New York Times Building

Reading, Writing, and Gender Bending

Crossposted at Chapman's News & Ideas

The New York Times is concerned about censorship in American schools. “Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S.” reads Sunday’s headline.

“Parents, activists, school board officials and lawmakers around the country are challenging books at a pace not seen in decades,” the story reports.

The story generally focuses on parents, but methinks the uptick in outrage has more to do with the books than the parents.

Books in the crosshairs, the Times reports, include “Sex Is a Funny Word,” described on Barnes & Noble’s website as “an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers.”

I get that my profession loves to portray parents who oppose approved textbooks as unsophisticated and wrong-headed, but I see parents who recall a period in their childhood when they were clueless about sex — and want the same timeout for their 8-year-olds.

Forget what you learned in biology. Go with Facebook and its 56 gender categories in addition to male and female.

The book oddly omits mention of menstruation — a one-time staple of sex education. But then, if a child with a penis can be a girl, as the reader is told repeatedly, mentioning menstruation might be considered a painful reminder of biological norms.

Oh, and there’s a section on “justice.”

“Sex Is a Funny Word” takes off on family and friends who ask expectant moms and new parents about their baby’s gender. Zai asks, “Why do you think people want to know if a baby is a boy or a girl?”

If the goal is to expand the number of children who experience gender confusion, good job.

I get there are children who feel at odds with their gender, that some may grow up and choose to identify outside their biological gender, and that educators want all students to feel that they belong. But there has to be a better way.

Earth to The New York Times: It’s not the parents who have changed. It’s the public school system.

Debra J. Saunders

Fellow, Chapman Center for Citizenship Leadership
A fellow with Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership, Debra J. Saunders worked for more than thirty years covering politics on the ground and in Washington, as well as American culture, the news media, the criminal justice system, and dubious trends in public schools and prestigious universities. Her column is nationally syndicated with Creators Syndicate.