‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’ The Lion 2023 year in review

Ever since the 2020 pandemic, K-12 education has become almost unrecognizable to many readers of education news.

Race-, gender- and sex-obsessed education bureaucrats – and sometimes teachers…

Ever since the 2020 pandemic, K-12 education has become almost unrecognizable to many readers of education news.

Race-, gender- and sex-obsessed education bureaucrats – and sometimes teachers themselves – have unwittingly facilitated the growth of charter, homeschool and Christian education – all while exposing the destructive ideologies that have taken root even in the nation’s most prestigious colleges.

Here’s a look back at The Lion’s coverage of education and culture in 2023.

Public education’s descent into madness

Countless stories of parents, students and teachers blowing the whistle on radical ideologies being pushed at local public schools have been told. 

One such whistleblower was Caedran Sullivan, a high school English teacher in Kansas. 

In an exclusive op-ed published by The Lion, Sullivan said that teachers were “manipulated and intimidated by a divisive ‘woke’ ideology that is creating a culture of contempt and disrespect” at her school. 

She explained that DEI, CRT and social justice trainings, which discussed white supremacy and privilege and “decolonizing” classrooms, created a toxic environment – and many teachers were afraid to speak out. 

Her eye-opening story earned national media attention as the unassuming teacher was interviewed on cable news and her story told in countless online news outlets. 

Sullivan was also slandered in the media as a result and experienced opposition from students at her school.

“Yes, your kids are being indoctrinated,” she wrote in a follow-up piece, also published by The Lion. “Parents don’t like to hear that it is happening in the pristine Shawnee Mission School District, but it needed to be exposed. 

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” 

The same problems are showing up elsewhere in the Midwest, and across the country. 

A Nebraska school official admitted to secretly “rebranding” Critical Race Theory materials to deceive parents.

Wichita Public Schools in Kansas also threatened teachers to get them to use students’ preferred pronouns – even against the wishes of parents. 

“A lack of using pronouns could lead to death,” the district claimed. “To allow a parent’s wishes to not use the students’ preferred pronouns and/or names is to allow yourself to be deputized to discriminate. This is not acceptable.”  

And a California district even axed its honors classes to promote “equity,” which critics worry actually lowers the bar in a race to the bottom.

Speaking of lowering the bar, many school districts have been inflating grades, giving students 50% credit or more, even if no work is turned in. The Lion exposed two Kansas City school districts doing so, and also reported on one in Atlanta

Higher education isn’t exempt from these problems either.  

One report found evidence of grade inflation at the once prestigious Harvard, which by the end of the year has been mired in controversy over anti-semitism, exacerbated by credible evidence its president is unqualified for her position. 

The situation is so dire that even the most ardent public school activists – like Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates – send their own children to private schools, which they seem to be reluctant to admit. 

In Colorado, The Lion even caught the state teachers’ union endorsing Marxism in a resolution, a story which also received national attention after our reporting. Gov. Jared Polis was even asked about it on national cable news. 

Woke alphabet soup 

CRT, DEI, SEL, and LGBTQIA2+ ideology isn’t just infiltrating academics – it’s become a driving factor in sports, higher education and which bathroom to use. 

Public education is neck-deep in controversies surrounding transgender students using girls’ bathrooms and – alongside athletic governing bodies – whether biological males should be allowed to compete in girls’ sports

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey even sued a school district for hiding its bathroom policy from parents. 

Shockingly, one board member there reportedly said, “Quite frankly, it’s not the parents’ damn business.” 

The Lion also broke two separate stories on one Missouri school district, where officials approved a grant application for a “gender-affirming closet,” which would have allowed students to hide their gender identity from parents. And after a tip from a district parent, The Lion reported on a “designer baby” assignment for 8th graders, which had chilling eugenic overtones. 

In another exclusive story, a librarian was caught openly mocking parents as “people who can’t let other people have opinions” during a presentation on so-called “banned books.” 

Meanwhile, LGBT activists are pushing for progressive gender ideology and sex education to be taught to students, even in the earliest grades. 

One report found that Planned Parenthood’s sex ed toolkit normalized prostitution and nonbinary gender identities to children 10-years-old or younger. 

