About a decade ago, toddler son in tow, I found myself in a playground for the first time in 35 years. It was not what I remembered. The colors were far more vibrant. Plastic had replaced wood and metal. Sharp edges had been rounded, chains and hinges softened. Cushioned ground had replaced the asphalt.
What struck me most, however, was that it was full of adults. It seemed that every child had a minder within arms length. I was perplexed. I knew why I was there—my son was still a bit wobbly. Many of the kids appeared to be about 6-8 years old. Why did they need minders?
I soon learned the two cardinal rules of contemporary playgrounds (or at the very least, playgrounds on Manhattan’s Upper West Side): One, your child may not get hurt. Two, your child may not hurt another child. Violate the first rule, and you’re negligent. Violate the second and you’re antisocial—borderline criminal. Also, and just for good measure, “hurt” is given the broadest possible definition to include potentially hurtful language.
The stories about fragile college snowflakes crumbling in the face of microaggressions and provocative ideas suddenly made sense. Children raised in a cocoon will demand similar protection when they begin to think of themselves as adults.
That initial shock was hardly the end of my education. I soon learned the corollary to the playground rules: Today’s children never learn to engage in disintermediated play. The natural, if often rough, society of 3-to-5 years olds never gets to form. When my son hit that age, I was stunned to have other kids approach me to report that he was being annoying. When I was a child, running to a parent was the equivalent of a 911 call. We might have approached with a message like “your kid is bleeding” or “we think he broke something,” but annoying? That was like calling the Fire Department because you couldn’t find the remote.
It became clear to me that we had destroyed childhood. While the “advances” in parenting of the past fifty years undoubtedly contained some gems, the net effect was a disaster. As with so much else in life, human instincts honed over the millennia were far superior to decades of expert advice.
Then things got really bad. Though few recognized it as such at the time, the decision to shutter much of the world in March 2020 unraveled the entire socioeconomic fabric of modern life. As anyone who has ever studied or worked with any complex system can confirm, nothing ever restarts quite as it was before a shutdown.
American society was hardly the exception. The hibernation derailed every pre-existing positive trend and accelerated all the negative. The restart, unfolding in uneven fits-and-starts over the course of two years, introduced an entirely new sociology. Though its precise contours are still taking shape, a few things are clear: Woke reigns supreme and children are expendable.
While most Americans are still digesting the changes, a few brave souls flew into action. Bethany Mandel and Karol Markowicz moved quickly to chronicle the attacks on our children, ring the alarm, and call for action.
Stolen Youth is a disturbing read. Every page bristles with details of the attack on our children. The combined impact of these attacks is clear: There is a large, organized, well-funded movement, drawing together media, professional organizations, teachers unions, corporations, universities, and government officials committed to destroying and indoctrinating our children. Its methods are brutal and clear: It promotes psychological instability and fragility. It teaches children to ignore their emerging common sense, their parents, and timeless ethics in favor of expert pronouncements and trendy social constructs. It deconstructs language to detach negative words from their underlying concepts then reapplies them to entirely different concepts consistent with indoctrination.
The authors divvied up the chapters, perhaps each claiming the atrocities they dread the most. Markowicz, an émigré from the former Soviet Union, opens the book with a reminder of what it means to live in a totalitarian society. Spoiler alert: We’re heading there fast.
She then moves into the various ways that the woke weaponized Covid—both the virus and the shutdowns—to convince our children that they are little more than viral vectors safe only in isolation. Mandel picks up that baton a few chapters later in her broader consideration of woke pediatrics.
That discussion incorporates one of the book’s most chilling quotes. It comes courtesy of the Federation of State Medical Boards which, on July 29, 2021, threatened disciplinary action, “including the suspension or revocation of the medical licenses” of any physician who shared any information or opinion about Covid vaccines that was not “factual, scientifically grounded, and consensus-driven.”
Those first two qualifiers are unobjectionable. The third gives the game away. What does it mean for something to be “consensus-driven?” Consensus among who, and for how long? Those of us who’ve been paying attention know how it works. A few well-connected prestigious and/or governmental “experts” determine what they would like everyone to believe. They then condition funding, promotion, and even licensure on acceptance. Unsurprisingly, given the choice between: (a) Promoting the emerging consensus, keeping your job, and securing funding; or (b) Retaining integrity, getting fired, and becoming unemployable, most professionals choose (a). Voila! Instant overwhelming consensus, which must now be imposed, obeyed, and unquestioned.
The medical establishment, long known for its imperious nature, was unusually open in tipping its hand. As the authors show, however, its practice is hardly novel. Consensus-driven expertise emanating from schools, libraries, media, and entertainment teaches our colorblind children to develop a hyperfocus on race and sexualizes the pre-sexual. The woke teach our children to become racist and sexually confused, blame traditional American mores for racism and repression, and claim the mantle of expertise needed to “fix” the problem.
The entire process is designed to keep today’s kids off-balance. Covid taught them to fear normal social interactions. Critical Race Theory teaches them to distrust their neighbors. Gender theory teaches them to question their bodies. The woke package combines to externalize our children’s problems and teaches them to see themselves as victims. It preaches looking outward to assign blame rather than looking inward to find solutions.
As Markowicz and Mandel put the pieces together, it becomes clear that the woke juggernaut cannot be contained by critiquing its views of race and gender. Those are but two of the more prominent avenues of attack in an all-out assault. The woke are operating in a total moral inversion: compassion for some hypothetical, distant member of society and contempt for those closest to us. It’s a perfect prescription for totalitarian tyranny: Absolute trust in the emanations of disembodied expert authority and disrespect for parental authority. The woke are teaching our children to despise and disrespect family, God, nation, and even their own biology.
Why target the children? First, as Markowicz notes in her chapter on “Child Soldiers,” because kids are useful. Put a disturbed child—say, Greta Thunberg—in front of your movement, and only the very callous will attack. That tactic is hardly new—there’s a reason we’ve long talked about “poster children”—though the woke do seem to have turned it into an art form. Second, because childhood is when we shape our beliefs and our tastes. Convince a generation that it’s fragile, off-balance, angry, victimized, and oppressed, and very few of its members will ever break out.
Stolen Youth is one of the clearest articulations yet of the woke drive to destroy American society and Western Civilization. That it’s starting with our children is hardly novel for an ideological movement. The question we must now face is whether we can alert enough adults to the danger to repel it before it is truly too late. Stolen Youth rings the alarm bells. I only hope that they’re loud enough to have the desired—and necessary—effect.
Bruce Abramson, PhD, JD, is president of the strategic consultancy Informationism, Inc. and a director of the American Center for Education and Knowledge. His most recent book, “The New Civil War: Exposing Elites, Fighting Utopian Leftism, and Restoring America,” (RealClear Publishing, 2021) discusses the corruption of American academia and the best ways to reform it.