Tennessee State Senator Ferrell Haile Discusses One of His Top Three Priorities Citing Progress in Safe Baby Courts

Tennessee State Senator Ferrell Haile Discusses One of His Top Three Priorities Citing Progress in Safe Baby Courts


Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Tennessee (R) Senator Ferrell Haile to the newsmakers line to discuss children, families, and education as his top priorities as a state senate legislator.

Leahy: We are joined now on our newsmaker line by State Senator Ferrell Haile. Good morning, Senator Haile.

Haile: Good morning.

Leahy: I think this is the first time you’ve been on The Tennessee Star Report. We’re delighted to have you on here. You represent some trials, Dale, parts of Davidson County. You’re a pharmacist by trade.

Haile: That’s correct. And a farmer by love.

Leahy: And a farmer by love. Do you have a farm right now?

Haile: I do.

Leahy: How many acres do you have? What do you grow?

Haile: A little under 400 acres. Beef, cattle, and, hay. Currently, at least most of the land out for row cropping. But we have run the farm and it’s a family farm we’ve run it for since about 1975, I guess. And thoroughly enjoyed it. My wife’s part of the farm my wife’s great grandfather bought in 1896.

Leahy: No kidding. Wow. That’s history. That is history.

Haile: Yes.

Leahy: So this session of the Tennessee General Assembly has ended. You’re on a couple of key committees there in the state Senate including your vice chair of health and welfare, member of the education committee, member of the very powerful Finance Ways and Means Committee. You want to talk today a little bit about three topics, children, families, and education. Which would you like to talk about first?

Haile: We will just start at the top with children. When you go into an elected position like this, this is the only elected position I’ve ever held. I really was not involved in politics while I was running my pharmacy. I kept my nose to the grind of the daily feeling of prescriptions and thoroughly enjoyed that career.

But throughout that career, I saw lots of families come through my pharmacy and children, and there were lots of needs there. And going into the Senate, I really did not have this on my radar that this would become a focus and passion. But it certainly has. One of the things that we’ve done, and you don’t hear a lot about this, but we established a safe baby court in Tennessee.

I visited and had an opportunity to learn about adverse childhood adversities that affect children and their brain development. And then learned about these zero to three courts or the safe baby courts at another seminar I went to. So I put those two ideas together and realize that we need to be taking better care of our children in Tennessee especially to have these adverse childhood experiences from zero to three.

80 percent of a child’s development takes place in the first five years. If they’re bounced around from home to home and from one trauma area to another for three years of their life, then something needs to change. By the way, when the state takes custody of a child, the average is three years to get them to a permanent home throughout the nation.

With the safe baby court, we’re trying to cut that down to nine months and we’re having a lot of success with that. It’s similar to a drug court if you’re familiar with that, where it’s within a court. And there’s 12 of these in the state and there’s 10 operating now. We’ve added two more this year.

Leahy: Was that the main accomplishment in this area, adding two more courts?

Haile: For this year it was. Yes, getting two more courts established. And you only put these in with judges that want this. They have to have a passion for this because it’s going to take more of their time. There’s going to be a coordinator of services around these children and these families. And what you want to accomplish is one of two things.

You either want to stabilize the family where the children go back with the family, the biological parents, and they don’t come back into state custody. Now, that’s a win first off, for the child. It’s a win for the family. It’s a win for the taxpayer because you don’t have the state taking care of that child any longer. So there’s a win all the way around on that.

The other side of that is for biological parents that cannot get their act together. I’ll just be plain about this. They can’t get their act together and within a short period of time, with all these services and folks talking with them and working with them on a weekly basis, then we’re looking at adoption. And the parents come to realize, I cannot raise this child in the way that this child deserves to be raised.

And so they surrender the child for adoption and that’s a win. Also, again, that’s a win for the child, that they have a loving, stable home and that the biological parents still have the opportunity to see that child. Usually, there’s an agreement made where that the biological parent is not cut off from the child, but the parent of record is now the adoptive parent.

