I'm a little behind the curve on this one — I only heard it through one of Jay Leno's endless gay jokes — but now, having heard it, I'm still gasping for air. Here's the language the California Senate is considering enacting as new law in California (Senate Bill 1437; proposed amendments in red):
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:
SEC. 1. Section 51204.5 of the Education Code is amended to read:
51204.5. Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, black Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Island people, and other ethnic groups, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.
SEC. 4. Section 60040 of the Education Code is amended to
60040. When adopting instructional materials for use in the schools, governing boards shall include only instructional materials which, in their determination, accurately portray the cultural
and, racial [sic] gender, and sexual diversity of our society, including: (a) The contributions of both men and women in all types of roles, including professional, vocational, and executive roles.
(b) The role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups to the total development of California and the United States.
(c) The contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender to the total development of California and the United States.
The Bill is still pending.
Here's our educational trajectory: We started out teaching our children not to discriminate, insult or ridicule people different from themselves (including gays), which is a laudable goal I wholeheartedly support as an essential element of a truly civilized society. Now, we're having classes that promote "lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender" contributions to society. I can just imagine the new curriculum: "Let's talk Hollywood costume design, kids! And how about if we focus on the travails of that weird guy/gal you used to see hanging around the bus stop? There's a story and an education there for sure, little ones."
As always, I have tremendous difficulty understanding a subset of society that is so desperate to include me in its sex life. To me, teaching should be along the lines of "So and so was a brilliant chemist whose discovery of the X-Factor enabled America to win the war." I can understand adding "So and So's accomplishment was all the more impressive given that So and So was barred from university growing up because So and So was black (or Hispanic, or Jewish, or female, etc.). I'll even be happy with "So and So's fierce devotion to science developed when, as a child, he stayed in the house to avoid the endless taunting from children who derided his masculinity."
What I refuse to accept as a viable teaching approach is "Mr. So and So likes to boff men. There are lots of people who like to engage in sexual activity with another person of the same sex, and that's a good thing. Some of them are scientists. One of them invented X-Factor…." The focus is all wrong. Sexuality shouldn't be the lead-in, the stand-out, the teaching point.
If you're in California, and you also think that our students should learn about people because of their accomplishments and contributions, and not because of their sexuality, please be sure to contact your State Senator and ask that he or she cast a vote against Senate Bill 1437.