When does something become more than a mere belief and almost something religious in nature?
I’m not talking about the definition of religion that we associate most closely with the word — the one that deals with, as the fine people at Merriam-Webster put it, “the service and worship of God or the supernatural.” Rather, I would look to two other definitions they give for the word: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith” and “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”
The first definition is decidedly secular in nature and the second one, when applied to the first, is as well. Notice, too, that the question of evidence is never brought up here.
This isn’t to say there isn’t necessarily evidence in religious matters — as every Christian, Muslim or Jewish apologist will make very clear to you if you give them half a chance. (As someone who has lost more William Lane Craig books than you probably own, I’m not judging here, I’m just saying.) However, evidence isn’t a precondition for a personal set of attitudes, beliefs and practices held to with an ardor and faith not necessarily borne out by the facts.
All of which is a lengthy pretext to a New York City schoolteacher who I believe has done an awfully good job proving that transgender ideology, at least in public discourse, has a religious aspect to it — in the secular senses of the word — that overshadows any scientific claims it might have.
The issue has to do with a Jan. 16 email sent to the parents of preschoolers in New York public schools. The issue has to do with a lesson plan based on the Black Lives Matter Week of Action.
That seems reason enough to be skeptical, but things get worse from there.
“This year, the week is Feb. 3-7. We are starting to talk about these ideas now, as we approach Martin Luther King Jr. Day [which was Jan. 20], and as we prepare to go into February, Black History Month,’’ a letter from teacher Rosy Clark read.
For whatever it’s worth, Clark is white and so are most of the students at PS 58 in Brooklyn, where the lesson plan was being implemented, according to the New York Post’s Andrea Peyser.
“Some of the 13 points are unobjectionable — preaching diversity, plus acceptance and empathy, to children who, the dad argues, naturally love their neighbors,” Peyser wrote, referring to a student’s father who first sounded the alarm about the curriculum, which included transgender “affirmation.”
“I was kind of horrified,’’ the dad wrote.
“They say they’re trying to reduce racism and discrimination. To me, they’re perpetuating it, fomenting a sense of victimhood that 4-year-olds would never consider on their own.’’
Clark explained the lesson plan in her letter, writing, “I am lucky enough to work at this wonderful school where we strive to help our students understand the complex world around them and think critically about how they can participate in improving it. One of the ways I do that in my classroom is by exploring the 13 Principles of the Movement for Black Lives.
“I will not be discussing police brutality or current events with the class. These issues are obviously too traumatizing for this age group.’’
“Something that we talk about slightly less in the classroom are the national demands,” Clark wrote. “These involve some more adult ideas and might come up occasionally in our conversations in small ways, but they are something that I really address in my activism work outside of the classroom.”
Point No. 12: “Black Women.’’
“There are some people who think that women are less important than men,’’ Clark wrote. “We know that all people are important and have the right to be safe and talk about their feelings.’’
Here are some of the other points that she cited, all from the 13 Principles of the Movement for Black Lives: “Hire More Black Teachers,” “Counselors Not Cops,” “End Zero Tolerance” — this involves severely attenuating ending suspensions for black students, “based on the idea that these penalties are handed out disproportionately to minority students, Peyser reported — and “Mandat[ing] Black and Ethnic Studies K-12.”
So far, so liberal. The problem at hand, however, is issue No. 6: “Transgender Affirming.”
“Everybody has the right to choose their own gender by listening to their own heart and mind,” Clark wrote. “Everyone gets to choose if they are a boy or a girl or both or neither or something else, and no one gets to choose for them.”
There’s no evidence for this, mind you. Clark provides none, and neither does any social scientist.
There’s nothing that says this is anything more than a popular idea that is more religious than anything else — “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”
There’s no evidence that this is any sort of science, not in the least that Black Lives Matter Week of Action has any level of scientific rigor behind it. Instead, what we have here is an activist who holds to a belief system that is merely a matter of faith.
Transgender ideology, as prescribed here, fits the definition of religion. There may not be a god behind it — but as Merriam-Webster notes, there doesn’t have to be.
The school was loath to respond.
“Phone messages and e-mails to Clark, as well as to PS 58’s principal, Katie Dello Stritto, weren’t returned,” Peyser wrote. “In an earlier exchange with a parent, the principal defended the curriculum as being in line with ‘Chancellor’s Regulations,’ which dictate that a school must be a ‘safe space’ for all students.”
We’ve entered a brand new world, one where ardor and belief are the determining factor behind whether something is true. If that isn’t dangerous, I don’t know what is.
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