Again, the state wins. The courts win and the child wins. And so it’s a great program and we just continue to slowly grow that and develop it and try and spread the word of what we’re doing.

Leahy: How big a problem is this in Tennessee?

Haile: Oh, it’s a huge problem. We’ve got thousands of children do we have that the state is responsible for? And I’ve lost that number.

Leahy: But it’s a problem. How much of that, Senator Haile is just a reflection of a decline in society?

Haile: That is one problem. There’s no question about that because a lot of these biological parents just need to be taught how to raise a child. How to discipline a child and how to be responsible, how to hold a job, and how to have a stable family unit. That certainly is one issue. Another really really big issue is our drug problem.

And those two go really hand in hand. And a lot of these parents were raised this away. So you’re trying to break a cycle. Their grandmother was in child custody, their mother was in child custody. It’s a cycle that has continued. And so you’re trying to break the cycle in the family unit which will not only affect that one particular child in that family but other children within that family unit. So I think those are the two real causes.

Leahy: How much of this is a role of state government and how much of it is a role of churches and communities?

Haile: Everybody has to come in to play on this. The state is responsible for the well-being of a child however, we need to be utilizing our churches and our nonprofits. And we have these courts spread out through Tennessee, and they’re in both urban and rural areas. Especially in the rural areas more than the urban.

We have churches that are heavily involved. They are there and take care of those children when parents are in front of the judge or talking with the judge or with counselors on these weekly meetings that take place. There’s a real role for churches to play in the local communities and the smaller rural communities where everyone knows everyone else.

And so they’re willing to get in and help. When you get in an area like Davidson County, then it becomes more difficult to reach out to those individuals. You may have folks coming from one town to the other side of town for some of these services and there is not that local community connection. That’s an area that we really need to try and figure out how we can do a better job with maybe staying within a community setting.

Leahy: Last question for you on this. We’re just going to cover this topic this time. Next time you come back, we’ll talk more about education. What do you have planned in this area for the next session of the Tennessee General Assembly in January of 2022?

Haile: Well, we have the authorization to expand these courts even more. We’ve got authorization and we passed legislation where that we still have 10 more courts that we can expand into. So I’m going to be looking for judges and not me as much as the O of C we’ll be looking for those cohorts at the Department of Children Services.

There are three agencies that are working together on this. You got the Office of the Courts, the O of C, Department of Children Services, and their Department of Mental Health. All three of these commissioners are working closely together to make sure that this is successful. And so they will be choosing the proper place and who wants this.

And as the judges have seminars and talk to one another and say, hey, this is wonderful. We’re having great success in getting children back to biological families or to a permanent home much quicker than we ever did before and it will continue to grow.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.











Federalist Executive Editor Joy Pullmann on Southlake Texas Battle with Critical Race Theory

Federalist Executive Editor Joy Pullmann on Southlake Texas Battle with Critical Race Theory


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Federalist Executive Editor and Author Joy Pullmann to the newsmakers line who discussed her recent article at The Federalist exposing the defamation of conservatives running for a local Southlake Texas school board that oppose racist cultural competence plans.

Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line now by Joy Pullmann, executive editor of The Federalist. A great writer and author of a new article, Texas Agitators Get Dirty to Push Institutional Racism in Texas’s Number One School District. Good morning, Joy.

Pullmann: Good morning.

Leahy: It’s hard to believe that a top public school system in Southlake, Texas Carroll Independent School District is teaching that all White people are racist. I couldn’t really… is that really true? And I looked at it and I said, yeah, it is. How does this happen, Joy?

Pullmann: It seems to be, in the Texas case, really brought into the school district, which, by the way, is also a conservative school district voted, I think, almost 20 points more for Trump over Biden in the last election. And that’s a pattern going back to the last five presidential elections, Republican and Democrat. So this is not a community that really is woke.

