In an effort to protect children from critical race theory, early sexualization, and transgender ideology, a parent-advocacy group has joined forces with a like-minded children's publisher to inform other parents of how "children are being brainwashed by woke books in our own homes."
No Left Turn in Education (NLT) was started by Elana Fishbein, a Philadelphia mother who wants to "revive in American public education the fundamental discipline of critical and active thinking which is based on facts, investigation, logic, and sound reasoning." NLT has thousands of members and nearly 75 state and local chapters.
Fishbein launched NLT at the end of August 2020 after she realized Philadelphia's Lower Merion School District had instituted a curriculum change that focused on "cultural proficiency." As she reviewed an email sent to parents from the principal of Gladwyne Elementary School, Fishbein said she was disturbed by what she described as the overtly racist content of the books.
One of the books on the list, "Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness" by Anastasia Higginbotham (recommended for children aged 3–10), was assigned to fourth and fifth-grade students.
"My middle son was at that time in fourth grade," Fishbein said. "We opted my son out of the class."
The next day, Fishbein wrote a letter to Lower Merion School District Superintendent Robert Copeland, who has since retired, and posted the letter on a Facebook page for parents in her school district. She said she was immediately attacked. While "messages of support" came only through "private messages," Fishbein said the public posts were vicious.
"It felt like a lynching or a shooting squad," she said, adding that her long-held belief that America is "the land of the free" was suddenly challenged. She saw "American citizens being afraid to speak" because "they too feared being attacked if they offered support publicly."
Writer and conservative commentator Bethany Mandel, a mother of five in Silver Spring, Maryland, is the editor of the "Heroes of Liberty" children's book series.
According to the FAQs on the Heroes of Liberty website, "A Hero of Liberty is a person who either promoted freedom, faith, or family values, or lived a virtuous life of self-reliance, creativity, or devotion in light of those sacred principles." Among others, the series includes books about Ronald Reagan, Thomas Sowell, and Margaret Thatcher.
Mandel said "Heroes of Liberty" wants "to get books in the hands of librarians and parents and provide an alternative to the woke content that is being promoted to our children without our knowledge and consent," and the producers of the book have partnered with NLT to accomplish that goal.
"Part of what we are doing is trying to take back the narrative from the left about who children belong to," Mandel told The Epoch Times. "The left thinks children belong to them, that they are part of the collective. Parents understand that children belong to their parents. So we decided to work with No Left Turn in Education to take back the bookshelves of America. People are unfamiliar with the kind of content that's being promoted in school libraries but also being sold to children through book fairs."
Fishbein contends companies such as children's book publisher Scholastic Corporation "peddle woke books to indoctrinate, not educate," and "woke books don't just happen by accident." They are the direct result of a deliberate, collaborative effort designed to ensure that the woke ideology is promoted in the classroom, starting with the textbooks, Fishbein said. In fact, children's textbooks have become a multibillion-dollar industry. According to its own website, Scholastic is "the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books."
"Small kids are big business," Fishbein said. "Scholastic knows this, and it teamed up with the American Library Association (ALA) to form an alliance in pursuit of a radical political agenda."
In 2017, the ALA council amended its strategic plan to include a section on "Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion," and in 2018, the ALA's board of directors voted to affirm that the ALA would apply a social justice framework to its strategic directions.
School librarian Arlene Laverde—past president of the New York City School Librarians Association and the president-elect of the 2021–2022 council for the New York Library Association—has written on social media about how she gets books into the hands of children that their parents forbid them to read.
In a tweet posted Dec. 4, 2021, Laverde wrote that she'd recently told her students that although their parents could prevent her from lending them certain books, she could still help the students find the books in the library and then their friends could borrow the books for them.
The ALA says the book was "challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting 'the values of our community.'" Fishbein says the book is being challenged because it teaches and encourages children how to "go behind their mother's back to learn about transgender hormone treatments and surgeries" and how to hide their internet search by teaching them how to delete the search history on the computer.
Fishbein said other Scholastic books are also inappropriate.
She said "This Book is Anti-Racist" by Tiffany Jewell promotes racism against white people, and "The Moon Within" by Aida Salazar teaches children as young as 8 years old what it means to be "genderfluid," or to have a non-fixed gender that can fluctuate.
Then there is "Magical Boy," a graphic novel by comic artist The Kao that's recommended for children aged 13 and up.
"Although he was assigned female at birth, Max is your average trans boy trying to get through high school as himself," the synopsis reads. "But on top of classes, crushes, and coming out, Max’s life is turned upside down when his mom reveals an eons-old family secret: he’s descended from a long line of Magical Girls tasked with defending humanity from a dark, ancient evil!"
Then there's the publisher's caveat: "This title contains some mature content and may not be appropriate for every student."
"A focus on social justice has long been at the core of who HMH is as a company," the statement reads. "In recent years, we have made equity in education a clear priority, and three years ago, we created an internal task force for Content Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity."
Mandel warned that parents must also be aware of radical teachers who are willing to break the law to force their ideologies on children, noting how students at Doss Elementary School in Austin, Texas, were forced to participate in "pride week."
While some parents believe sex education at school is teaching their children about contraception and how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, Fishbein said "they don’t realize these books are actually teaching kids how to" perform sexual acts.
But the problem isn't only about sexually explicit reading materials, Mandel said.
"It's not contraception education," Mandel asserted. "It's indoctrination that is radical and extremely damaging."