Education or indoctrination: When should schools teach gender expression?

Jun 6, 2016, 2:20 PM | Updated: 3:39 pm

Is it education or indoctrination? When it comes to the state’s new standards for Health and Physical Education, it depends on who you ask.

For the first time, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is adding a topic about self-identity and gender expression with a grade-level progression that starts in kindergarten.

“Kindergarten is a completely inappropriate place to be telling kids that there are many ways to express gender because they have no idea what that means,” said Joseph Backholm with the Family Policy Institute of Washington. “If somebody wants to talk to them about it, it should be their parents.”

Related: Superintendent candidate would overhaul sex education, ‘giverment’ studies

The state guidelines, which will go into effect in the 2017-2018 school year, have kindergartners learning that there are different ways people express gender. By fourth grade, they would learn to define sexual orientation. By the time they graduate, they would be able to evaluate how culture, media and society influence gender roles.

“It is up to districts to decide, according to their own community standards, which, if any, of those standards they wish to teach,” said Nathan Olson, with the OSPI.

The state guidelines are based on the National Sexuality Education Standards because they were the only national standards related to sexual health that also align with state law, according to Olson.

They also went through an expert panel and a public comment period before they received final approval in March.

And, again, Olson reiterates that this is just a guideline.

“The state is not mandating that every kindergarten know about gender identity,” Olson said. ” We’ve never done that and we will not do that.”

But Backholm believes it’s a slippery slope. If even one school incorporates a gender-identity curriculum, he worries that the state will use it as an example of why other districts should follow their lead.

“The only reason this is mentioned in the first place is because it’s an attempt to use the education system to indoctrinate children against their parents’ wishes, not educate them,” Backholm said.

Olson and Backholm do agree on one thing: If you have any thoughts on if, or how, gender identity is taught in your district, you should contact your local school board.

KTTH is hosting a debate regarding transgender restroom rights. Watch Michael Medved and Todd Herman debate transgender activist Mac McGregor and LGBTQ advocate Aleksa Manila. The last 45 minutes of the event will be based on audience questions. Buy tickets here.

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Education or indoctrination: When should schools teach gender expression?