Jesus frequently advised his followers that they should become “like little children.”
What was it about kids the Lord saw as exemplary?
That they can be formed. And of course, Jesus’ mission was all about forming — or reforming — people’s lives.
Children are formed by the adults around them, by watching what we do, and by hearing what we say. Therefore, we grownups must be careful how we behave and how we speak in their presence.
We have an obligation to form children properly — and that includes all of us: parents, grandparents, relatives, and family friends, even neighbors down the block. Anyone who comes into contact with kids can have an influence on their lives.
This is true within the Church, as well. We all share, to some degree, in the formation of those young souls in our parish community. By how we conduct ourselves, by how we live as Christians, we’re providing models for the children observing us. In a very real and immediate way, we’re evangelizing them.
A critical source of influence over kids’ lives is school. Children spend a huge chunk of their waking hours under the direct instruction and active example of teachers. And that’s as it should be, to the extent that a teacher’s job is to convey knowledge and develop the ability of students to think.
An unexpected benefit of the pandemic lockdowns has been the insight parents have gained into their kids’ learning experiences by observing the online lessons and discussions conducted via Zoom while schools were closed. Some of those insights have been shocking.
A particular area of concern is sexual morality. Under the guise of health education, kids are being inundated with books, curriculum materials, and writing assignments that encourage wide exploration of erotic ideas and experiences.
One book I examined myself is titled “It’s Perfectly Normal.” I assure you, it’s not perfectly normal.
This illustrated volume — part of a series called “The Family Library” — is endorsed by Planned Parenthood and written by a former member of PP’s advisory board. It introduces kids to sexual intercourse, masturbation, homosexuality, and other delicate topics, all presented in a cheerful, upbeat way designed to engage children from ten years of age (it has found its way into classes of pupils younger than that).
“It’s Perfectly Normal” is only one of a whole library of dubious sex-focused teaching resources that often provide the basis for classroom dialogues and writing projects in which kids are directed to reveal their innermost thoughts and sexual yearnings.
These days, particular attention is paid to gender identity. Boys and girls who question their level of comfort with the sex into which they were born are frequently encouraged to try living as the opposite sex, even to consider hormone therapy and so-called “sex-reassignment” surgery. This classroom “affirmation” is playing a significant role in the current wave of “transgenderism.”
Zoom has revealed other areas of educational preoccupation besides sex. One of the most problematic is race. Critical race theory (CRT) has become a major factor in how relations between ethnic groups is addressed in schools these days.
The prevailing view in many districts — one often specifically endorsed by school boards and administrators — is that slavery, discrimination, and other injustices perpetrated on minorities throughout our history aren’t aberrations which society has worked hard to rectify. Rather, as CRT maintains, they are essential features of America’s social, legal, and political structures.
Additionally, racism and prejudice aren’t so much personal sins or moral failings as inherent and irredeemable features of ethnic groups. These feelings are most visible among white people, since they have all the power in society.
No amount of personal moral effort or spiritual conversion can eliminate them. The most whites can do is to recognize this unalterable flaw, acknowledge their “privileges,” and devote themselves to becoming “allies” of oppressed “people of color.”
Such ideas have been buttressed by the infamous “1619 Project,” writings in The New York Times that proposed slavery as the bedrock principle of the American Founding. Lead author Nikole Hannah-Jones asserted that our nation should be dated not from the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but from the arrival of the first group of imported African slaves in 1619.
It’s a mound of historical drivel and distortion that’s been widely criticized by historians. But it advances certain leftist political agendas, and so has been embraced in schools where “progressive” influence is strong.
After their Zoom awakenings, parents are voicing their objections to what’s been going on in the nation’s classrooms — often loudly and passionately — to school boards. In the age of camera phones, quite a few of these dramatic confrontations have found their way onto Facebook, YouTube, Rumble, Gab, and other online video outlets.
These displays of parental engagement are sparking other such demonstrations. A movement is rapidly growing and gaining strength, as outraged mothers and fathers are communicating with each other around the country. It’s a very positive and encouraging trend, one that can, and should be, promoted in the nation’s churches.
The ability of children to be formed is an invaluable characteristic, but it has its risks. We owe our kids their healthy childhood and their proper formation. That’s our duty. And we have to let the nation’s educators know we take it seriously.
As Jesus also said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”
A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Rev. Michael P. Orsi currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals. His TV show episodes can be viewed online here.