I’m going to take a week off from my Sticky Faith emails to bring awareness to and comment on a local issue. On the whole I am far more interested in what we are or ought to be doing here than what others are doing elsewhere. That being said, sometimes it helps to clarify our vision and our uniqueness by contrasting our philosophy and approach with a different philosophy and approach.
One of the difficulties of commenting on anything is that everything, including education, has become politicized. To make matters more challenging we are in a county where political prejudice is in the 100th percentile (i.e. out of one-hundred U.S. counties zero demonstrate more political prejudice than Dane County). In light of this, when I do comment on educational trends or approaches I will do my very best to do so in a non-political, non-partisan manner.
Many of you have properly heard about the Madison Metropolitan School District’s new gender policy that prohibits staff from informing parents if their child is identifying as another gender, transitioning to another gender, or rejecting gender altogether. The policy reads “School staff shall not disclose any information that may reveal a student’s gender identity to others, including parents or guardians and other school staff, unless legally required to do so or unless the student has authorized such disclosure.”
The policy applies to all students, so a Kindergartener or a 1st grade student could see a teacher transition (a teacher at an east-side elementary school is in the process of transitioning from Mr. to Mx. and has been very open and vocal with the students about it), have some questions about transitioning or decide they want to transition, talk to a teacher about it and begin to identify as another gender or a person beyond gender at school, and the staff at that school would be prohibited from talking to the parents about this, unless the child decides that his or her parents can be informed.
This approach is wrong for a number of reasons.
First, it gives way too much authority to children. As a society we don’t allow a twenty year old man to drink a beer or a seventeen year old to make a binding contract without his or her parent’s consent, yet it is somehow ok to allow a five year old boy to begin the process of transitioning genders by identifying as girl, changing his name from Victor to Veronica, and telling adults to call him she or xhe instead of he when addressing him, without seeking any input from parents, let alone notifying them? This is fairly insane.
Second, it gives the government too much authority. In this particular policy the state is determining what parents are allowed to know about their children. This is not a Biblical approach to the family. God has placed children under the authority of their parents and government ought to recognize the authority God has given to parents as a limit to its own authority.
Third, this policy was put into place without any openness, transparency, or accountability. This policy was not publicly debated and the school board did not vote to implement it. Instead, a shadowy, unelected, unaccountable arm of the bureaucracy adopted it.
In contrast, our approach differs in a number of ways.
First, while we believe even young children are made in God’s image and bear His likeness and are thereby clothed in the utmost dignity, they are not independent or autonomous. God has placed your children under your authority and we will not support any decision of your children that contradicts your desires.
Likewise, it is you, not us, that has the final say in the lives of your children. There are times where I or a classroom teacher may disagree with your approach as parents, but neither I nor they are going to substitute our judgment for yours. Your children are under your authority; our authority is limited and delegated.
Finally, when a choice is made here it is made under the authority of the board. If you dislike a choice made by me or another staff member you can petition the board to discipline or remove us. Hopefully we’ll be able to resolve disagreements in other ways, but at the end of the day there is openness in decision making and clear accountability here.
It is a huge sacrifice in time and resources to send your children here and at times it is easy to think that public education isn’t all that different. While I am not condemning public education or parents that send their children to public schools, the fact of the matter is there are a number of differences, significant differences, both in philosophy and approach, and it is helpful to keep those differences in mind when making decisions for our children.