Absurd and Corrupt at Once

Not satisfied with a general failure to teach students basic arithmetic, the structure of the English language, the history of our nation, the rudiments of the physical sciences, and enough geographical knowledge to distinguish Sweden from Switzerland, the legislators of the state of California have determined to require that the public schools teach “Gay Studies.” Manuals, one supposes, need not be included. The actual behaviors in question, though no doubt neither their psychological etiology nor their deleterious effects upon the body, are already covered under the broad heading of “Health.”

Let me say at the outset that I find all bullying loathsome, since by definition bullying brings violence against someone who is peculiarly vulnerable — such as a lonely young man with feelings he does not fully understand and perhaps does not welcome, or an innocent boy in the period of sexual latency, before he has any inkling as to what it is that men and women do. If I see a couple of linebackers hulking over the outcast, sneering and pushing him into a corner, I know what they deserve, and may God give me the courage to give it to them. But what if I see a posse of legislators hulking over the child, assaulting him with “knowledge” it is not their business to give, holding out to him the possibility, which he is not old enough to understand, that he too may be “gay”? Who are the bullies then?

Proponents of the measure will of course insist that they are only imparting facts that should be known. But the argument quickly falls apart upon examination. For many are the sexual aberrations that have afflicted the human race. What is the point of showing them to children, or even to teens? Why should they be the objects of study? Consider first the irrelevance. You are standing in the Sistine Chapel with your twelve-year-old son, looking up at the Creation of Adam. Do you say, “Michelangelo seems to have lived a celibate life, though it was very possible that when he was young he was infatuated with a young male courtier.” Not if you want him to appreciate the wonder of the painting. And does that even “count” — a feeling not acted upon, whose precise nature we cannot specify? Would it have been “better” if the artist had given in to the unnatural desire?

John Maynard Keynes was a self-professed sodomite until his mid-20s, and then he married a woman, apparently happy with the change. Is this something that a teenager should know about John Maynard Keynes? Why? Siegfried Sassoon was sexually attracted to other men, until he fought alongside them in World War I and found the masculine friendship he had hitherto longed for. Does he count? Andre Gide was a married man who broke his vows, engaging in an adulterous relationship with another man. Is that a reason for students to know about Andre Gide? What if he had only broken his vows by committing adultery with another woman? Would that not be aberrant enough for notice? What if there is no evidence that a certain person has ever committed a single act of sodomy, but in one of his published works a narrative persona expresses love (though of a kind curiously indifferent to physique) for another man? If it had been a woman, should we feel that Shakespeare had disappointed us?

Next, why choose this aberration? Brigham Young was a notorious polygamist. Should students be encouraged to cheer for Brigham Young? If he had had only one wife, should we strike him from the syllabus? Clara Bow was a pornographer and, um, a loose woman. Should students then study the “contributions” she made during the first sexual revolution in America, in the 1920s? Should they bake cookies to commemorate her famous night with the footballers of Southern Cal? Elizabeth Taylor was married some 40 or 50 times. Does that make her 40 or 50 times more interesting to us, more worthy of study? Hugh Hefner grew so weary of cheap sex with women that he tried things with a man. Does that make him the more commendable? If he had repented of his ways one year into the publication of his smut, would we look down on him as unenlightened? What about the adulteress Katharine Hepburn? She never married, but she did help to ruin a few marriages. Should we watch Tracy and Hepburn all the more assiduously, because they were sinners with the zipper?

Or what about sex between an adult and a teenager? I know it is considered gauche at the moment, but there was a time not so long ago when the illuminati were waiting for us old believers to come around on this one, too. Why not include The Last Picture Show on the syllabus? That very fine movie fairly celebrates an adult-teen affair as about the only instance of genuine sexual love in a dead village filled with sexual aberrations — voyeurism, nudism, prostitution, rape, and so forth. What about “swingers”? What about leathermen? What about people who mutilate their bodies so as to pretend that they belong to the other sex, or to some vague intermediate betwixt the two? Why is it essential that a child know about these? If we found out that some man down the street had been telling our son about them, wouldn’t we call the police? What magic makes it all right if a schoolteacher does it?


Someone will object, “We are only teaching them about the contributions of a certain community.” Well, that is nonsense. What community, when there are no generations? There may be a high concentration of homosexuals in a town here or a neighborhood there, but that’s all. But again, why this “community”? Why not actual identifiable communities? Catholics in the United States were ten thousand times more influential and more identifiably belonging to a community than men beset with same-sex attraction have ever been. Why should we not then mandate “Catholic Studies”? Or Lutheran Studies? Or Baptist Studies? Or Jewish Studies? Because none of these groups has ever been the object of discrimination or opprobrium? Really?

But if we are going to study communities, why not study the habits of men and women who make for stable and wholesome communities? Would that not be the more reasonable thing to do? Why not then hold up for the student’s admiration the examples of men and women who fell in love, who kept themselves chaste before marriage, and who thus had no need for child-murder or hormonal trickery or the lying to oneself and to one’s partner that fornication necessarily involves, who then married and stayed married, and raised their families by their best lights, and taught their children in turn to do the same, making their boys into men and their girls into women, comfortable with friends of their own sex, and attracted in love to the other? Why not talk about the natural virtues of manhood and womanhood? Why not — if we are going to talk about sexual desire at all — hold up for emulation those men and women who lived virtuously, like William and Ida McKinley, or Robert and Elizabeth Browning? That is, if we did have time for such, having ensured that we were not turning out illiterates by the millions.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Deacon Ed

    Always the question of just how we are to confront the obviously Satanic culture we live in.

