OP-ED: Radicalizing Young Children in Public School is Wrong

Self-Empowerment is the Best Goal

Forcing young minds to think in a radical manner that is politically divisive is wrong.  Young minds need self-empowerment goals and techniques. We must teach how to think, not what to think or believe. This is especially important if you don’t know who you are or where you want to be because then other people can deter you from your unique goals.

If this sounds a lot like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, I agree:

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

Young minds are particularly vulnerable to the directives of significant others if they are parents, grandparents, school administrators, or whoever has taken on the role of creating the direction of life for you.

I was lucky. I was always left the freedom to believe what I chose, as long as no one was harmed. My dad was Assistant Attorney General for the State of New York for over 20 years. His boss: Louis Lefkowitz, who, according to my dad was an amazing jurist for whom he had the highest regard. The building in downtown Manhattan, 80 Centre Street, is named “Louis Lefkowitz” above the door. (I always used to say hi when I used the law library there or visited a Judge’s Courtroom).

One of my family’s closest friends (and my dad’s best man at his wedding) as I grew up was David Peck, a stellar jurist as well, who was appointed Presiding Justice of the First Department, Appellate Division, in 1947. When appointed, he was 44 years old, the youngest judge to serve as presiding justice of the First Department. Scott Peck, his son, wrote one of my favorite books “The Road Less Traveled“. I learned that life is full of unique human beings, all fascinating because they knew who they were. I could always tell when someone didn’t know where they were coming from or who they were. They will not get where they want to be …. see the Lewis Carroll quote, above. It’s called self-empowerment, and anyone can do that and be that.

In my opinion, the militant “Restorative Justice” stuff is wrong. Yes, black lives matter, and so do white lives, Asian lives, Hispanic lives, etc. Humans matter – and it isn’t important what race, religion, gender, or any other sub-category every human subscribes to during their lifetime, as long as they respect differences and do not deliberately harm a person or animal and respect.

That is why I believe no person or group should decide for one individual who or what to believe. Every person should make that decision for him or herself. Certainly, public schools should not teach radicalism but guide children in critical thinking and creativity. Not conclusions. Kids need to write their own stories and discover who they are. Children should be taught how to socialize, have empathy, be kind, and value every human being as another individual, a unique and equal soul, traveling on the same road through life as we – you – are. Everyone is equal in being human. I didn’t teach my kids empathy, but I told them often what I believed, and they had the right to reject my spirituality and love, or not. They did not reject it, but I certainly did not force anything on them.

Then, when they were 2,5,7, and 9 years of age, I brought them in as volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House for kids with cancer, where I was a volunteer helping to run the program. Empathy and love for all humans happened.

But life happens, and school is mandatory. In school, we should learn how to read, do complex math problems, and enjoy the many adventures of scientific research and history. And we need to teach kids how to write and express themselves through art and music. Two of my children started singing opera professionally at Lincoln Center, aged 5 and 9. They wanted to sing, so I allowed them to use their talents on a big stage by getting them both auditions. After that, they were on their own. I spent more than 11 years getting them out of school early so we could get to Lincoln Center on time for rehearsals and performances because that’s what they wanted. I planned my time according to their schedules, to support them.

Notice in my background above I didn’t say anything about race. That’s because I never heard the word “race” in my apartment while growing up. My dad and the various politicians and television/Broadway stars who came to dinner (my mom was a Broadway angel and trustee of the Neighborhood Playhouse) talked politics, rights, due process, and the law. It’s in my bones. My mom was the daughter of German Jews, my dad’s family were Christians from France, and I grew up attending a Presbyterian Church every Sunday, where my mom ran the music program as a volunteer for 49 years. I moved to Cairo, Egypt, for 5 years, etc., etc. See my article on Synchronicity. That’s me. Who are you?

Do you know?

Do not let others decide for you.

