Artists starve for a reason. Art is beautiful to behold but totally unnecessary to buy. Given a choice between feeding a family and buying a statue, most people quickly realize that they can’t eat a statue. So starting a business centered on art is risky business. In 1923, an animator filled with a mountain of ideas but overwhelmed by a bigger mountain of debt was forced to declare bankruptcy. His name was Walter Elias Disney.
Along with brother Roy, Walt soon headed to California and started Disney Brothers Studios. Movie successes followed. In the late 1940s, Disney embarked on his most amazing adventure. Mortgaging everything he had, Walt Disney bet that he could turn an orange grove and a few acres of walnut trees into a magical kingdom. It was no sure thing. But with help from a mouse, a duck, a couple dogs, and a cast of Mouseketeers, Disney played directly to the minds and hearts of children all over the country. Disneyland, and now Disney World, became roaring successes. These days, Disney’s original audiences of the ’50s share the magic kingdom with their grandchildren — and gladly spend big bucks for the opportunity.
Disney understood an important truth: reach a young child’s mind and heart, and you’ll have him for life. Sadly, someone else understood it, too. As Hitler planned his thousand-year Reich, he zeroed in on Germany’s youth. From the start of their schooling, students were taught to glorify Nazism and to hate Jews. Children learned to identify Jews by their noses. Board games were created to spread Nazi propaganda. Public school educators loyal to the party line played a big role in the process. Graduates became Hitler’s fanatics.
The nature of the evil may change, but the basic rule doesn’t. And Planned Parenthood understands it all too well. It knows that today’s children are tomorrow’s customers. There are birth control devices to sell, STDs to treat, and abortions to perform, over and over and over again. But just how does Planned Parenthood grow those customers? By exposing children of virtually all ages to the world of sex. And by assuring them that when problems strike, it will give “care no matter what.” The talk of money comes later. Planned Parenthood advocates comprehensive sex education starting in kindergarten and running through high school.
It’s all done Planned Parenthood style. For children ages 5-8, the goals includes teaching them about body parts and sex organs, explaining that they “feel good when touched,” that people engage in sex to feel good, and even that masturbation should be done in a private place. Children ages 9-12 are taught that masturbation is usually the first way a person experiences sexual pleasure and that couples have sexual experiences in different ways. They hear that legal abortion “is very safe.” Children ages 12-15 learn that with commitment, marriage and cohabitation are pretty much the same. Masturbation with or without a partner is a “way people can enjoy and express with sexuality without risking a pregnancy or STD/HIV.” Many pleasurable shared sexual behaviors do not create risks of pregnancy and disease. Young people can buy non-prescription contraception in pharmacies, grocery and convenience stores, and in most states can get prescriptions for it without parental consent. Teens age 15-18 are told that they can experience what gives them pleasure and then share that knowledge with their partners. In fact, Planned Parenthood was caught telling a girl believed to be only 15 that “anything within the sexual world is normal as long as it’s consensual.” Like horse whips.
This is how the culture trains our young people. They are at serious risk of being eaten alive. How must we respond? By doing what Catholics do as well or better than anyone — by educating them in the right ways of living. But it’s clear than past efforts have not been enough. Catholics obtain abortions in about the same percentage as everyone else. They likely use contraception and get STDs at the general rate. So what’s missing, and what’s needed?
It’s a genuinely pro-life curriculum, one that starts at a young age and reaches not just minds but hearts. It must be built on six pillars. First, all life comes from God. Everything God makes is good; He makes no mistakes. Second, God wants us to be happy, so He gives us each other. We come in all shapes and sizes and with all sorts of potential. No matter the circumstances of life, each person is a blessing to be cherished. Third, God gives us the freedom to pursue goodness. He shows us through nature and His holy law what is good. He gives us a mind to learn and a conscience to tell right from wrong. Fourth, God wants us to love deeply. The love God intends is not mere emotion; it is action, even a sacrifice, performed to help others be the best they can be. His only Son showed us how to love. Fifth, God wants us to witness to His love by how we think, speak, and act. The Holy Spirit will help us with it all. Sixth, God wants us to know His mercy when we fail and to show it when others do.
These are more than pillars. They are the gateways to the meaning of life and to the hearts of our young, hearts so reachable in so many ways. The young can plant seeds and share the excitement of growth. In age appropriate ways, they learn how a baby grows. They can spiritually adopt an unborn child. As friendships develop, they can realize how sad it would be to reject anyone whom God gives us. As children get older, they learn about free will and all God has given them to make good choices. They learn about truly healthy relationships and about seeing people as people, not as objects of personal pleasure. They learn about virtue and about love as sacrifice for others, even an unborn baby. They learn to witness the truth about life. They learn to seek forgiveness and help others find it. They come to understand that even with its challenges, life is beautiful and meant to be fully lived by all for the glory of God.
Implementing a pro-life curriculum takes planning and creativity, but not originality. Programs are available. However we do it, we need to get going. If we don’t reach the hearts of our children, others will. It won’t be pretty. That we know.
Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.