Because they’ve dominated higher education — academia being characterized by its role in giving professors time to sit around in deep thought and strategy — and because they’ve managed to siphon public funds away from government’s basic functions in order to fund activists, progressives have become adept at injecting certain issues with a toxic payload of assumptions. Thus, they sell Americans on tolerance and infect the country with a malignant intolerance that erodes our basic right to determine the government under which we live and shape our society.
A new document from Rhode Island’s Dept. of Education titled “Guidance for Rhode Island Schools on Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” is an excellent case study. Start with the reported assurance that the new rules are not “a mandate.” To the contrary, the guidance document itself proclaims that the department “is committed to ensuring safe and supportive learning environments for all Rhode Island youth” and that “it is imperative that the school system, along with family and education professionals, be supportive role models and strong advocates for the safety and well-being of children.”
Anybody at all familiar with the way progressive government actually functions knows that such “guidance” is only voluntary until some school within its reach declines to follow it. At that point, government officials will acknowledge that the non-mandatory guidance is, indeed, required, whether the enforcement mechanism turns out to be a cataclysmic reduction of funding, a removal of accreditation, or some other administrative punishment. Thus are seemingly reasonable statements of “we’re only offering guidance” or the broader “suggestions for planning” again and again proven to be the first pressure of an inexorable shove.
But that’s merely a procedural point. The deeper infection is buried within the 13 pages of explanation. Consider this on page 9:
Some students may feel uncomfortable with a transgender student using the same sex-segregated restroom, locker room or changing facility. This discomfort is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student. School administrators and counseling staff should work with students to foster understanding of gender identity and to create a school culture that respects and values all students. Schools could consider gender-neutral restrooms and/or gender-neutral changing facility in the design of new schools and school renovations.
Note, first of all, the use of the term “segregated,” as if this is some arbitrary rule we impose on children for spaces in which they disrobe. A less-loaded word, like “assigned” or “designated,” wouldn’t evoke the loaded image of racial segregation that is central to activists’ rhetoric.
More important, though, is the context. If we take its authors at their word, three paragraphs earlier, the “guidance” is entirely intended to ensure that “all students” can “comfortably and fully engage in their school program and activities.” But the solution for students who aren’t comfortable with the new bathroom rules isn’t to accommodate them; it’s to bring in administrators and counselors to re-educate the uncomfortable student, so that he or she understands that being valued is contingent upon agreeing with the progressive worldview.
This “guidance” (at both levels) is perfectly in keeping with the objectionable insistence that this is an issue that cannot be trusted to local school districts to resolve according not only to their own values, but also to the unique circumstances of their students. Considering actual flesh-and-blood students involved in such a situation, it might be a simple matter to accommodate both a transgender student and one who isn’t comfortable with the new private-area regime. The Dept. of Education doesn’t mention that possibility, because its instructions aren’t actually about “all students” being “comfortable.” They’re about imposing a worldview.
The department even goes so far as to suggest that eliminating “sex segregated restrooms” should be a goal for all new and renovated schools. The re-education will not be complete, it seems, until students are comfortable sharing restrooms and changing facilities with anybody.
If the plan is for students to be re-educated, one might wonder about the involvement of parents. Here’s where the department’s guidance truly becomes objectionable. Although, the document states on page 6, parents will usually be the ones to tell the school about an elementary student’s “transition”:
… it is not unusual for a student’s desire to transition to first surface at school. If school staff believes that a gender identity or gender expression issue is presenting itself and creating difficulty for the child in school, approaching parent(s)/guardian(s) about the issue is appropriate at the elementary level. Together, the family and school can identify appropriate steps to support the student.
School employees, in other words, are tasked with watching for signs that a student might have “a gender identity or gender expression issue” and approaching the parents with the observation. Then, the guidance puts the school staff and parents on equal footing. They’ll work “together” to be “supportive.” What happens if the parents’ view of what is in their child’s best interest differs from that of the government?
One might think that the insinuation of that question is too suspicious… until moving on to the section about secondary school. Again, the guidance notes that parents will generally already be aware of the gender issues of their children:
In some cases, however, notifying the family carries risks for the student, such as being kicked out of the home. School staff should work closely with the student to assess the degree to which, if any, the family will be involved in the process and must consider the health, well-being, and safety of the transitioning student.
So, for children as young, presumably, as 14, the school may actively conspire with the student in hiding from his or her parents an issue that is supposedly central to their child’s very being. In the next paragraph, the “family” is reduced to inclusion only as a parenthetical note, and the school is tasked with discussing “a timeline for the transition in order to create the conditions to provide a safe and supportive environment at the school.”
That is, through its schools, the government is not only seeking to accommodate the challenges of students’ personal lives to the extent necessary to accomplish the primary objective of educating them, but to become actively involved in transforming children’s beliefs and identities — perhaps including irreversible changes to their very bodies.
The especially chilling realization that this “guidance” should produce is this: If such a principle of government schools applies to the rare and complicated issue of gender identity, the premise must already be assumed for all students on every issue. In the progressive view, government schools aren’t just given their powerful role in our children’s lives in order to ensure an adequately (or at least minimally) educated citizenry, but to shape them according to a progressive worldview defined by state and federal “guidance.”