And that was actually proven by the results of an election on Saturday for the school board we’re talking about. People who oppose the critical race theory in the school District won two school board seats with overwhelming percentages. I think the margin of victory was 10 to 15 points. Obviously, this is not coming from the local community.

This is not what the majority of parents in Southlake want for their children. And I think that’s true in a lot of places in the country. How it really came into the school district was by a number of activist administrators. So these are people using their positions that mid-level bureaucrats, basically, to impose a really extremist ideology that targets people based on their skin color.

Leahy: That’s a very important thing you said. We want to follow up on this. Mid-level administrators, it looks like they snuck in this 2018, a cultural competence action plan that included teaching children in each grade to see each other in racial terms. To be treated according to skin color. We have here in Middle Tennessee, in Williamson County, which is the affluent suburb just South of Nashville, and in Metro Nashville, Davidson County, they’re trying to put in all these cultural competence plans. Is this sort of the way that they’re trying to sneak a lot of these things in?

Pullmann: Yes. So what happened in this school district in 2018 a video went viral on social media of kids after homecoming singing along to a rap song that had a racial slur in it. And this was used as an example. I mean, really, it was kind of hijacked by people in the district that already believed that White people are inherently racist when they’re born.

To me, it sounds crazy to say that, but that literally is what this ideology teaches. And so I looked into skills that in the school administrators that teachers were being given in Southlake schools. And it literally said that it was teaching people to look at each other and divide themselves based on race. They wanted to criminalize children for obviously, nobody supports making mean racial comments to other kids.

Oh, your eyes look like this or whatever. But that’s a relatively minor kid behavior that you can address at the moment properly to teach the children what to do. As parents and teachers really need to do, communicate to children how to behave and help them grow up that way. But this school district wanted to really give those kids a criminal record for incidents like that.

They were applying to the state for a grant to create basically this tracking and monitoring system for kids, possibly with records that would follow them for the rest of their life. So a lot of kind of crazy stuff going on, and they give it the name of something that basically everybody in the United States agrees with.

They call it anti-racism. They say it’s trying to stop mean instances and cruelties based on race. And nobody opposes that. But the sort of solutions that are provided is really extremist and most likely to really cause more trouble rather than help kids love each other and treat each other equally.

Leahy: So the opponents of this cultural competence action plan that teaches kids to look at each other based on race have put together a political action committee that has fielded candidates at the mayoral level, at the city council level, and at the school board level. The election was held on May the first.

And as you say, it was an overwhelming victory to members of the school board that opposed this critical race theory teaching were elected. What happens now? How many members of the board are there? Will this have an impact? Will they get rid of this cultural competence action plan down there?

Pullmann: Yes. That is something that I talked with the parents about when I was writing this article. I believe there are five members of the local school board. And so two obviously is not a majority, but the votes have been narrow. So two actually do make a significant swing on the support on the school board for this plan.

And as well as this plan had really divided this local community and really set people up and had people on one side accusing the other of being closet racist, while the people on the other side were saying, actually, what we oppose is racism against anybody. And it has infected the mayor, the city council, all kinds of things. It was really being divisive to people.

It was a tragedy to kind of look at that and from an outside perspective and talk about how their personal relationships. I had one dad who said he’s a volunteer sports coach for some I think kids in middle school and one of the families whose children he had coached, they were good friends. They wouldn’t talk to him anymore because they thought he was a racist for opposing this school plan. (Chuckles)

So really sad personal things going on and really based on inaccuracies. So I think that’s really unfair to do to people and to caricature them as racist when they’re not. Obviously, if that is going on that should be addressed. But when it’s not, to smear someone with something that evil it’s really a bad thing to do. It really hurts communities.

But this local community, one of the things that so, like, has going for it is that it’s the top achieving school district in the state. This is largely because of the kind of parents they have there. They have people who are former court clerks for Supreme Court justices. That’s one of the new school board candidates who was just elected. Razor-sharp, top religious liberty litigation lawyers with decades of experience.

