Two giants among publishers of children’s books and textbooks are selling the idea of “gender” to small children. But are Americans buying?

Scholastic, one of the world’s largest publishers and distributors of children’s books, released a “Resource Guide” for parents and teachers promoting its “Read With Pride” series. The guide is aimed at children of all ages, from birth to the end of high school.

Scholastic includes a glossary in the guide that defines “agender” (having no gender identity) and  “allocishet” (a term for “people whose gender and sexuality are privileged by society”), among other terms that are hard for even adults to follow.

Scholastic’s guide is misreading the market. Educators oppose teaching young children about the concept of “gender.” A Pew survey from February found that 50% of teachers said students shouldn’t learn about “gender” in school (compared to 33% who said children should learn they can be a gender that is different from their sex).

A survey from the Public Religion Research Institute finds that 65% of Americans say they believe there are only two genders—male and female, a finding that contrasts sharply with Scholastic’s glossary.

New York-based Scholastic isn’t the only publisher pushing this ambiguous idea that you can “think” yourself into a gender that doesn’t match your biology.

London-based Pearson, the largest publisher of college textbooks but also a significant player in the K-12 market, once featured a textbook on sociology on its website that advocated use of “gender identity” instead of “biological sex” to describe individuals. The book approvingly cited the work of Alfred Kinsey, a trained zoologist who argued young children can benefit from sexual activity.

Pearson quietly removed much of its website material promoting gender as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion after a Heritage Foundation report exposed this content in June 2023.

For now, Scholastic still advertises books for children describing the idea of gender.

And gender is just that, an idea. Gayle Rubin, whose influential 1984 essay “Thinking Sex” explains the central concepts of so-called queer theory, says gender and sex aren’t “biological” entities but ideas that change over time. Accordingly, Scholastic’s glossary lists “genderfluid,” describing someone whose gender fluctuates.

The confusing definitions aren’t the primary issues. Queer advocates want children to be familiar with the words and the sexually infused content that follows. Rubin criticizes traditional boundaries around young children’s exposure to radical notions about the sexual act and gender identity, calling the scope of laws stopping children from engaging in “erotic interest and activity” (such as age-of-consent laws) as “breathtaking.” She describes these boundaries as oppressive instead of recognizing them as protective measures.

The number of organizations Scholastic lists as allies in the gender movement should certainly leave parents short of breath. Scholastic features the Southern Poverty Law Center, or SPLC, which specializes in identifying “hate groups” and here decries “binary notions” of biology.

SPLC’s education arm, Learning for Justice, produces classroom material on critical race theory while offering “tools and practices” for talking about gender to “students of all ages.”

Teachers and parents should ask their school district officials whether curriculum coordinators are purchasing Scholastic’s gender materials. School boards and school district personnel have authority to acquire textbooks, so parents and educators alike should tell these local officials that they don’t want their children exposed to sexual content and ambiguous ideas on gender.

State superintendents of education and state school boards, who set academic standards, should include standards that stick to reality—we are born male or female. Teachers may help a boy or girl confused about his or her sex by including parents and families in discussions with children who show gender dysphoric symptoms, which often are accompanied by other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

State lawmakers may assist by considering the Given Name Act, which requires educators to address a student by the name and personal pronoun corresponding with a child’s birth certificate, unless teachers receive consent from parents to do otherwise.

Lawmakers in more than a half-dozen states have adopted these provisions. This proposal prevents school personnel from driving a wedge between children and their parents in crucial, health-related conversations.

Even with Scholastic and Pearson’s significant reach into textbook markets, policymakers, parents, and teachers don’t have to buy their definition of sex. Nor the confusion and explicit material that follows.