    While watching American Idol a few weeks back, the now-winner – Scotty McCreery – was confronted with the salacious Lady Gaga who seemed intent on sexualizing their encounter. Taken aback, McCreery had what was an obviously unrehearsed and quite natural response when his Chrsitian sensibilities were affronted: he kissed the cross which hung around his neck.

    The only response to our vile Satanic culture is to reach inside to the Christ who lives and who lives His life in us.

    • Gail F

      I saw the beginning of that segment and turned the channel. I’m not sorry I missed the rest but I am sorry I missed Scotty McCreery’s response — and glad you posted it. I was very angry that Fox televised that bit of “advice” from Lady Gaga. I have a 17-year-old (who wasn’t watching TV at the time) and I would have given Lady Gaga a punch in the nose for talking to my minor child like that. Said minor child thinks that is hilarious, but is also rather pleased, I think…

      As for the article, that is outrageous. I would home school if I lived in California!

  • Steve N.

    Wasn’t it C.S.Lewis who described the definition of Fascism as “bullying” … ergo, the “bullying” of which you very accurately and properly speak one and the same?

  • Carl

    Steve N., another definition of Fascism is corporate bullying, Michael Barone has what I consider to be a sister article to this one.

  • Dr. Esolen:

    Please don’t give them any more ideas. Not that they don’t have them already: the “polyamory” movement is striving to gain official acceptance, and likely will so in Canada and parts of Europe.

  • Lakbima

    I think that people do many things in the name of pleasure. And that evolutionary dead end activity is their business. When it has become a political force, that is what is criticized and fought against. People thinking that they are so advanced in their humanity, because they are so called OK with people getting pleasure (I won’t be crude here) which is a evolutionary dead end, is laughable. This idea of “gay pride” is again a theological sin and even with out using religion they are proud of a activity that will not lead to diversity of the gene pool and will lead to a dead evolutionary end. So the question is what is the evolutionary benefit of homosexuality? If we are in a quest to find cures for many things that affect us, why not a quest to find a cure for the ultimate evolutionary dead end condition/behavior.

    On the other hand a sarcastic answer to the sarcastic and demeaning question of “what would Jesus do about a homosexual, would be “he would cure him”.

  • Billy Bean

    Now THIS is why I read Catholic commentary: incisive. intelligent, articulate, and right. (Did I mention cogent and relevant?) This article condemns my own forays into the realm of social respectability. THAT’S why I love Catholic commentary. It keeps me real.

  • sibyl

    As always, so right on, Prof. Esolen. It’s hard enough to explain when the kids across the street are living with their two “mothers” without condemning the kids or gossiping. Let alone have some numbskull teacher passing out “literature” formulated by the culture of death to make sure my child does not pass through his primary years with his innocence intact.

    We don’t live in CA, but we homeschool anyway. I’d sooner have my little ones completely ignorant than end up being on the receiving end of this sort of indoctrination. However, luckily, homeschooling is a great way to get (and give) a classical education. We are greatly blessed to have the freedom to do it.

  • GW

    I looked at this article this morning, and there was a short rebuttal from a reader that was posted. What happened to it?

  • Chris in Maryland

    Public school systems like those in CA should be opposed publicly by the cognizant Bishops of the Catholic Church, in concert with the Bishops in conference at USCCB.

    Has anyone seen or heard any public statements by Bishops in CA? I sense nothing from USCCB on this issue?

    What are the Bishops, in their primary duty as teachers, evangelists and prophets, doing to help Catholic parents here?

  • Susan

    Keynes’ homosexuality was as relevant as his pithy saying, “In the long run, we’re all dead”. Of course, as E. Michael Jones points out, this would be the exact perspective of someone who had no posterity to worry about. Apparently his biographers covered up his homosexuality till late into the century, having the unfortunate effect of entrenching him as a respectable economist.

  • Deacon Ed

    We need as many alternatives to government-run schools as possible. Unfortunately Catholic schools are prohibitively expensive for people who must work for a living.

    I would like to see parishes have a hybrid model of the regular parish-based elementary school but also operate a special department that would instruct parents in homeschooling approaches, materials, networking, etc. The revenues generated by such programs could help offset the costs of operating the parish-based school.

    Parents who have the desire and ability to homeschool could then feel the support of the Church in fulfilling their obligation as the primary educators of their children.

  • Hannah

    I looked up Clara Bow and her Wikipedia entry reads differently. It claims the football team episode was a rumor.

  • Tony Esolen


    OK, then, Xaviera Hollander. Though I still think Clara Bow would fit for the example. What on earth is the point in introducing children to sexual aberration?

    Yes, we desperately need to get our schools back up and running. And there is no way I would allow my kids to have their minds messed up by parades of sexual confusion.

  • Hannah

    I forgot to mention that I agree with you article, Dr. Esolen. I am enjoying your books on Irony and Western Civilization and also your Dante translation.