They have the other new school board person who was elected has led hundreds of millions of dollars of budgets for local aviation complex. The type of people in Southlake are high-powered and high-achieving people. They really had the resources to put together things like you mentioned political action committee to really take this head-on and to fight extremely hard. And obviously, it looks like they’re seeing some success.

Leahy: It’s interesting about this success winning these two school board seats, opposing critical race theory is the level of resources required to win. And the high quality. These are amazing candidates. These are candidates who could be candidates for federal office easily. But how many communities out there have this level of resource? This level of a candidate to fight back against the organized system, if you will, of promoting the notions of critical race theory that is all over the United States today?

Pullmann: That’s a question that actually people are really finding out right now by trying it. (Chuckles) I think South Lake had better conditions than many people in other places do. Their average income is four times the national median. So these are high-powered people again, so they have a lawsuit going on besides this. They know how to put together a political action committee.

I consider myself an intelligent, engaged person. I don’t know how to put together a political action committee. But at the same time, critical race theory is such an extremist ideology that really has been effective for parents to just literally get copies of the training of the information provided to children. And that’s really indefensible. If you take it to a school board meeting, to a teacher, to a principal.

There is no way a rational person could think that that’s not racist. It’s just so clear. I do think the extremism of this issue really gives parents a leg to stand on. There’s been a lot of coverage about it in the media. It’s become a National thing, with President Trump banning it from federal agencies. And President Joe Biden reinstating all of that and pushing it on schools.

But you have parents all across the country waging lawsuits and showing up to their school board meetings. And they are beginning to really have some success in places besides Southlake. I just heard the news that, for example, it’s Oklahoma and Idaho the two states that just banned this from their public schools. There are half a dozen other states that are considering that.

So those are major victories happening just in the past couple of weeks that wouldn’t have happened just three months ago. The entire terrain is different because parents have been standing up. They have been going to their state legislators, to their local school boards, and making a difference. It’s obviously hard. I don’t think everyone’s going to win in every case. I do think the conditions are really good and people are standing up and having success.

Listen to the full first hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Joy Pullmann” by The Heartland Institute. 






Ben Cunningham Weighs in on the Moral Narcissism and Self-Appointed Martyrs of the Left in Vogue Britian’s Recent Piece

Ben Cunningham Weighs in on the Moral Narcissism and Self-Appointed Martyrs of the Left in Vogue Britian’s Recent Piece


Live from Music Row Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed guest host Ben Cunningham to the studio who commented upon a recent Vogue Britain article by Nell Frizell who claims that perhaps having a child was contributing to climate change.

(Virginia Parent Carrie Lukas clip)

Leahy: Yes. That’s a frustrated parent in Northern Virginia, where the crazy leftists have gotten control of the school system. They’re doing that here in Williamson County and Davidson County as well. But really crazy up in Northern Virginia where they’re all a bunch of dadgum government bureaucrats who just kind of show up and get a paycheck and don’t do much of anything except obstruct the advancement of free enterprise.

Cunningham: It’s like the crazy Olympics.

Leahy: Oh man.

Cunningham: They’re all in this great competition to see how completely unhinged they can be. And they’re taking over our schools, taking away advanced classes, and putting in critical race theory. The public school system is really in jeopardy. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

Leahy: We’ve covered that story at The Virginia Star, one of the seven constellations in our network of Stars. The Star News Network. And it’s very clear they’ve decided, I think it’s Loudoun County, one of the suburbs there that they’re going to get rid of advanced math because nothing says racism like advanced math. (Laughter)

Cunningham: You look at people like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, and all these people that have been calling out the lefties for years and still it continues. They obviously are living in their own little bubble. It’s this kind of mass hysteria on the left. And they just keep ratcheting up the crazy.

