Kindergarten is a German word that literally means “children’s garden.” Last week, California decided that their children’s gardens in public schools would include instruction on gender identity. The mind reels.
It would be a mild understatement to say this is controversial. Religious conservatives fought this, as one might expect. But one doesn’t have to be a religious conservative to wonder if this isn’t a misplaced policy that says more about adults’ ideology than children’s needs.
The California guidelines are quite clear about what is to be taught and why. Page 45 of the K-3 guidelines states: “While students may not fully understand the concepts of gender expression and identity, some children in kindergarten and even younger have identified as transgender or understand they have a gender identity that is different from their sex assigned at birth.” The idea that 5-year-old children, can be trusted to “know” their gender identity is unbelievable; 4 year olds still exhibit firm beliefs in magic.
While elements of the guidelines are worthy efforts to reduce sex role stereotyping, the clear emphasis is teaching children about gender identity. Page 46 of the guidelines states “Members of the community who defy traditional stereotypes (e.g., women firefighters, male nurses, and stay-at-home fathers/guardians/caretakers) could be invited as guest speakers to share about their jobs and to serve as role models and myth busters. Be sure to include individuals of all genders, including people who are transgender.”
It makes sense to tell children that daddy can be a nurse and mommy can be a lawyer. But for some reason, I doubt they’ll understand that daddy can fall anywhere on an ever-expanding gender-identity spectrum.
Nor can parents choose to remove their children from this indoctrination. While parents can opt their children out of lessons on sexual health that involve discussions of sexual organs and their functions, they are forbidden from removing their children from any discussion of gender identity. Thus, if a school chooses to assign the sole book recommended by the guidelines for kindergarten reading, “My Princess Boy,” parents have no recourse.
Creating these curricula is a major priority for transgender-rights advocates, and they have succeeded elsewhere in pushing their cause. The Liberal government in the Canadian province of Ontario introduced gender-identity curriculum for young children. Opponents there were horrified that the gender-identity theory was being taught to children as young as 8. Apparently, California believes 8 is too late.
Outcry over this initiative helped fuel the victory of Progressive Conservative Doug Ford in last year’s elections. The outcry was not just limited to Evangelicals and Catholics. As the BBC noted, “Many new Canadians of Middle Eastern and Asian descent also found the curriculum objectionable.” This was surely part of the reason why Ford’s party won every seat in majority-minority Mississauga and a majority of seats in immigrant-dominated Scarborough.
The Ford government’s proposed replacement for the old curriculum strikes the right balance between the need for tolerance of transgender individuals and age-appropriate instruction. In the proposed curriculum, gender identity is introduced in grade eight. While this has been attacked by the left and the right, this seems right to me. Twelve- and 13-year-old children are much more mentally mature than 5-year-olds, and they also are dealing with sexual impulses and attraction. Talking about sex and gender when children can understand what is at stake is a much better idea.
Californians are often proud to be leading the resistance to President Trump. Let’s hope they decide to replace these guidelines and stop resisting common sense.
Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.