Unlike the 19th century Kulturkampf associated with the name of Bismarck, those of today appear over apparently very small- outwardly non-political battles. They often focus on differences of opinion about the nature of family life, how children should be raised and what words should be used and avoided in human communication.

Sometimes it seems that the European Culture Wars begin in the nurseries. They than continue on in schools, where the authority of parents are questioned – particularly over what values children should be taught and what kind of lifestyle young people should adopt. The project of social engineering constantly targets the young and aims to distance them from the attitudes and values of their parents and especially of their grandparents.

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Back in 1950, the American sociologist, David Riesman drew attention to the project of de-legitimating the status of the grandparent. In his path breaking study, The Lonely Crowd: A Study of the changing American character, Riesman stated that ‘grandparents stand as emblems of how little one can learn from one’s elders about the things that matter’. Psychologists and other experts claimed that parents were steeped in old fashioned prejudiced and therefore the modern parent needed to ignore the values and advice of the old.

Through calling into question the moral status and relevance of grandparents, experts are able to instruct parents to listen to their advice and values

The scorn directed at grandparents is not accidental. Through calling into question the moral status and relevance of grandmothers and grandfathers, experts are able to instruct parents to listen to their advice and values rather than to the prejudices of the superstitious old. When mothers and fathers replace relying on the insights of their parents with those of the experts than their values also changes.

Since Riesman’s time the devaluation of the status of grandparents has become a normal feature of Anglo-American childrearing culture. Parents who rely on the grandparents are frequently warned about the risks of leaving their child with someone whose views are out-dated and potentially a danger to a youngster’s well being. In recent years numerous so-called scientific claim that grand parents constitute a risk to a child’s health. Why? Because, apparently grandmothers constantly feed young children with cakes and sweets, which turns them into obese youngsters.

Sidelining grand parents is the first step to ensure that so-called experts, psychologists and professional mentors can assume authority over socialisation of children. The elimination of grandparents and broader family influence from the scene, helps the professional to dictate the practices and values of the modern parent. In some circumstances nurseries and schools take it upon themselves to introduce children to a language and a system of values that are entirely based on the worldview of the social engineer. So it is they rather than the parent who gets to decide the values that their children will live by.

Nurseries and primary education are often used to alter the behaviour and values of children with the most up to date social engineering values. As usual, Sweden serves as the pioneer and the paradigm of social engineering ambitions. Thus in many Swedish nurseries teachers are encouraged to avoid referring to children’s gender. So instead of referring to young kids as boys or girls they call them ‘friends’ or use their name. Preschools are organised in such a manner that discourages children to develop the sense of belonging to a distinct gender. Gender neutrality is perceived as an enlightened antidote to masculine and feminine attitudes.

In 2012, the campaign designed to weaken children’s sense of gender identity was reinforced with the introduction of a new gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’. In recent years these new word has been widely adopted throughout Swedish society. Children are consciously and explicitly indoctrinated into a world-view where girls and boys and men and women have a feeble and fleeting existence. The aim of this pedagogy of gender neutrality is to challenge what its advocates call ‘traditional gender roles and gender patterns’. In its place they want to introduce a new non-traditional pattern- one where boys and girls and men and women think of themselves as ‘hen’.

The targeting of traditional ideas and forms of interaction between boys and girls has gained momentum in recent years throughout the western world. The politicisation of trans-cultures serves as a medium for distancing children from adopting the gender identity into which they were born. In Scotland, teachers have been informed by the Government that they should allow children to change their gender without informing the parents.

Guidelines endorsed by the Scottish government state, that school kids as young as three “should be supported to explore and express their identity”. The guidelines assume that it is the teacher and not the parent who ought to possess the authority to provide the conditions that allow children to transition to another sex.  From this perspective parents are perceived as a problem, who might prevent their child from transitioning. Hence, keeping parents out of the picture is seen as essential to the well being of the transitioning child.

If Scottish parents object and oppose their child changing their sex, teachers and school staff should report them to the local authorities

The Scottish Government has also made it clear that if parents object and oppose their child changing their sex, teachers and school staff should report them to the local authorities. What this means is that if you are a parent who is not 100 per cent delighted that your 4 year old boy Johnny has decided with the school’s help to become a 4 year old girl, Mary – you will be reported to the authorities. Welcome to a world where Big Brother has helpfully assumed control over one of the most fundamental aspect of the development of the child.