Leahy: And it’s coming to Williamson County here as well. It’s been there. We reported on this White privilege concept that they were teaching the teachers a couple of years ago at The Tennessee Star. It’s gotten worse. I’ll get to that story in a second. I have to talk to you, though, Ben. You brought this story to my attention and we’ll just present it and muffle the laughter in the background. Yes, this is an article at Vogue and it’s not coming from The Babylon Bee. It’s not coming from The Onion. Apparently, with this headline, it’s from Vogue Britain. Already, you know.

Cunningham: It parodies itself.

Leahy: I’m going to read the headline, and I’m just going to let the headline just hang there for a while. It’s by Nell Frizzell who is having a baby in 2021. Pure environmental vandalism. (Cunningham laughs)

Cunningham: Oh, geez.

Leahy: How stupid are the Brits? I mean, of course, there are a lot of stupid people here. And I’ll just read some of the low lights of this story from Nell Frizzell. “While just having my son and probably every day since I have wondered whether having children is in itself an ecologically sound or unsound decision.”

Cunningham: It just encapsulates all the craziness of the left here. Here’s this woman wallowing in her own martyrdom and guilt, which she, of course, is the product of her own narcissism. It’s moral narcissism on the left from A to Z. And these people just wallow in it and say, look at me. I’m aware of all the evils of the world, and I’m trying to correct them.

And I’m a big enough person to admit that I’m destroying the environment. The whole thing is just weird. It’s just some deviant religious behavior when you think about it. Not science at all.

Leahy: So let me continue if you can bear it.  Nell Frizell. “Is having a child an act of environmental vandalism or an investment in the future? Is it possible to live an ecologically responsible life while adding yet another person to our overstretched planet? Can I get away with it if I just never learn to drive? Never get a dog and keep wearing the same three pairs of jeans for the rest of my life?” (Laughter)

Cunningham: Oh, man, I’m sure you’ve seen the video of the lady talking to I think it was either AOC or Greta about her daughter? Have you seen that video that’s been going around in the last couple of days? She basically saying her daughter came to her and said, mama, I’m worried about the end of the world. This is like a six or seven-year-old child. And the woman, rather than saying, dear, you just go out and play,

Leahy: Pay no attention to the crazies behind the curtain.

Cunningham: She encouraged this apocalyptic guilt that is so popular and so lovingly embraced on the left these days. And they’re inculcating their children with this same kind of crazy attitude. And it’s just child abuse. It’s pure child abuse.

Leahy: Now, this is why we get along so well. I was about to say that very word. This is, of course, the definition of child abuse. While we’re on the topic of child abuse let me continue with the story by Nel Frizzell at Vogue. “For the scientifically engaged person, (Excuse me while I laugh.) There are a few questions more troubling when looking at the current climate emergency, than that of having a baby. Whether your body throbs to reproduce you passively believe that it is in the cards for you one day or you actively seek to remain child-free.

The declining health of the planet cannot help but factor in your thinking.” Okay, Ben, what are the measures of the health of the climate? I can get my cholesterol checked. I can look at my health. I can do an EKG. I can do all that sort of stuff. I can check my body mass index which is not going in the right way, but nonetheless. (Cunningham laughs) I can do all those things.

Cunningham: Join the crowd.

Leahy: Join the crowd. But where does the planet go for its daily monthly annual physical? Is Nell Frizzell there taking notes?

Cunningham: This is not about science. None of this is about science. If you look at all the issues on the left. Racism, that’s getting worse. Actually, it’s getting better. But in their view, it’s getting worse. And the environment is the same way. It’s this kind of moral narcissism and self-appointed martyrs and they’re just wallowing in it every day.

Leahy: Speaking of wallowing, we’ll come back. I’m just going to have to hold this after the break. There’s more wallowing from Nell Frizzell at Vogue. And you just can’t wait to hear this.

Listen to the full second hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio







Rep. Sexton Talks Cutting Strings Attached to Federal Money and Maintaining Tennessee Values in Public Schools

Rep. Sexton Talks Cutting Strings Attached to Federal Money and Maintaining Tennessee Values in Public Schools


Live from Music Row Monday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed TN. (R) State Representative Jerry Sexton to the studio to discuss the Tennessee General Assembly’s intentions to control what is being taught in K12 public schools and the catch of accepting education funding from Washington.