Betsy Combier

BLM movement’s social justice politics and ‘queer, trans-affirming’ lessons delivered to kids as young as 5 in NYC school

By Aneeta BholeSusan Edelman and Emily Crane

A New York City elementary school is giving kids as young as 5 a woke Black Lives Matter coloring book that focuses on “queer and transgender affirming” lessons, revolutionary politics and demands to “fund counselors not cops” to teach them about Black History Month.

Students at PS 321 in Brooklyn’s Park Slope — which teaches children from kindergarten through fifth grade — were handed the “What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principles Activity Book” coloring book last week as part of a Black History Month lesson.

The book, which is based on the 13 “guiding principles” of the national Black Lives Matter at School curriculum, was reportedly assigned as coursework for the young kids. It includes dedicated pages with headlines like “transgender affirming” and “queer affirming.”

“When a person is born, their grown-ups generally decide whether to call them a girl or a boy. Sometimes that decision doesn’t match who the person really is, and that person is transgender,” a description on the trans page reads.

The book also lists off a slew of the BLM’s national demands and ways children can support the movement — including a push to “have counsellors in schools instead of police.” “use restorative justice” and “teach black history and ethnic studies.”

Some parents, however, insisted the coloring book didn’t actually teach their kids about black history and instead presented controversial ideas “as fact.”

“It’s not necessarily true. It’s not like every black person believes in these principles,” the mom of a fourth grader told The Free Press, which first reported on the woke coloring book Thursday.

She added the book doesn’t go “into enough detail and there is no mention of specific people. It just feels very vague.”

Other parents expressed outrage over the movement’s guiding principles, which are splashed across the website for Black Lives Matter at School, the Seattle-based group behind the coloring book. The woke org offers resources for schools across the country, including for “early childhood” lessons.

Under the “Transgender Affirming” section of the Black Lives Matter at School site, for example, the group spells out that “we are self-reflexive and consistently do the work required to dismantle cisgender privilege.”

Some parents at the school also took issue with a section titled Empathy and its use of the word “comrades” — with some interpreting it as a political term and push to promote communist propaganda.

“Using the word comrades comes from communist times,” the mom of the fourth grader, whose grandparents fled China for the US, told The Free Press. “They are using words that I don’t think are appropriate for elementary school.”

PS 321, with 1,217 students, has a reputation as one of the best elementary schools in the city. It also has one of the highest portions of white kids — 67%. Only 3% of students are black, city records show.

While parents acknowledged that some of the lessons from the coloring book — and wider BLM curriculum — appeared harmless, such as the importance of forgiveness, they argued that others were rooted in revolutionary politics.

The “Black Villages” principle, for example, describes disrupting “the narrow Western prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” And the “Intergenerational” section calls for a “communal network free from ageism and adultism.”

Robert Pondiscio, a teaching expert and senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, weighed in on the backlash, saying he wasn’t convinced the book was an attempt to indoctrinate kids.

“But the poor judgment and lack of common sense among educators in selecting material is sometimes jaw-dropping and inexcusable,” the ex-Big Apple teacher wrote on X.

Meanwhile, Phil Wong, a parent and former president of Community Education Council 24 in Queens, ripped the racial justice element associated with the coloring book.

“If schools really want to teach racial justice, then the materials should be about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglas or Harriet Tubman. Recent movements have erased these names from history classes,” Wong told The Post.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many PS 321 students were given the coloring book last week. One mom said she only learned of its existence when students were sent home for remote learning due to a winter storm last week.

Park Slope parents seemed in short supply in the neighborhood on Thursday, with schools closed for midwinter break. The kids who were out and about were mostly accompanied by nannies.

PS 321 on Thursday refused to comment on the distribution of the BLM coloring book until school resumes.

The city’s Department of Education confirmed the existence of the book, but declined to answer questions about whether officials knew of its dissemination – or if it was being taught in any other Big Apple public schools.

Instead, a DOE spokesperson only said: “Anytime parents have a concern about resources used in school, we encourage them to share their concerns to the school principal or district superintendent.”

Additional reporting by Georgett Roberts

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