Who Defines Culture?

The Phyllis Schlafly ReportVol. 40, No. 6 Dec. 2006

With all the public discussion about the values voters (whether they voted in the 2006 election or stayed home), the underlying question is, what is the role of government in defining our culture?

Do both red states and blue states look to government to set or guide our cultural direction, whether it is about marriage vs. the gay agenda, free speech vs. pornography, life vs. abortion/cloning/euthanasia, property rights vs. community development, or sovereignty/patriotism vs. globalism/open borders?

Do we believe in a very limited government that would allow all these issues to be thrashed out and decided by Big Media, special-interest groups, and 527s? Should we demand that our elected representatives pass laws to address these issues? Should we allow non-elected judges to make those policy decisions for us?

Government is the most powerful influence on our culture today because the federal government spends about two and a half trillion dollars a year, and every dollar carries the power to affect our culture and behavior - through laws, regulations, grants, entitlements, and tax credits. Supremacist judges have presumed to make dozens of major social and cultural policies.

But more influential in directing our culture - even more influential than the media - is the arm of government known as the public schools. The public schools are guiding the morals, attitudes, knowledge and decision-making of 89% of American children. The public schools are financed by $500 billion a year of our money, forcibly taken from us in federal, state and local taxes, which the public school establishment spends under a thin veneer of accountability to school board members elected in government-run elections.

Quo vadis? Whither are the public schools taking the next generation?

Prior to the 1960s, public schools and teachers clearly accepted their role in defining the culture of the youngsters under their supervision. The public schools, using a McGuffey-Reader-style curriculum, were the mechanism through which American kids learned not only the basics, but also values such as honesty and patriotism, and immigrant kids assimilated by learning our language, laws and customs.

For example, The American Citizens Handbook, published for teachers by the National Education Association in 1951, proclaimed: "It is important that people who are to live and work together shall have a common mind - a like heritage of purpose, religious ideals, love of country, beauty, and wisdom to guide and inspire them." This message was fortified in this Handbook by selections suitable for memorization, such as Old and New Testament passages, the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Golden Rule, the Boy Scout oath, and patriotic songs.

My, how public schools and teachers unions have changed since 1951!

The turning point in public schools came in the 1960s with the vast influence of the Humanist John Dewey and his Columbia Teachers College acolytes, who argued against objective truth, authoritative notions of good and evil, religion and tradition. Sidney Simon's 1972 book Values Clarification, which sold nearly a million copies, was widely used to teach students to "clarify" their values, i.e., cast off their parents' values and make their own moral (or immoral) choices.

Then the public schools welcomed the Kinsey-trained sexperts to change the sexual mores of our society from favoring sex-in-marriage to diversity. Concepts of right and wrong were banished, and children were taught about varieties of sex without reference to what is moral, good, or even legal.

Meanwhile, elementary and secondary school curricula suffered a vast dumbing down. Phonics and traditional arithmetic were censored out. Students were allowed to graduate without learning to read or calculate. While tolerating massive illiteracy, the public schools are now powerfully impacting our culture by inculcating the values of situation ethics, diversity, and the easy acceptance of sex outside of marriage. American history and literature courses now teach the doctrines of U.S. guilt and multiculturalism instead of the greatness of our heroes and successes.

By the 1980s, the public schools were rejecting the Meyer-Pierce doctrine that parents have the fundamental right to control the upbringing of their own children. The Meyer-Pierce doctrine is described in two U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the 1920s, which we thought was settled law.1

By the 1990s, public schools had adopted the attitude best described by Hillary Clinton: the "village" (i.e., the government) should raise the child. Public schools, backed by anti-parent resolutions adopted by the National Education Association at its annual conventions, have become fortresses in which the administrators exercise near-absolute power to determine the students' values, morals, attitudes and hopes, while parents are kept outside the barricades.

Using activist judges to shore up their monopoly power, the schools persuaded the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court to rule in 20052 that a public school can teach students "whatever information it wishes to provide, sexual or otherwise," and that parents' right to control the upbringing of their children "does not extend beyond the threshold of the school door." After heavy criticism in the U.S. House, the court tried to soften the "threshold" sentence but reaffirmed its decision.