Leahy: In studio our good friend State Representative Jerry Sexton from Bean Station, Tennessee. Jerry during the break, we were talking a little bit about education policy. There’s this real disconnect between what the Tennessee General Assembly says should be taught in schools and what actually is taught in schools. The schools’ curriculum is leaning left. Big time.

Now the Joe Biden Department of Education, I don’t know if you saw this is making grants available to teach critical race theory and The 1619 Project, which has been debunked historically. Critical race theory is an effort to divide America and to tell a false history. The concept behind critical race theory is not, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, that we should be judged by the content of our character.

But critical race theory says that everything should be seen through the lens of race. My question to you is there are apparently, some state legislators who are considering, even in the last couple of weeks of the session of introducing legislation, maybe in a caption bill, you would know better than I how it would come about, that would prohibit the teaching of either The 1619 Project or of critical race theory in Tennessee K12 public schools. If such a bill were proposed, how would you vote?

Sexton: Ha! I would vote to kill it. To kill it, kill it, kill it. And I know that I have several colleagues on the Education Committee that are fighting against this type of policy. And this is what’s ruining our public schools. It’s not about education. And I say it all the time. I was only on the education committee last session, and I talked about this all the time that it’s not about teaching, writing, arithmetic those types of things. It’s about indoctrinating our children. And we must put a stop to it. We must do that. We’ve stood up in this legislature just this past year. There was a program to come out to go into homes. And I don’t know if your people talked about that.

Leahy: Wellness checks without the approval of the parents.

Sexton: And we were livid. And it’s because of the Tennessee legislature and some conservative representatives that stood up and expose this for what it was. And we got it stopped. And, Michael, until we have the backbone to stand up and say, no, absolutely not, Washington you keep your money, you keep your values, you keep your education will keep ours in Tennessee. And I’ll be happy in five years to show the difference to Washington. They’re not teaching education. They’re teaching propaganda.

Leahy: Yeah, it’s kind of bizarre that our K12 public schools have devolved into propaganda machines. But that’s the reality of where they are now. I have this little pet idea, and I want to run it by you. So K12 public education in most States is funded by about 40 percent by local taxes, 50 percent by state taxes, about 10 percent from federal revenue. With federal revenue comes federal strings.

And usually, they come up with all these stupid ideas that if you want federal money, you’re going to have to do X, Y, or Z and all this stupid stuff. So here is my idea that I’ve kind of floated around. Why doesn’t the Tennessee General Assembly pass a bill that says we are not going to take a dime of federal money for education? You can keep your money and you can keep your regulations and we’ll do it our way. That makes some sense to me. As a legislator, what do you think of that concept?

Sexton: Well, let me veer off into another area and it deals with federal money. On my way home last Thursday, I’m getting calls from my county mayors. They’re wanting to know we had two million dollars put into the budget that would go directly to these counties for them to spend the money on infrastructure or whatever they needed. The local people and mayors…

Leahy: They know what’s needed. If the road needs fixing, they know which road needs fixing.

Sexton: I have a little Cumberland gap. It’s just a small place right there on the Kentucky border. And the Mayor told me he said, we need some roads and we’re going to get $40,000. of that money and we want our roads resurfaced. He said I’m hearing that they’re talking about not putting that in the budget because of the federal dollars.

Here’s what he said and here’s what every mayor told me. Those federal dollars come with strings. He said I can’t pave my roads. He said, I have to do one, two, three, and most of them have to do with the Green New Deal or something like that. He said I need the state money because I can do whatever I need to do for my town, for my county.

