“…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
For those of us who work in the field of education, it is not possible to avoid the every increasing emphasis on issues such as sexual education and diversity. In Ontario, the Liberal government has mandated a new sex-education program, introduced last September, That starts in kindergarten. Diversity training for teachers is now more readily available. Since I teach in high school, the impact of the new curriculum has not reached me yet. If recent headlines are any indication, I’m not looking forward to its arrival.
A scan of the daily headlines increasingly reveals the effect that the systematic sexualization of children is having upon our youth. Newspapers and magazines now carry stories of transgendered children and their supportive parents. The Guardian proclaims: Transgender children: “This is who he is—I have to respect that.” The story is of Melanie, who at age two-and-a-half, wanted to be a boy named Tom. [i] The Oregonian states that “Families of transgender children find the path of acceptance.” [ii] Even the staid sounding Good Housekeeping has an article entitled We Still Have a Son and Daughter – Just Not the Way We Expected: Beth and Russ McGarrity’s youngest child came out as transgender. Then a month later, their other child did, too. [iii]
This development has not gone unnoticed. Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail asks: “Transgender kids: Have we gone too far?” [iv] The Independent indicates that “Gender identity issues among children increase tenfold in six years: Latest Gender Identity Development Service figures show children as young as three being referred to the NHS.” [v] In the United States, the American College of Pediatricians have issued a report that “urges educators and legislators to reject all policies that condition children to accept as normal a life of chemical and surgical impersonation of the opposite sex. Facts—not ideology—determine reality.” [vi]
The influence of Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) in the field of psychology cannot be underestimated. The philosopher Peter Kreeft writes, “He was the Columbus of the psyche. No psychologist alive escapes his influence.” [vii] There is no dispute of Freud’s genius and his contribution to psychology, especially “his emphasis on the importance of childhood for the understanding of personality, and of the study of human motives.” [viii]
While his scientific contributions are beyond my expertise I can focus on his philosophical contributions, especially insofar as they touch on the religious. Freud was indeed a man of his times and by the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries the atheistic philosophies of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau and Nietzsche had become part and parcel of the academic world. The Catholic, Dutch psychologist Gerard J.M. Van den Aardweg expressed this mindset by saying:
“Many Western intellectuals since the Enlightenment are open to ideologies and myths which sound scientific. G.K. Chesterton is supposed to have said, ‘When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.’ It is only logical: intellectuals, like other people, seek inner conviction. As the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung stated, the religious drive is very central in the human psyche, so man will always seek some intellectual or emotional theory or belief to cling to. Marxism attracted people with its quasi-religious fervour, the veneration of the Germanic race in pre-war Germany attracted a lot of intellectuals, and in its own way Freudianism was something mystical, too. George Orwell said that there are ‘things so foolish that only intellectuals could believe them.’”
An attractive element in Freud’s view for the agnostic intellectual in an age of relativity was no doubt that he provided them with a biologic, materialist view of man which squared with the secular humanist views much in vogue then. And he suggested a liberated practice of sexuality, even though he personally behaved in a conventional way. Artists, liberal intellectuals, social emancipators and social malcontents felt in tune with his critical approach toward social norms, his emphasis on the naturalness of instinct, and his criticism of religion as wishful thinking. [ix]
Freud’s treatment of religion is best found in his books Totem and Taboo and The Future of an Illusion and in them he does something that both Hobbes and Rousseau did before him. Freud creates a mythical, pre-historical natural world that is very Hobbesian with a touch of Rousseau. Human beings, in their “natural” state, are driven by their desires and society is the means by which those desire are kept in check. Peter Kreeft describes Freud’s ideas this way:
“Sigmund Freud’s most influential teaching is his sexual reductionism. As an atheist, Freud reduces God to a dream of man. As a materialist, he reduces man to his body, the human body to animal desire, desire to sexual desire and sexual desire to genital sex. All are oversimplifications.” [x]
Freud’s concept of humanity, especially in Totem and Taboo is that “the origin of the religious cult (the origin of culture) was the killing and eating of a father by his sons. And why would sons want to murder their father? Because, naturally, they desired to have sex with their mother. … Nevertheless, they did feel guilt, which at first they repressed, but then expressed through sacred meals…” [xi] So there you have it, religion is a means by which humans deal with their primal guilt. Get rid of the notion of guilt and you destroy the reason for religion. All of this without a shred of truth to it at all, but who needs truth when a scientific sounding myth allows us to bury a demanding and Patriarchic God and the religion associated with it.
