SpongeBob, sex and schools

While this controversy is unfound-ed, the fear of public schools pushing a leftist agenda is not.

Who knew a sponge that lives in a pineapple under the sea could generate so much political hype?

Recently, Nickelodeon’s most popular cartoon character, SpongeBob SquarePants, has dominated the columns and commentary of liberal pundits. SpongeBob took center stage last week after James Dobson, Focus on the Family founder, spoke at a Family Research Council event in Washington warning those in attendance of a new diversity video featuring a host of cartoon characters, including SpongeBob. While Dobson might have been an alarmist in this instance, the controversy highlights a growing and worrisome encroachment by government into the sphere of the family and an ugly attempt by the left to push its social agenda into the United States’ public schools.

The video in question, created by the We Are Family Foundation, is slated to be sent to 61,000 public and private schools March 11. Speaking largely to like-minded social conservatives, Dobson raised concern that the video is really, “an insidious means by which the organization is manipulating and potentially brainwashing kids.”

Unfortunately for Dobson, any concern over the video is largely unfounded; I’ve watched it (see www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6850119). The video, set to the popular disco song “We Are Family,” contains no reference to sexuality and very few shots of SpongeBob. Naturally, liberal columnists, lead by The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, had a field day with Dobson’s comments.

In defense of Dobson, the foundation might not be as ambivalent about sexuality as the liberal commentators make it seem. According to the CitizenLink Web site, the We Are Family Foundation Web site contains multiple curriculum resources for teachers to explore sexuality and push the acceptance of homosexuality in the classroom. Conveniently, the foundation’s Web site currently won’t link to its archived teacher’s materials.

While Dobson might have created a mountain out of a molehill this time, his steadfast commitment to guarding against the use of public schools as a forum for advocacy of a liberal social agenda is as important as it is necessary.

The promotion of a radical social agenda in our public schools is real. The statement of one Gay, Lesbian & Straight Educational Network speaker at a 1999 rally is illustrative, “The fear of the religious right is that the schools of today will be the governments of tomorrow. And you know, they’re right. If we do our jobs right, we’re going to raise a generation of kids who don’t believe the claims of the religious right.”

The examples of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender groups pushing their radical agendas on school districts are legion. The network currently sponsors conferences and develops curriculum pushing social acceptance of homosexuality for grades as low as kindergarten. Even the facially neutral National Education Association has advocated the development of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender curriculum for use in classroom settings, among other pro-homosexual initiatives. What happened to teaching kindergarteners to learn how to write?

In many instances, school boards have bought the agenda. For example, the Buena Vista Elementary School District in California has on multiple occasions invited gay parents into the classroom to speak to children. One parent saw fit to read “Gloria Goes to Gay Pride.” In Ithaca, N.Y., children have begun to receive grades for tolerance, and in Provincetown, Mass., the school board agreed to start teaching preschoolers about homosexual behavior. Moreover, the Los Angeles Unified School District has gone as far as inviting pastors into schools to teach that God approves of homosexual behavior. The examples go on and on.

The point is not that public schools should be teaching the biblical view of sexuality instead, and morally equivalent religious indoctrination from the right (i.e. school-sponsored prayer) is equally as worrisome. The point is that U.S. schools have no business encroaching upon moral issues that are legitimately the province of the family. If issues of sexuality and marriage are not issues for the family, what are? It is no wonder that the popularity of home schooling and private schools has increased in recent years.

The role of our public school system should be to teach children how to read, write, reason, compute and communicate well enough so that they can analyze the propriety of these difficult moral issues on their own. Each year, millions of parents in this country trust and fund the school system to teach their children, not to raise them nor indoctrinate them with the social agenda of the right or left side of the political spectrum.

In the end, watchdogs like Dobson should be championed as guardians against government encroachment upon the most important and intimate sphere in our society, the family.

Bryan Freeman welcomes comments at [email protected]