Culture War or Cultural Appeasement?

Published December 2, 2021

WORLD Opinions

It is shocking but sadly not surprising to read Abigail Shrier’s report on the clandestine efforts being made by middle school teachers in California to recruit students to LGBTQ+ clubs. Given the logic of contemporary identity politics, it makes perfect sense. If we humans are defined at a fundamental level by the direction of our sexual desires or by the gender we feel we are, rather than the sex our body “imposes” upon us, then educators have a vested interest in helping students realize their identities. That is what modern education is all about: the facilitation of the process of self-realization. Of course, previous generations might have looked askance at adult teachers surveilling childrens’ online activity (and let’s use the word ‘children’ rather than the superficially adult term ‘student’) and then using that as a basis for clandestine meetings with the children to talk about sexual desires. But that era is long passed. Yesterday’s creepy voyeurism has apparently become today’s best educational practice.

Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that the teachers developed ways of disingenuously being able to plead ignorance about whether a child had attended such a group. Think about that. According to the underlying philosophy of identity with which the school is operating, the children’s identities are bound up with their sexual desires or gender feelings. That is a large part, the most important part, of who they really are. But the school does not consider itself to be under any obligation to tell the parents about any of this. In other words, the school regards itself as having a greater right to know who the children really are than the parents. To put this another way, the school thinks it owns the children. That is an imaginative philosophical power-grab of remarkable and horrifying reach.

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Carl R. Trueman taught on the faculties of the Universities of Nottingham and Aberdeen before moving to the United States in 2001 to teach at Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. In 2017-18 he was the William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.  Since 2018, he has served as a professor at Grove City College. He is also a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a contributing editor at First Things. Trueman’s latest book is the bestselling The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. He is married with two adult children and is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Carl R. Trueman is a fellow in EPPC’s Evangelicals in Civic Life Program, where his work focuses on helping civic leaders and policy makers better understand the deep roots of our current cultural malaise. In addition to his scholarship on the intellectual foundations of expressive individualism and the sexual revolution, Trueman is also interested in the origins, rise, and current use of critical theory by progressives. He serves as a professor at Grove City College.

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