Ideas Have Consequences
I don’t know what Freud would say about the entire gender identity issue that has arisen among children, nor do I know what his thoughts would be about the sexual revolution that exploded onto the world stage in the 60s. Whether he would approve or not, the fact remains that his ideas were fundamental in leading Western civilization to the point where we are now.
While we don’t know what Freud would say we do have some idea of what his eldest daughter thinks. Dr. Van den Aardweg described her position in his interview.
“Witnessing the havoc wrought by the sexual revolution of the 60s, which represented a decline in American culture and society, Freud’s eldest daughter Anna, herself a psychoanalyst, sadly avowed that psychoanalytic sexual pedagogy, which aimed at the reduction of guilt feelings, had in fact led to a ‘deficit in the moral development’ of young people. Psychoanalysis underpins contemporary sex education programs, which in practice boil down to promoting dehumanized sexual behavior.” [xii]
So where do we stand? We’ve taken away God, religion, objective morality and any sense of the transcendent. We have replaced it with materialistic desires rooted in our animal nature.
Adults, in their unrestrained desire for all things sexual have created a sexualized culture. As a result we have sexualized our children and rather than being shocked that we have abused them in such a way, instead of taking a good hard look at our depravity and collectively decide to clean up our act “for the sake of the children,” we do the exact opposite, all in the name of “educating” our children.
Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. In Psychology Today, a Dr. Fred Kaeser, who has a Doctorate in Education, admits that our children are sexualized, is “alarmed” by the number of children aged five to eight who are sexually molesting other children, yet still has the audacity to write:
“Ah, but in spite of this super-sexualized world there is good news and reason to remain optimistic. The reason I say this is actually very simple: just become an approachable parent on all matters sexual. That’s it. If you take it upon yourself to speak honestly, lovingly, and on a regular basis with your child about the sexualized world around her, you will help her make sense of it, help her to put it into an understandable context, and help her to counter any potential negative consequences to all this exposure. As parents we can’t hide our children in the closet. The world is sexually complicated for all children but our job is not to run away from it. Rather, we need to make sure we speak, listen, and guide our children every day so they can make sense of their sexualized world.” [xiii]
So much for protecting the innocence of children!
Therefore the sexualization continues, not just by the culture, but now also by the parents who normalize the sexualization, making this just another exercise in values clarification. There is no question that the motives of these psychologist and educators are well intentioned. I have no doubt that they are shocked and alarmed, desiring what they think is best for the children. They are also dismayed that parents who still espouse traditional religious values regarding sexuality are not accepting their expert advice. Therefore it only makes sense that if the parents are not going to educate their children then the schools and teachers have to do it for them. After all, it is all for the children!!!!
Insanity, it is often said, is doing the same thing over and over again, all the while expecting a different result.
Adults have to recover their sanity …. for the sake of our children.
[ix] Dr. Van den Aardweg interview “Freud or Fraud?” https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=7097&repos=1&subrepos=0&searchid=1614521
[xi] Wiker, Benjamin; “10 Books That Screwed Up The World”, Regnery Publishing, Inc; Washington, D.C.; page 166
[xii] . Van den Aardweg interview “Freud or Fraud?” https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?id=7097&repos=1&subrepos=0&searchid=1614521
Note: Dennis Buonafede’s Ideas Have Consequences is a regular feature of Integrated Catholic Life™ and usually appears every other Wednesday.