The toolkit also claimed that “commercial sex work” was just a different type of relationship than dating or marriage. 

And a New York teacher even assigned gender and sexual preferences to Mario video game characters at a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) student club. 

Good News: Christian and alternative education models are thriving  

But all is not doom and gloom for education in America. Schools that prioritize faith, family and patriotism have never been more popular.  

Christian schools and homeschools are thriving despite the animus directed at them from the education establishment. 

Former U.S. Attorney General William Barr spoke about the importance of religious education at the second annual Excellence in Christian Education Awards Gala of the Herzog Foundation, which publishes The Lion. 

“Since the 1960s, government-run schools have become increasingly hostile and subversive to traditional religious values – a stumbling block to the ability of parents to pass on their faith and frame the moral character of their children,” Barr said. 

“[Parents] need the help of institutions that support their values, not actively work against them,” he added. “And that is why we need Christian schools to help them.” 

At the same event, the Herzog Foundation awarded 12 Christian educators from around the nation with its 2023 Teacher of the Year award. During the year, the foundation also awarded $2.3 million in grants to six Christian schools around the country. 

In 2023, home education also continued to grow nationwide – and nearly doubled in California. Despite its popularity, mainstream media continues to attack homeschooling

Charter schools are also rising in popularity, particularly among students of color. Studies have shown that charters produce better results than traditional public schools, despite receiving less funding. 

And it’s not just students leaving traditional public schools for better models – teachers are also leaving. 

A former Virginia public school teacher even quit teaching to start her own Christian microschool, which reached maximum capacity – with a waitlist – in just one year.  

Faith surfaced outside of the classroom, too, notably in sports. 

After Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest on the field in January, the entire football world united in prayer.  

Bills’ quarter Josh Allen called it a “spiritual awakening,” and head coach Sean McDermott also praised God for healing Hamlin. 

“Glory to God for His keeping Damar and his family in the palm of His hand over the last couple of days and His healing powers,” McDermott said.  

School choice boom  

The school choice movement reached a new summit in 2023, with a total of nine states enacting universal school choice programs. 

Those states – Arizona, West Virginia, Iowa, Utah, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, and North Carolina – are primarily led by Republicans and now offer unprecedented K-12 opportunities for families of all incomes and backgrounds.  

The Lion reported on one Missouri lawmaker, Rep. Chris Lonsdale, who hoped to capitalize on the issue for political gain, promising during his election campaign to support various school choice measures before voting against one of them earlier this year.

“Rep. Lonsdale flip-flopped on education freedom amid the great parent awakening,” school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis told The Lion. “He told parents he supported education freedom just six months ago and then turned his back on them last week.” 

Despite being brand-new, school choice programs are attracting thousands of families.  

And while these universal programs received much of the media attention, other choice expansions are making a big difference, too.

For example, Indiana expanded eligibility for its scholarship program, which now serves nearly 70,000 students. 

Montana also had a big year in education reform – launching charter schools for the first time in state history and enacting a school choice scholarship for special needs students. Western states have far fewer choice programs historically, for a multitude of reasons, experts told The Lion

But there’s still lots to look forward to in 2024 as far as educational freedom. 

Leaders in Texas and Tennessee have expressed strong desires to pass universal choice legislation. Legislators in Missouri have already pre-filed such bills, and Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama even said she wants to make Alabama “the most school choice-friendly state in the nation.” 

Ivey also stood up for Christian values in higher education when an anti-religious watchdog tried to censure Auburn University coaches for participating in a worship and baptism event. 

“Faith has been a force for good in this world, leading to countless scientific discoveries, the righting of countless injustices, and the founding of countless orphanages, hospitals, and other charitable and educational institutions,” Ivey said in a letter. “As Governor, I can assure you we will not be intimidated by out-of-state interest groups dedicated to destroying our nation’s religious heritage.” 

Looking forward 

While 2024 will be overshadowed by the upcoming presidential election, more education policy and reform is expected to happen on the state level as many legislatures return to session in January. 

And Christian education shows no signs of slowing down, as parents and teachers continue to flock to it. 

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