Over the years, a cause for teen angst, suicide, etc., has reportedly been the media. But there is no definitive evidence to corroborate that. In fact, every recent generation has traditionally pointed to the media or some other cultural factor as damaging to youth. In the 1920s, it was the Charleston, and in the 1940s, the bogeyman was radio crime dramas. Then in the 1950s, it was shoot-em-up westerns on TV and the advent of rock ‘n roll. But at the end of the day, most kids grew up normally.
These days cell phones and social media are supposedly culpable, but scientists still don’t know to what extent they are responsible for the rising mental health issues among teenagers and whether it is the primary cause. Alexey Makarin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, opines, “It seems to be the case — like it’s a big factor, but that’s still up for debate.”
What do we know?
A report from the CDC in February found that teen girls are experiencing “record high levels of violence, sadness, and suicide risk.” The data show that 57% of U.S. teen girls felt “persistently sad or hopeless in 2021—double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.” About 30% had seriously attempted suicide. These numbers are dramatically higher than they were ten years ago.
Boys are suffering too. One of the main culprits for young males’ problems is the ongoing stress on so-called toxic masculinity, where feminists and the left take normal male behavior, exaggerate it, and then vilify it.
Toxic masculinity is a counterproductive term, to say the least. Boys are unlikely to react well to the idea that there is something toxic inside them that needs to be exorcised, especially as most of them identify quite strongly with their masculinity. Almost half of men said their sex was “extremely important” to their identity.
As Brookings Institution fellow Richard Reeves reports, “Half of American men and almost a third of women (30%) now think that society ‘punishes men just for acting like men,’ according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Who specifically is behind the problems being experienced by the young?
While Covid-related social isolation certainly exacerbated girls’ problems, things were not good before we overreacted to the pandemic. Before Covid, the reason typically given was the advancement of social media, which cut back on personal bonding, but, as noted above, that is questionable.
With boys, it’s certainly institutional. In 2019, Scientific American posted an article entitled “How to Fight Toxic Masculinity,” and the American Psychological Association declared that “traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful.” In fact, the APA is front and center in the war on boys. Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Florida’s Stetson University, writes that a few years ago, the APA released practice guidelines that state, “Conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental health and physical health.” The guidelines also claim that “traditional masculinity leads to violence.”
Who else is behind our culture’s malevolent turn toward young people?
Many school districts have decided to take over the traditional role of parents, and this, I believe, is a very important factor in the alienation of the young.
The Escondido Union School District in California is all too typical. Under the current policy, “teachers must refer to students by their preferred pronouns or gender-specific names during school hours but revert to biological pronouns and legal names when speaking with parents.” And once a teacher learns of a child’s social transitioning, he or she has an obligation to ensure that parents do not discover this.
What a policy like this does is lead a child to live a double life, splitting allegiance between school and family. Not a recipe for happiness. It’s worth noting that Escondido is anything but a one-off. In fact, this cultural rot extends beyond blue states.
In Idaho, for example, Parents Defending Education submitted 14 public records requests to school districts requesting documentation and correspondence regarding the creation of these gender policies. PDE discovered that districts were working closely with the Idaho School Boards Association to “implement policies to deliberately withhold information from parents about the gender identity of their own children.”
In Montana, Missoula County Public Schools worked with a group called “IVALUE” to propose including “members of the LGBTQIA+ community” in “all future work around diversity, equity and inclusion.”
School counselors in Mississippi’s Tupelo Public School District shared guidance with each other that encourage staff to keep parents in the dark regarding the gender identity of their children.
Needless to say, the teachers unions have been leaders in promoting the chasm between parents and their children. The National Education Association and likeminded groups have released a guide that, among many things, suggests “schools effectively keep two sets of records for students who express interest in a transgender identity—one set that is used within the school setting, and a separate set provided to parents or other entities outside the school district.”
State governments also have a role in causing pernicious rifts in families by taking over the traditional role of moms and dads. California’s AB 1184, a bill cosponsored by Planned Parenthood, which became law in 2021, is a prime example. This atrocity “prohibits insurance companies from revealing to the policyholder the ‘sensitive services’ of anyone on their policy, including minor children (starting at age 12), even though the policy owner is financially responsible for the services.” The term “sensitive services” refers to all health care services related to mental or behavioral health, sexual and reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, substance use disorder, gender affirming care, etc. The bill doesn’t detail the kindly sounding “gender affirming care,” but as defined by the University of California, San Francisco, it’s hormone therapy and a laundry list of surgeries including vaginectomy, scrotoplasty, voice modification, etc.
Also, California’s SB 107, which became law January 1, erodes parents’ rights by allowing minor children to travel to California for trans procedures. Citing the Protect Child Health Coalition, Katy Grimes explains, “Even more shocking is the law actually authorizes parental kidnapping (when a non-custodial parent illegally takes a child from the parent who has legal custody) if the purpose of the kidnapping is to subject the child to radical gender transition procedures.”
Washington State is no better. It passed SB 5599, which also allows the state to legally take children away from their parents if they don’t consent to their child’s gender transition surgeries.
At the end of the day, it is not the schools, the media or the APA who is in charge of children’s well-being. Parents must step up and reclaim their children. Homeschool if at all possible, or send your child to a private school that shares your values.
For parents who send their children to public schools, Congress passed H.R. 5 in late March. Among other things, the bill, which prevailed in a 213-208 vote, would give parents the right to inspect the books and other reading materials in the library of their child’s school. It would enable them to know if the school operates, sponsors, or facilitates athletic programs or activities that permit an individual whose biological sex is male to participate in an athletic program or activity that is designed for individuals whose biological sex is female. The bill also enables parents to know if their child’s school allows an individual whose biological sex is male to use restrooms or changing rooms designated for individuals whose biological sex is female.
Sadly, however, H.R. 5 seems to be dead in the water; chances are slim that it will make it through our divided Senate.
The good news is that as of mid-March, proposed parental rights legislation has emerged in some 32 states, up from 18 states in 2022, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In some states, legislators are considering two or more pieces of such legislation. It’s worth noting, however, that not all the laws are really pro-parent. Conservative legal scholar Joanna Martin, J.D., recently published an article titled “A Massive Transfer of Power Over Children from Parents to Governments,” in which she writes that SB 49, the bill passed by the North Carolina Senate, “…transfers power over children from parents to governments. Parents’ rights consist of the privilege of being notified of decisions made respecting their children by governments, and they are granted specific rights to challenge some of the findings.”
It’s a tough time to be a parent, as many busybodies, groomers, and evildoers are fighting for the control of America’s children. As such, parents, more than ever, must do what they can to maintain responsibility for their offspring. The “It Takes a Village” mentality hasn’t worked out too well.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.