These days, the media often mention schoolteachers and college professors as helping students to “transition,” or promoting “sex-ed” to young kids, while misguided private companies pay for LGBTQ school books. These strange impositions on kids and their families are intrusions from a hostile world in which the National School Boards Association even called parents “domestic terrorists.” These excesses ought to bring home to parents and their children – indeed to all of us – the hostile environment in which families and religious believers find themselves.
This hostility is not just a clash of opinions, rather it is part of the long battle by a fair number of teachers to become surrogate parents. They are not – and were never meant to be such. For one thing, teachers do not have the training, no matter how much “education” they have, to step into parental roles. By no stretch of the imagination can they replace the essential functions of families. As Vatican II explained: “Graced with the dignity and office of fatherhood and motherhood, parents will energetically acquit themselves of a duty which devolves primarily on them, namely education and especially religious education.” (Gaudium et Spes 48) This responsibility pertains to actual, faithful parents and not to some strangers.
As outsiders to the intimate world of the family, teachers usually cannot even offer what they ought to, which is to be “men and women who are intent on teaching by word and example – intent on helping to permeate the whole educational milieu with the spirit of Christ.” (John Paul II) Just because people are teachers does not mean that they can take it on themselves to “improve” on what Christ has offered. No one does.
It is actually a sign of a poor education – and consequently a poor preparation for teaching – if men and women going into a noble profession do not know what Christ teaches and why. Catholicism is not an option among many ideologies that are imagined to be equally valid. Catholics ought to stop being embarrassed at the priority of Christ, especially in a blatantly pagan culture.
At least teachers can offer their students an acquaintance with the best of history, art, and culture, measured against the truth of Christ. This is what kids ought to be learning. That is what teachers are being paid to teach.
Teachers are not qualified to handle complex things like transitioning, Critical Race Theory, or any of the ideologies for which, apparently, there now is unlimited time in schools. We must not lose sight of the fact that American students rank 25th in education in the world. The United States is 7th in literacy, 27th in math, and 22nd in science. Clearly, this indicates some major flaws in the education process. These subjects are the indisputable core of education. And if they aren’t being properly taught it’s doubtful anything else is being taught well.
But back to the real family, not the surrogate family that some teachers think they can provide. The real family involves being “penetrated with the spirit of Christ, which suffuses their whole lives with faith, hope and charity.” (GS 48) To be sure, this is not something that will come from ideologically “woke” teachers.
In addition, the relations and values that constitute a family are crucial for “the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family.” Evidently, importing ideologies into family relationships or having teachers tell kids not to tell their parents what they are learning (even doing) at school, has eternal consequences.
The family with faith enters into a psychological and spiritual development that is both rich and multifaceted. The Vatican Council explained that “they increasingly advance the perfection of their own personalities, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God.”
The interpersonal relationships in the family start early on with “parents leading the way by example and family prayer, children and indeed everyone gathered around the family hearth will find a readier path to human maturity, salvation and holiness.” These are the ultimate values for everyone who wants to build and to participate in a healthy society. A society that has not only a present existence but a future.
There is simply no way that these relationships are going to result from having teachers who are failing in their long-established duties, or who are importing ideologies that they barely understand. The accomplished educator Jordan Peterson says that you have to know at least five times the material that you actually present to students to teach well. Just how much do the ideological teachers and professors know about the mythologies that they are passing on. Do they know their origins and their fallacies?
In fact, do they even know their own classroom subjects in detail, together with their histories – the traditional subjects that the teachers and professors are paid to teach?
Far from being “victims” of their parents’ biases, children actually have a role in their spiritual development: “As living members of the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents holy. For they will respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, with love and trust.”
How far astray have we gotten that many today want to interfere with these qualities, so vital not only to families but to society at large?
*Image: The Severe Teacher by Jan Steen, 1668 [private collection]