The Culture War over the nature and meaning of family life directly questions the right of the parents to raise their children in accordance with their values. In the 21st century, the right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their moral outlook is often branded by busybody professionals as a form of indoctrination. They claim that since children often do not consent to being baptised or brought up as Catholics or as Jews, their parents violated their autonomy.

Parents who educate their children to embrace their family’s religion have even been condemned as child abusers by certain anti-faith campaigners. That most vociferous proponent of atheism, Richard Dawkins, has said that as ‘odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of having been brought up Catholic in the first place’. Dawkins like many of his co-thinkers believes that parents should not force their children to adopt the family’s religious practices. They must wait until the child is mature enough- 16-18 years of age to decide whether or not they want to embrace the religion of their parents.

Jewish and Muslims families are often patronisingly instructed that they must give up their age-old religious practice of circumcising their boys on the grounds that no consent was given by the child. Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, a Progressive Party member of the Icelandic Parliament who is leading a campaign to ban the circumcision of Jewish and Muslim boys, has asserted that she ‘didn’t think it was necessary to consult’ Jewish and Muslim groups on this issue. Why? Because, she says, ‘I didn’t see it as a religious matter’. She added that ‘everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come above the right to believe.’

Professional experts constantly promote the rights of the child and use it to undermine the authority of the parents

Professional experts constantly promote the rights of the child and use it to undermine the authority of the parents.  Since children are not able to exercise their rights, the experts conveniently step in to represent the child. They represent children’s rights as a fundamental; one that trumps the rights of parents. What that means in practice, is that the expert who gives voice to the right of the child possess the authority determine what is in the interest of the youngster. The dispossession or at least the downsizing of parental authority constitutes the goal of the cultural conflict that begins in the nurseries.

The project of professionalising family life and transforming the values used to bring children up has the effect of distancing the different generations from one another. Such approach has disturbing consequences for society. As the political philosopher Hannah Arendt explained:

‘The idea that one can change the world by educating the children in the spirit of the future has been one of the hallmarks of political utopias since antiquity. The trouble with this idea has always been the same: it can succeed only if the children are really separated from their parents and brought up in state institutions, or are indoctrinated in school so that they will turn against their own parents. This is what happens in tyrannies’

Thankfully we do not live under a tyranny. But the project of indoctrinating children directly undermines the authority of parents, which in turn undermines the foundation on which democratic communities are built. Which is why we need to protect families from the colonial ambitions of so called parenting experts.

Photo by Mindy Olson P


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Frank Furedi
Soy profesor emérito de sociología en la University of Kent en Canterbury, Inglaterra y profesor visitante del Institute of Risk and Disaster Reduction del University College London. También soy divulgador y autor de más de 20 libros. Durante los últimos 20 años he estudiado  los desarrollos culturales que influyen en la construcción de la conciencia del riesgo contemporáneo. Mi investigación se ha orientado hacia la forma en que la cultura actual gestiona el riesgo y la incertidumbre. He publicado muchos artículos sobre controversias relacionadas con la salud, la crianza de los hijos, el terrorismo y las nuevas tecnologías. Mis dos libros, The Culture of Fear y Paranoid Parenting, investigaron la interacción entre la conciencia del riesgo y las percepciones del miedo, las relaciones de confianza y el capital social en la sociedad contemporánea. Mis estudios sobre el problema del miedo se han desarrollado en paralelo con mi exploración de la autoridad cultural en Authority, A Sociological History (Cambridge University Press 2013). También he publicado un estudio sobre la Primera Guerra Mundial: The First World War Still No End In Sight, que interpreta este evento como precursor de las Guerras Culturales de hoy. Y acabo de terminar mi último estudio, Populism And The Culture Wars In Europe: the conflict of values between Hungary and the EU. Participo regularmente en radio y televisión y he publicado artículos para AEON, The American Interest New Scientist, The Guardian, The Independent, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Independent on Sunday, India Today, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph, Toronto Globe and Mail, The Christian Science Monitor, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Spiked-online, The Times Literary Supplement, Harvard Business Review, Die Welt y Die Zeit entre otros.