But he said if these federal dollars, he said, I have to do whatever they tell me to do. And he said I’m hearing that they’re wanting to take the $200 million out because of all the federal dollars. And I said, not in the House. The House is fighting for you. And I said it’s my understanding the governor is fighting for you. So I don’t know what the Senate is going to do. I’m not in the Senate. But that’s exactly what we’re doing with education. We need to tell Washington you keep your money, we’ll keep our money and we’ll teach our kids Tennessee values.

Leahy: Will you in the next session, introduce a bill to accomplish just that?

Sexton: I would love to accomplish that. I would love to introduce that bill. I will be glad to do that.

Leahy: All right. We’ll track it. And I say that with a smile on my face.

Sexton: Sure.

Leahy: And you know why there’s a smile on my face? Because there are huge hurdles to such a bill.

Sexton: Oh, absolutely.

Leahy: The Teacher’s Union. The Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, and the Tennessee School Board. They’re all going to oppose it. All of them. Because they want the money.

Sexton: What’s most important to us? Funding the teachers union in the large infrastructure in the education Department? Or teaching our students? what’s the most important?

Leahy: I agree. And I’ve talked to a representative, Mark White, who’s a chair of the Education Administration Committee. He was favorably inclined to that idea.

Sexton: Absolutely.

Leahy: At least at the initial stages. It is a tough political battle. But we’ll see how that plays out.

Listen to the first hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio







Author Professor Dr. Peter Gray of Free to Learn Discusses the Data Showing Children Today as More Depressed and Anxious and Less Creative

Author Professor Dr. Peter Gray of Free to Learn Discusses the Data Showing Children Today as More Depressed and Anxious and Less Creative


Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. –  host Leahy welcomed Professor Peter Gray of Boston College and author of Free to Learn to the newsmakers line to outline the several factors that occur by limiting playtime for children that lead to depression and anxiety as well as a decline in creativity.

Leahy: We are joined now by Professor Peter Gray of Boston College, author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. Good morning, Professor Gray.

Gray: Good morning.

Leahy: Well, I feel like I know you because every time I turn around, somebody’s talking about your work. Lenore Skenazy, we interviewed her. The Free Range Kids Mom. She was a guest on our program. Then yesterday, the President and CEO of Bridgeway Academy, Jessica Parnell was on. She kept talking about Dr. Peter Gray. Dr. Peter Gray. I feel like I know you, Dr. Gray.

Gray: Well, nice to meet you.

Leahy: Well, we have a couple of things in common. You grew up in small towns in Minnesota, in Wisconsin. You went around and you hung outside, you played sports, you hunted and fished. Apparently, you were a big fishing enthusiast. I grew up in little towns in upstate New York, and I played sports all the time. I was out and about it was a great way to grow up. I think your argument is, let’s let kids do that kind of thing again.

Gray: Yeah. And in fact, if you look worldwide and you look throughout history that’s normal childhood. Children are really designed to be out playing with other kids, spending enormous amounts of time initiating their own activities, learning how to solve their own problems, learning how to get along with peers without adults always intervening, and doing things for them.

I’ve talked to enough anthropologists who studied children and other cultures and people who are aware of how children grew up in past times, and I think it’s quite reasonable to say that there has never been a time or place in history where children are less free then our children are today, with the exception, of course, of times and places of childhood slavery and working in sweatshops or coal mines. That kind of thing, which was a terrible period. But normal childhood is the kind of childhood that you just described. We are not allowing children to have a normal childhood today.

Leahy: How much harm is it doing to this current generation of children? Well, you know, one way that I’ve looked at that we have seen this decline in childhood freedom over the course of my lifetime. I’m 77 years old, so I’ve been around for a while. And historians have documented, this is not just my memory, that over this period of time from about the 1950s or early 1960s until today, there has been a continuous decline in children’s freedom to just go out and play and play with other children without adults telling them what to do. So it’s really an enormous decline. There’s almost no comparison between the amount of freedom that children had in the 1960s and the lack of freedom that they have today. And it’s been a continuous decline.