The meaning of "whatever" is spelled out in anti-parent, pro-public-school decisions handed down in five circuits within the last two years. Federal courts upheld the right of public schools to indoctrinate students in Muslim religion and practices,3 to force students to watch a one-hour pro-homosexual video,4 to force students to attend a program advocating homosexual conduct that used minors in sexually suggestive skits,5 to censor any mention of Intelligent Design,6 to use classroom materials that parents consider pornography,7 to force students to answer nosy questionnaires with suggestive questions about sex, drugs and suicide,8 and to deny a divorced father's right to get his son's school records.9

This is not only a culture issue; it is a free speech issue. Public schools are censoring views that do not conform to the diversity/multiculturalism culture. The courts upheld the public schools in prohibiting an anti-gay T-shirt,10 but ordered a school to permit a very offensive anti-Bush T-shirt.11

The courts have upheld the constitutional right of any schoolchild to refuse to recite the Pledge of Allegiance,12 but neither school nor court offered any child or parent the right to opt out of any of the offensive programs listed above. It's not a question of whether, or if, government should or will define our culture. Government schools are every day defining the culture of the nation our children will live in, by inculcating the values of diversity, multiculturalism, American guilt, situation ethics, and easy acceptance of sex outside of marriage.

There is no proof that the American people have democratically chosen this definition of our culture. It is being done with the power of government employees spending the people's money. Since there is no prospect that either the public schools or taxes will be abolished any time soon, our task is to stop government institutions from directing our culture in ways the American people do not want to go.

Gay Ideology Censors Free Speech

Same-sex marriage is not the only goal of the gay rights movement. It's becoming clear that another goal is the suppression of Americans' First Amendment right to criticize the gay agenda.

The gay lobby tried a broadside attempt to censor criticism by passing a national "hate crimes" law. Fortunately, Congress didn't pass that law, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi will probably try again in the new Congress. Meanwhile, gay activists are trying to achieve much the same effect through political pressure and intimidation.

Scott Bloch, the head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in the Bush Administration, has been targeted for termination because he removed "sexual orientation" from the list of anti-discrimination laws protecting employment at federal agencies. Bloch discovered that his Clinton-appointed predecessor, Elaine Kaplan, had unilaterally inserted "sexual orientation" in the list without any statutory authorization, so he removed it. The gay lobby retaliated, instigating five investigations against Bloch. After all five cleared him of any wrongdoing, the response by the gay lobby was to initiate a sixth investigation.

There have actually been very few complaints against the Bush Administration about job discrimination against homosexuals. Bush appointed openly homosexual Mark Dybul as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator. When he was sworn in with the rank of ambassador, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised his "wonderful family" and referred to his partner's mother as Dybul's "mother-in-law."

Luis Padilla, an employee of a large corporation in Virginia, put this message on the rear window of his pickup truck: "Please, vote for marriage on Nov. 7." His bosses ordered him to remove it because some people said it offended them. Padilla then parked his truck on what he thought (apparently incorrectly) was outside of company property, but he was fired anyway. After a couple of state legislators took up his cause, the company reinstated him.

Robert J. Smith, who served (at a small salary) as Maryland's representative on the Washington Metro transit board, mentioned his religious views against homosexual conduct during an appearance on a cable television program. Although probably few saw the show, gay activists demanded that he be fired, and Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich complied.

Michael Campion, a psychologist with the Minneapolis Police Department, was suspended because of his past affiliation with a group critical of the gay lifestyle, despite reports of a good job performance.

If Americans don't resist such assaults on free speech, we may be headed down the Canadian road (where same-sex marriage is now legal). Dozens of Vancouver postal workers just refused to deliver mail they called "homophobic."

In Yale University's student newspaper, a columnist described that institution as "really, really gay. Like, totally gay." Yet, when one email expressed a dissenting view on Yale's gay pride day, gay activists demanded reprisals against the dissenter. The public schools are a major battleground in the gays' efforts to censor any criticism of their goals or lifestyle.

Every year, the National Education Association (NEA) passes resolutions not only demanding that schools not discriminate against sexual orientation, but also insisting that classroom language be monitored to punish "homophobia" and to "promote 'acceptance' and/or 'respect' instead of 'tolerance'" of the gay lifestyle.

Taking their demands for censorship into the courts, the gays have been winning. After the Poway High School near San Diego endorsed the gay project called "Day of Silence," the Ninth Circuit upheld the school in forbidding student Tyler Chase Harper to wear a T-shirt with the words "homosexuality is shameful, Romans 1:27."13 The dissenting judge pointed out the intolerance of those who claim they want tolerance for minority views. But Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who sided with the school, wrote that Tyler's defenders "still don't get the message." I get the message: for Judge Reinhardt, gay rights means intolerance for free speech.

Clinton apologists once defended his scandalous conduct by saying it was "only about sex." It's increasingly clear that the gay ideology is about far more than sex; it assaults our fundamental right to free speech.

Read More: Parents Are Right about Math Congressmen Need Constitution Tutorials http://www.eagleforum.org/psr/2006/dec06/psrdec06.html

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