In November 2022, a short sentence sparked an ideological debate. The National Educators Association tweeted, “Educators love their students and know better than anyone what they need to learn and to thrive.” A considerable amount of uproar on social media was generated over the tweet for several reasons. First, the phrase “educators love their students” fails to recognize that parents also love their children. Second, the phrase “know better than anyone” clearly asserts that a teacher’s role is more significant than that of the parent in the life of a child. Third, the last part of the sentence, “what they need to learn and to thrive,” insinuates that teachers are able to provide not only academic instruction but everything a child needs to succeed in life. Despite what some may believe, God has given parents the responsibility of raising the child. Schools partner with parents in a child’s development. As Glenn Schultz points out in his book Kingdom Education, “the school’s role must be established as providing support to the home” (emphasis mine).
Unfortunately, educational systems do not always recognize the parents’ primary role in educating their children. This has become increasingly evident as institutions create policies related to gender expression and identity. One such policy was passed on July 11, 2022, in the city of Philadelphia and applies to charter schools, recreation centers, daycares, after-school programs, and sports leagues that serve people under age 18. This policy, known as the “Uniform Policy Of Non-Discrimination As To Transgender And Gender Non-Conforming Youth,” covers many topics that are alarming to parents and educators who hold a biblical view of gender and sexuality. Some examples include: teachers and students being required to use a student’s elected pronouns and name; students having the right to use the bathroom, locker room, and sports team of their elected gender; and teachers having to use gender-neutral language “to the extent possible . . . regardless of a youth’s gender identity,” including the use of the singular “they” and “‘parent/legal guardian’ instead of ‘mother’ or ‘father’ and ‘child/youth’ instead of ‘girl’ or ‘boy.’” But what is even more alarming to me as a parent and an educator is what is written in the “Privacy/Confidentiality” section of the policy: “Institution personnel shall not disclose information that may reveal a youth’s transgender identity or gender nonconformity to others, including staff, peers, parents, and other members of the public, unless the youth has authorized such disclosure” (emphasis mine). In essence, unless a child gives explicit consent, he or she can spend the school day as a she or he (or they) without the parents even knowing. Not only are schools withholding information about the child’s gender identity, but they are establishing policies that actually prohibit teachers or other personnel from informing parents.
Unfortunately, gender confidentiality policies are not unique to the city of Philadelphia. Similar policies are quietly being implemented across the nation, jeopardizing the role of the parent in the life of the child. These policies claim to protect the child, but they are harmful to families, building walls between the parent and the child. A recent article in the New York Times by Baker describes stories of parents who felt betrayed when they discovered their children were known by a different gender at school and no one informed them.
What makes gender confidentiality policies preposterous is that they are incongruent with the policies schools already have in place. Children cannot leave school for a field trip, be picked up by another adult, or stay after school for a sports team without a parent’s written consent. But if they decide to be a different gender, use different pronouns, or change their name, the school will support the decision without question—not only without parental consent but intentionally without parental knowledge.
Scripture is extremely clear that parents are to train up their children (Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:6–7). The entire book of Proverbs is framed as a father’s advice to his son. For example, Proverbs 1:8 (ESV) says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” Proverbs 4:10 says, “Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.” The command for sons to listen is used repeatedly throughout the book of Proverbs (5:7; 7:24; 8:23, 23:19). The assumption is that if the child listens to the words of the parent, he will be wise and make good decisions. On the contrary, the son who does not listen to advice is seen as a foolish son (Prov. 12:15).
God has placed children in families to guide them during their development and to hone their decision-making skills. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development proposes that children pass through four stages: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational. This last stage is where students are able to reason abstractly and fully understand the consequences of certain actions. While later psychologists have pointed out that these stages are more fluid than originally thought, all children pass through them. Piaget observed that most children entered the formal operational stage around the age of twelve. This is noteworthy considering the discussion at hand. At twelve, children are beginning to learn to reason and consider the consequences of making personal decisions. Research shows that a child’s brain doesn’t reach full development until adulthood. A child’s ability to think and solve complex problems continues to increase during adolescence.
I recently perused a high school health textbook and read the following: “Teens who have ongoing, open communication with their parents or guardians have the advantage of seeking advice and feedback about the decisions they need to make. A parent can help teens learn problem-solving skills. When parents or guardians discuss and explain situations, rules, and reasons in the decision-making process, teens learn from their modeling.” As this textbook points out, children and teens need their parents’ input as they make decisions so they can learn to independently problem-solve. Yet, schools are ignoring this content when it comes to gender identity. Both Scripture and child development theory affirm that girls and boys need the wisdom of their mothers and fathers.
As our culture presses in, what are Christian parents and educators to do? Do we flee the public education system? Do we fight to reverse this policy and keep others like it from being instituted elsewhere? Do we build more private Christian schools? Do we homeschool? There is no single correct answer. God calls different families and educators to different situations according to His own good pleasure. No matter the decision, parents must be vigilant and steadfast in their role to train and protect their children. Twenty years ago, Shultz wrote, “If we do not realize the severity of the war of values in which we are engaged, we will lose our children to this world’s system.” This statement is even truer today than it was twenty years ago. The war has already begun, it is severe, and it is bent on winning over our children. Their spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being is at stake.
The situation can seem overwhelming, but as Christians, there is always reason for hope. Christ will continue to build his church. Parents and educators across the country will continue to advocate for bills that will protect our children. Cairn University will continue to hold a biblical view of gender and sexuality. And the Cairn University School of Education, which has long been positioned to train students to be effective biblical educators and leaders in public, private, classical, and homeschool educational systems, will continue to send out men and women who will educate and protect the hearts and minds of our children—wherever God sends them.
Dr. Stacey Bose is the dean of the School of Education at Cairn University. She has been involved in public, private, and international education for over 25 years both in the United States and abroad. Dr. Bose has served in a variety of educational roles, including elementary teacher, reading specialist, K–12 curriculum and instruction coordinator, assistant principal, accreditation consultant, and university professor.
- Glen Schultz, Kingdom Education: God’s Plan for Educating
Future Generations, Second Edition, Lifeway (Nashville: 2002), 109.
- KJM Baker, “When Students Change Gender Identity and
Parents Don’t Know,” The New York Times, January 22, 2023.
- Alyssa R. Gonzalez-DeHass and Patricia P. Willems, Theories
in Educational Psychology: Concise Guide to Meaning and
Practice, R&L Education (Lanham, MD: 2012), 23.
- Glencoe Health, McGraw Hill Publishing (New York, NY: 2011), 500.
- Shultz, 110.