as they properly own her first. Turning their back on “Jesus and the Bible” means turning toward freedom for themselves, as well as for other people they hate. And then there are the number of closeted people in that group — which is every single one, because not one of them has accepted and embraced their own sexuality, whether it be straight, lesbian, in-between, or none of the above.
     
    Whether they decide to be Christian or not afterwards, it does not matter one whit. What matters is that they free themselves, and in so doing, stop trying to cage the rest of us.

  • Lliira

     The brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. Doesn’t matter what your life is like, it’s a biological fact for all of us, though I’m sure it can be messed with by alcohol, health problems, alcohol, physical trauma, alcohol, drugs, and alcohol.* So, yes. Based on a combination of science, observation, and remembering what I and my friends used to be like, I call college kids “kids”.

    “Kid” doesn’t mean little kid, of course. 21-year olds are fully capable of taking responsibility for their choices. They also tend to be more quick-witted and flexible than those of us whose brains have formed. Though the brain continues to make new connections so long as you keep challenging it; it’s not like it’s growth till 25 and atrophy afterward, unless that’s what you choose.

    *Ages 17-24: everyone around me seems to enjoy getting totally wasted, and that seems to be the only thing they enjoy. They would rather get drunk than have sex. Ooh, there’s one guy in the room who isn’t drunk *glom*. Age 25: wait, now everyone’s focused on their careers and nothing else, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Age 30: Now they’re all getting married, to nice but very boring people. Age 35: STOP POSTING PICTURES OF YOUR BABY’S POOP ON FACEBOOK. I don’t know that we really get any more mature, actually. Maybe our obsessions just change.


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