It’s not that it all occurred suddenly, although there was a kind of more precipitous drop around the 1980s and 1990s than there had been earlier. Over the same period of time, researchers have documented huge increases in all sorts of mental disorders of childhood and children and young adults. So, for example, there’s a clinical questionnaire that’s been given to normative groups of teenagers over the decades without changing the way, the form has been the same overall this period that assesses depression.

And if you look at the scores on this test, how the scores have changed over the decades, what you see is that what today would be regarded as the cut-off for major depressive disorder. There are somewhere between eight to 10 times the rate of major depressive disorder among school-age teenagers today, as there was in the 1950s.

A similar change for anxiety and what would be regarded today as a generalized anxiety disorder. The suicide rate among school-age children is now six times what it was in the 1950s. There is also a well-documented decline in creativity among children. I could explain that if your readers are interested.

Leahy: Let me just stop there. That is very important because I look at kids right now, and I think because they’re in such controlled environments and have such a lack of freedom, they don’t develop confidence in their ability to solve problems. They don’t develop self-reliance and they become dependent. And that again, I’m a layman to me that looks like the problem. But let’s talk even more about this decline and creativity.

Gray: Well, let me first reinforce what you just said. In fact, that’s a very good hypothesis, what you just suggested. Let me give some evidence for it. There’s another clinical questionnaire called the Internal-External Locus of Control Scale, and this also has been given to normative groups of school-aged children and it showed a continuous decline since this scale was developed in the 1960s.

A continuous decline among young people in what’s called an internal locus of control. Now, what an internal locus of control means is that you feel that you are in control of your own fate. You feel that you can solve your own problems, that you’re not a victim of circumstance, powerful other people, and so on and so forth. Of course, the reality is we’re all kind of in the middle of this. We’re all to some degree, we don’t have total control.

But it turns out that the more you have a sense of being in control, the more you indeed take control. And what clinical psychology failed repeatedly is if you don’t have an internal locus of control that sets you up for anxiety and depression. The world is a very scary world if you don’t think you can solve problems that occur. If you think something can happen at any time and there’s nothing you can do about it.

So I think that’s one of the reasons for the change. And then there are some other very obvious reasons for the change. I mean, take away play. What is life without play for a childhood? That’s pretty depressing, right? And instead of allowing them to play, you put them in ever more kinds of activities where they’re being judged and evaluated and micro-managed by adults. And that’s a pretty anxiety-provoking situation.

You’re always being judged. You’re always being how are you doing compared to other people. The school has become more and more pressured activities outside of school that are just going out and playing you’re on some kind of a sports team. Where do you make the team or not? When the trophy or not. Life has become very anxiety-provoking and pressured for children. So concerning creativity, believe it or not, I didn’t believe it at first, but I’ve looked into the research enough that now I do.

There is a standard way of assessing creativity in school-age children and it is called Torrence’s Test of Creative Thinking. It turns out that scores on this test are the best predictors we have for future creative production as an adult, people who score high on this test when they are children are more likely to do things like found new companies, invent new products, create interesting artistic work.

I mean, the whole range of contributions to the culture that we think of as creative you’re far more likely to do that as an adult. As a kid, you scored high on this test it’s a better predictor than IQ. It’s a way better predictor of the grades in school, which are hardly predictors at all. Now, it turns out that at least since 1984 scores on this test have been going down at every grade level.

Down sufficiently that the average score today, actually, I should say the average score 10 years ago, because that’s the most recent date for which I have data. The average score around 2012 was where the 15th percentile would have been in 1984. So, in other words, 85 percent of kids in 1984, were scoring higher on this test on creativity than the average kid today.

Again, doesn’t surprise me. Self-directed play is the most creative thing that anybody does. If you take the play away from people and you also change school. So it’s all about drilling for cats and all those creative things that people used to do in school that are oftentimes not graded, but just part of the school culture in the past, taken away, it should be no surprise that kids are growing up less creative.

Listen to the full first hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio