Book reviews

Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz’ Stolen Youth: How Radicals Are Erasing Innocence and Indoctrinating a Generation (DW Books, 2023)

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After reading this book, every parent will say, “This woke crap has got to stop, and it’s up to me to do something about it.”

The third word in the above quote was much more vulgar in the first version of this review, but I changed it because this is a book review and not a rap or trap song filled with obscenities and vulgarisms.

The problem of my editing the first sentence of this review, however, obtains: parents will be angered to the point of uttering vulgarities or obscenities when they learn to what degree that woke ideology has penetrated social institutions which were once safe for everybody, especially their children, including Disney (105ff), the American Library Association (108ff), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (136ff).

Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz do a stellar job of defining “woke”, demonstrating how that leftist philosophy has permeated the culture.  Best of all, the authors punctuate their several chapters with suggestions on how parents can fight back against the woke indoctrination occurring in their children’s schools and entertainment venues.  They state their purpose in writing the book clearly:

“In this book, we set forth with a few objectives: expose how the woke are infiltrating American childhood, provide parents with the tools to fight back, and tell the cautionary tales of parents who didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.” (17-8)

Numerous paragraphs could be included in any review to highlight facts and opinions which clarify the perversity of the woke movement.  For example, the quotes culled from the book preparatory for this review take nine pages, single-spaced.  The task of determining which quotes are worth mentioning brings me perilously close to the limit suggested for quotes.

But the fear of trespassing copyright law must not stop me from highlighting several trenchant facts and opinions which the authors include in their research.

For example, some facts are simply shocking; I can see how they would easily contribute to parents’ anger against woke teachers.

“A 2018 study by San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge and University of Georgia psychology professor W. Keith Campbell published in Preventative Medicine Reports found that ‘even after only one hour of screen time daily, children and teens may begin to have less curiosity, lower self-control, less emotional stability and a greater inability to finish tasks.” (53)

Tell me again why public school teachers’ unions pushed so hard for online instead of in-classroom learning.

“By June 2020, the management company McKinsey & Company had ‘created statistical models to estimate the potential impact of school closures on learning.’  The company found that its models predicted the worst impact on the very students the equity-warriors pretend to care most about: ‘The average loss in our middle epidemiological scenario is seven months.  But black students may fall behind by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months, and low-income students by more than a year.  We estimate that this would exacerbate existing achievement gaps by 15 to 20 percent.’” (69-70)

Tell me again how woke teachers are supposed to be fighting for students because of “equity”, a concept that was once sound and justifiable, but which leftists took over as a tool to use against “white privilege” and other canards.

“The Biden administration was in on the crackdown of parents from the start.  In an internal memo, the NSBA [National School Board Association] revealed that they had had discussions with the Biden White House before sending the letter.  In an October 5 email, NSBA Secretary-Treasurer Kristi Swett wrote that it was President Biden’s Education Secretary Miguel Cardona who had solicited the letter from the group.” (74)

Tell me again, National School Board Association and your state affiliates, why you hate parents so much.

“In 2015, Verdant Labs released an extensive study on the political affiliations of professions.  They used political contribution data to figure out which jobs lean Republican and which lean Democrat.  What they found was that teachers were overwhelmingly Democrats.  Elementary school teachers were Democrats by an eighty-five to fifteen margin.  There were eighty-seven Democrats teaching high school for every thirteen Republicans.  School health educators were even more ideologically slanted at ninety-nine to one.” (76)

Tell me again how such partisan teachers can be fair in the classroom.

“[Ibram X.] Kendi is just one of the people banking on schools paying up to make sure everyone knows they’re not racist.  It’s a system ripe for con artists.  […]  It seems like a scam because it is.  In April of 2021, the New York Times broke a story about BLM’s co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors ‘snagging four high-end homes for $3.2 million in the US alone’.” (84)

Tell me again—  No, better not; don’t raise my blood pressure by talking about the racist and pro-abortion agitprop Black Lives Matter.

“American librarians are talking out of two sides of their mouths: they are decrying the ‘censorship’ of books that are wholly inappropriate for children while at the same time engaging in the actual censorship against classic writers like Jane Austen, Dr. Seuss, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.” (114)

Tell me again why a masterly British literary icon (a woman, too), rhyming children’s books, and a series of books about prairie life in the nineteenth century must be not only banned, but replaced with drag queens grooming children by encouraging them to twerk their little butts in public libraries.

The English professor in me recoils at the recommended verbosity and faulty causation of the following example of woke nonsense, this time promoted by the American Medical Association:

“In late 2021, the American Medical Association (AMA) released ‘Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts’ as part of a multi-year project called the ‘Organizational Strategic Plan to Embed Racial Justice and Advance Health Equity.’  […]  The document calls for doctors to change their language to insert progressive politics into everything, even statements of fact.  For instance, instead of saying, ‘Low-income people have the highest level of coronary artery disease in the United States,’ members are encouraged to say, ‘People underpaid and forced into poverty as a result of banking policies, real estate developers gentrifying neighborhoods, and corporations weakening the power of labor movements, among others, have the highest level of coronary artery disease in the United States.’  Everything must be modified to fit woke orthodoxy.” (149)

Tell me again why it’s not only improper but also wrong (in the moral sense) to tell an African American or another minority person that he or she is obese and should stop eating so much damned McDonald’s.

