Written with Jeff Johnston
The beginning of the school year is an exciting time! Gathering up new school supplies, meeting your children’s teachers, touring a new elementary, middle or high school—these are important milestones to mark the end of summer.
At the same time, this can be a season of stress and anxiety for many parents. You’ve been paying attention to the news, so you wonder, What are my children actually learning in public school? In history class, are they learning about American exceptionalism or about “America the terrible”? Will my kindergartner be taught that there are a multitude of genders—and that a girl might really be a boy inside? Will my high schooler learn about how capitalism and freedom have lifted countless people from poverty—or that socialism and communism serve the greater good?
Indoctrination Starts Young
Biased history, political indoctrination and sexualization of children begin in elementary school in many school districts. Katherine Kersten, a writer and attorney in Minnesota, reported that in 2013, the Edina School District changed its stated goals from the pursuit of academic excellence to a quest for “equity and cultural competence.” Kersten reports that math and reading scores have dropped significantly as a result of this shift.
Kersten writes that the principal of Edina’s Highlands Elementary School has used the school’s blog to promote an alphabet book called A Is for Activist. The publisher describes the book as an ABC board book “for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for.” The book includes such lines as “C is for . . . Creative Counter to Corporate vultures” and “T is for Trans. . . . Trust in the True. That he, she, they, that is you.”
Across the nation, there’s been a movement to require teaching “the roles and contributions” of LGBT-identified individuals throughout middle school social studies classes. So eighth graders in California are now introduced to Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Revolutionary War soldier, who some historians suggest engaged in homosexual relationships with young men.
At the high school level, many students studying American history are forced to read Thomas A. Bailey’s book The American Pageant, originally published in 1956. The book has sold millions of copies, and the College Board lists it as a text that meets the requirements of Advanced Placement U.S. History courses. Yet over at The Education and Research Institute, historian Burt Folsom writes that The American Pageant has misled students “into thinking that the United States is fundamentally corrupt, and that the world is often worse off because America exists.”
The book is now in its 17th edition, but later versions have not addressed the author’s central prejudice. Folsom says, “As a strongly biased textbook, [The American Pageant] has distorted American history for three generations of students.”
Tough Choices for Parents
Such situations are increasingly the reality for many families throughout the country. As a parent, you may be faced with making some tough choices about your child’s education.
One response might be to pull your child from public school. Charter schools, online learning,
magnet schools, educational vouchers and Education Savings Plans have given parents more freedom and choices than ever.
Once considered a fringe option, home schooling has become more popular as well as more economically, racially and ethnically diverse. Today, more than 2.5 million students are home-schooled in the U.S. Forty states now have charter school programs, with some states offering services to home-school families through their charter school systems. Communities across the nation have home-school cooperatives, where families work together to provide educational opportunities for their children.
The truth, however, is that these alternatives aren’t feasible for all families. But there are ways that parents can protect their children from inaccurate and inappropriate materials in public schools.
First, find out what your children are being taught. Review their textbooks and homework assignments, and connect with their teachers and school administrators. It’s no secret that most parents are already busy and burdened, but who else will make your children’s education a priority?
In addition to safeguarding your children, parental engagement produces a number of benefits: Research shows that children with involved parents are more likely to earn higher grades, graduate, go on to college and have stronger social skills. These kids even have better relationships with their parents.
A second way to protect your kids is to connect with other concerned parents. This begins at the local level, with like-minded parents from your children’s school. Then, if inappropriate materials are introduced, you won’t be alone when you approach a teacher with questions.
You can also connect with other parents at the state level. Thanks to biased teaching of history and government, and because sexualized materials are introduced as early as elementary school, concerned parents in many states are banding together. Some of these groups have websites; some have a presence on Facebook.
Focus on the Family is also affiliated with more than 40 different state-based Family Policy Councils. These groups are often aware of what’s happening in education at both the state and local levels. They advocate for parents’ rights in education and work to protect children. Many have already formed alliances with groups of concerned parents.
Present Your Case Calmly
Finally, if you discover that your children are encountering objectionable material at school, be sure to follow the procedures outlined in handbooks or on the school’s website. Be careful to follow the chain of command, starting first with the teacher or appropriate educator in charge of the program you are concerned about. Then, if necessary, request a meeting with the principal. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, keep moving up the chain to superintendents and school boards.
When discussing concerns with teachers and administrators, it’s a good idea to bring another parent with you. This provides you with a witness—not to mention moral support. Keep detailed notes of meetings with teachers and school officials, and retain a copy of all email correspondence.
Most important, always present your case in a caring, respectful
and factual way. Try to remain calm, regardless of the response you receive. If your style or tone is abrasive, the points you are trying to communicate might not be heard. Avoid using highly charged, emotionally loaded words to make your case. Whenever feasible, bring documented examples of the materials that concern you. And don’t simply complain. Be prepared to offer positive solutions and suggestions.
Focus on the Family has helpful resources for parents who want to become more deeply involved in their children’s education. We’ve created a webpage with links to articles, free resources, books and referrals. Find it at
Originally published in the Aug/Sep 2020 issue of the Focus on the Family Magazine