Policymakers should therefore follow the science, but parents should also be empowered with school-choice tools such as tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, or vouchers if officials fail to do so


By —— Bio and Archives--November 20, 2017

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In a November Pew Research Center poll, an amazing 77 percent of Democrats with a bachelor’s degree or higher believed that a person’s gender “can be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.”  Yet, the scientific evidence is much less clear, and this conflict between science and popular belief is why the Trump administration has just announced a new research effort to ensure that sex education programs “follow the science to improve youth health and well being.”

The Trump administration’s research initiative is welcome, given the numerous instances in schools where ideology is prevailing over scientific evidence.

For example, there have been a number of recent highly publicized cases of public schools trying to teach children, including children as young as kindergarteners, about transgenderism, and, in addition, trying to determine whether some of those children are actually transgendered.  Yet, those school programs clash with scientific evidence.

It can be difficult in early adolescence, even for psychologists, to distinguish between the few children who will maintain gender dysphoria, or discordance with one’s physical sex, into adulthood from those who are transiently gender-confused and will agree with their physical sex after puberty. Gender dysphoria in children is rare, estimated to be prevalent in less than 1% of children, and resolves in 85-90% of all cases during puberty. Resolution in boys may even be as high as 98%. 

While gender dysphoria is extremely rare, the process of sexual understanding and awareness in children is complex and can be adversely impacted by school officials pushing ideological and age-inappropriate agendas.

For instance, the ability of a child to identify their physical gender as male or female is found in children as early as 3 years old, but full cognitive understanding of gender is less well understood in children and may not occur until age 7. 

The processing of the emotional, physical and sociological implications of gender identity may still not be fully understood until the complete maturation of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which enables distinction between actions that are safe and those that may result in real or perceived threatening consequences, including potential health consequences of sexual behavior.  This type of processing does not fully mature until late adolescence to early adulthood.

Dr. Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, points out that while children may correctly identify their sex by age 3, they do not understand that sex is permanent. “Children under age 7 may believe that a man actually becomes a woman by putting on makeup and a dress.”

Dr. Cretella emphasizes that when authority figures teach young children that they “can be trapped in the wrong body, they are potentially disrupting their normal cognitive development…[and] will potentially lead to the fear that they aren’t the sex their bodies clearly indicate.”

Dr. Cretella’s warning that teachers and education policymakers could be damaging children with ideologically motivated age-inappropriate sex education curricula and practices is scientifically well founded.  Indeed, science favors parents who have been challenging state laws and local school boards over increasingly explicit and graphic sex education curricula.

In 2017, the San Jose-based Mercury News has reported that parents in Cupertino, Palo Alto and other Silicon Valley towns in liberal Northern California “have risen up” arguing that new sex-education materials adopted by their children’s schools “are age inappropriate, insensitive to the family values of certain cultures and expose vulnerable youths to risky behaviors.”

School officials, however, have often pooh-poohed these parent concerns.

The empirical scientific evidence, however, supports the concerns of parents.

Writing in Psychology Today, Tim Elmore, an expert on child-to-adult maturation, notes that students have “consumed information on everything from cyberspace to sexual technique before they graduate from middle school.” 

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Yet, Elmore points out, teens struggle with maturation because, “From ages 11-14, kids lose some of the connections between cells in the part of their brain that enables them to think clearly and make good decisions.”  Thus, says Elmore: “There’s a portion of time when the child part of the brain has been pruned, but the adult portion is not fully formed.  They are ‘in-between.’  They are informed but not prepared.”

Therefore, teaching emotionally complex subjects, such as various sexual issues and activities, at too early an age can lead to improper emotional handling and memory formation, resulting in lifelong trauma.

The bottom line is that the best scientific evidence supports the concerns of parents who worry that their children are being exposed to what they consider age-inappropriate sex-ed curricula.  Attorney and Notre Dame University adjunct professor Margot Cleveland, writing in The Federalist, advises, “for parents who wish to avoid the confusion that will surely result from their young children learning in school a counter-factual lesson—that boys might really be, or can become, girls—the best option is to abandon the public-school system.” 

Policymakers should therefore follow the science, but parents should also be empowered with school-choice tools such as tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, or vouchers if officials fail to do so.

Lance Izumi, J.D. and Lauren Geary, Ph.D. -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Lance Izumi is an education researcher and author of the 2017 book “The Corrupt Classroom: Bias, Indoctrination, Violence, and Social Engineering Show Why America Needs School Choice.”  He is a former president of the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Southern California School of Law.  Lauren Geary received her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine’s Biomedical Physiology Program.  She is a medical writer for the U.S. Military HIV Research Program in Bethesda, Maryland.

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