Quoting Dr. William Malone:

“the vast majority of childhood-onset gender dysphoria resolves naturally, ‘with 61-98% of children re-identifying with their biological sex during puberty.’  While there are no studies yet to provide comparable data for adolescent-onset gender dysphoria, one can imagine it would not be far different.” (172)

Instead of my own “Tell me again” repetition as a response to the authors’ presentation of facts, their own commentary a page earlier is a perfect conclusion to the ad hominem attacks which transgender activists use against parents who affirm that there are two genders:

“The battle for gay rights was always about acceptance—mainly, the right to marry.  For ‘trans rights’ it’s a different ballgame completely, especially when it comes to minors.  ‘Acceptance’ of a transgender child comes with body-altering modifications that can cause lasting damage.  That fact is ignored and denied by its proponents.  And if you bring up that pesky little fact, you’re told you’re a bigoted transphobe who wants eight-year-old trans kids to kill themselves.” (171)

Quoting Brian Willoughby, a professor at Brigham Young University:

“‘More and more young people,’ he says, ‘are seeing sexual content before puberty—not because they’re seeking it out, but because it’s been delivered to the smartphones their parents are buying them.  In the current generation of young people, their first orgasms are tied not to real-life experiences, but to pornography.  We know from brain research how influential first experiences are for mapping the brain, which could explain how year after year, we’re seeing fewer and fewer young people interested in sex, dating, and committed relationships.’” (199)

Tell me again why students whose ages are single digits must have sex education which does not merely show, but recommends (in alphabetical order) anal sex, exposure to “Minor Attracted People” (MAPs or pedophiles; page 201), gender bending, homosexuality, masturbation, multiple sex partners, oral sex, or other sexual practices which my innocent mind cannot understand.

Not all is doom and gloom, though.  The authors are vibrantly optimistic that parents can effect change in their children’s schools and thus eradicate the woke nonsense which pervades the culture.  They pepper their volume constantly with affirmations of how parents are the force of change.  The following are the more concise expressions of what parents can do to achieve this change:

“Parents have to start drawing a sharp line when it comes to their kids.  Our children belong to us.  The home is where we teach our children to stand up for themselves and learn they don’t have to hide their true beliefs.  There are a lot of jokes about ‘safe spaces’, a term that hit the popular lexicon when colleges began providing rooms with Play-Doh and crayons where students, the majority young adults, could hide from controversial opinions.” (44-5)

“The home is the last line of defense.  In totalitarian societies, parents have to pretend to believe the lies that kids are taught at school, lest they make themselves or their children a target.  In a free country, you don’t have to do that.  You can and should explain to children that life isn’t black and white and that America’s history is complicated, just like any other country’s history.  You can and should reassert the morals that matter in your family.  You can and should teach your child to be himself or herself and not be coerced into other people’s opinions.” (46)

“No amount of nonsense equity education can take the place of actual academic instruction, and no amount of rejiggering the standards will help.” (87)

“Many activists like [Quisha] King [spokesperson for Moms for Liberty] recommend that parents start with involvement at the school board level.  Attend the meetings, support candidates, and take seriously the local elections, as they have the biggest effect on what happens inside your child’s school.  Support candidates who want school choice.  Push for curriculum transparency.  That one should be easy, and you can assume that a school district with nothing to hide will not have a problem with telling you what they teach.” (100)

“What can parents and concerned residents do about the woke takeover of the publishing industry and library system?  Given that a great deal of the shift in kids’ literature is driven by publicly funded institutions like schools and libraries, one librarian suggested, ‘Patrons need to use the online purchase suggestion forms that most libraries have and start asking for titles!  I had already been trying to figure [out] a way to get your books into our libraries before today, but it is difficult to justify ordering from lists of different companies without a specific patron request or without surrounding libraries doing the same.’  Moderates and conservatives should also vote with their wallets and support smaller publishers in a David and Goliath fight against the massive power that Scholastic (with its in-school book fairs) and other large publishers wield.” (126; brackets in original)

“Just like with books, paying attention to one-star reviews online and looking up potential shows and movies on Common Sense Media are important steps for parents wishing to keep tabs on what their children are watching.  The assumption with any new show has to be that there will be objectionable content; and even shows we grew up on like The Muppet Show and Blue’s Clues can’t necessarily be trusted.” (131)

“We cannot afford the luxury of shutting out the outside world; we have to stay engaged, stay in the fight, and work to send wokeness to the dustbin of history.  We should do it not just for the mental and physical health of our own children, but also that of children around the country for whom there is no voice.” (164)

The volume has some flaws.  One intellectual problem is that the authors may have misunderstood that Catholic social justice is not equivalent with its distortion by woke zealots (156).  The volume itself is flawed because there are no section breaks within the chapters; thus, for example, the reader must try to follow the explication of twenty-four pages on transgenderism in schools without subdivisional headings which would help the categorization of the ideas presented.

Worst of all, the book has no index.  Faculty, parents, and students who want to quickly ascertain, for example, how the abortion business Planned Parenthood is involved in gender reassignment surgery and hormone blockers in children (pages 177 and 185) must plow through whatever chapter the reader thinks may concern that anti-life entity.  Not even the twenty-four pages of small print endnotes, giving URLs for internet access to sources (pages 271 through 295), can assist the faculty, parent, or student researcher as well as a detailed index.  One hopes this mission will be corrected in subsequent printings.

Despite these minor flaws, Mandel and Markowicz’ book is a mellifluous, yet aggravating read of the penetration of woke nonsense in American life.  It will definitely inspire parents to get involved in the fight to make education great again for their children.

Since Amazon collaborates with cancel culture zealots and bans conservative and pro-life material, purchase this book from DW Books directly:

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