When Bills About History Make History

Bob Siegel Bob Siegel 2 Comments

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Originally written by Bob Siegel and published in The Washington Times Communities, 4-21-11. Used by permission.

SAN DIEGO, April 21,24, 2011 —There is a new bill making its way through the California legislature. It already passed the Senate. If it also passes the Assembly and gets signed, public school teachers will be required to update both their lectures and their textbooks to include contributions of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders in history.

We are talking about a bill created by Senator Mark Leno who said on his own website, “Senate Bill 48 would ensure that our history books fairly and accurately include LGBT people.”

I pity the poor teacher who dares to assume that a negative portrayal of a gay historical figure is a fair and accurate one. Obviously, the subject of homosexuality is emotionally charged with a plethora of opposing feelings from a variety of people. But all too often, in the name of tolerance and diversity, diversity of opinion is not tolerated.

Senate Bill 48, while including some mandates that nobody should disagree with such as “a study of the role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and European Americans,also insists that history teaching include “ lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.”

In addition, the bill seeks to update an existing law that “prohibits a governing board from adopting instructional materials that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons because of their race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, sex, handicap, or occupation, or that contain any sectarian or denominational doctrine or propaganda contrary to law.”  Now this same law re-words part of its statement and also adds to the list; “gender, religion, disability, nationality, and sexual orientation.”

Unless you’ve been asleep these past few years, you are already abundantly aware that the subject of homosexuality as it relates to law is nothing new for the Golden State. Back in 2008, Proposition 8 was on the ballot because gay marriage had already been made legal in California when a court reversed a previous law where people voted to keep marriage between a man and a woman. Since this new law was deemed “unconstitutional,” conservatives were now seeking to add an amendment to the California Constitution. One of the concerns had to do with our public schools. Prop 8 advocates warned that if gay marriage remained the law of the land, schools might be forced to talk approvingly about the subject in Sex Ed and other such classes.

Opponents of Prop 8 replied swiftly by painting conservatives as a group of paranoid fear mongers.

In a television ad, Jack O’Connell,  the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, spoke with considerable passion: “Prop 8 has nothing to do with schools or kids. Our schools are not required to teach anything about marriage. And using kids to lie about that is shameful.”  (From a political ad, 2008 paid for by “ No on 8, “Equality For All,” “Major Funding From No on 8,” and “Human Rights Campaign.”)

Of course, everything O’Connell said was technically true. Prop 8 did not have anything to do with schools, but people were understandably worried about a slippery slope. Evidently we didn’t even need the slope. Now in the year 2011, the Politically Correct viewpoint of homosexuality is fast on its way to school curriculum regardless of Prop 8 (currently caught in the courts with same sex marriage in California remaining a question for the future.)

Undoubtedly, people will argue that the latest proposed law is not about marriage either since its emphasis is merely on the contributions of gay people in history. But such hair splitting conveniently avoids the deeper concern, indoctrination regarding the same-sex lifestyle, period!

True, one can assert that mentioning gay people in history does not automatically translate into a condoning of the practice, but assuming naïve students would not pick up exactly that interpretation is a stretch of the imagination.  Their own trusted teacher is going out of the way to mention sexual orientations of people involved with positive historical events. No disclaimer is allowed.  Nobody will hear a teacher add,  “Although I personally do not believe homosexuality is appropriate behavior, this is still an interesting anecdote to study.”

That kind of qualification is taboo under the new law. In addition to not allowing material that says negative things about gays and lesbians, the bill also forbids “instruction or school sponsored activities that reflect adversely upon persons because of their… race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, and sexual orientation.”

Are you catching on? Only positive stories about homosexuals are allowed in the classroom. No teacher is permitted to express any disapproval of the lifestyle while sharing this information. Supposedly, this is not to be viewed as indoctrination.

What would happen if certain public school teachers protested under a claim that their religious convictions did not allow them to go along with this agenda in good conscience? Would they hear a lecture about “separation between church and state?”  Assuming for a moment that the Establishment Clause was really intended for such an application, isn’t it interesting how the separation seldom seems to cut both ways? Blatantly Christian values cannot be taught, but values that completely contradict the Bible (Romans 1) can be taught in a public school on the taxpayer’s dime. Indeed, Christians themselves may be the ones forced to actually teach the stuff or resign!

Ironically, this very same California bill also claims that schools cannot “reflect adversely” upon religion. Does the promotion of a lifestyle that contradicts Biblical morality “reflect adversely” against Christianity?  Does the very wording of this proposed law contradict itself? Perhaps someone will push the matter by putting it to a test. Maybe the whole conflict will find its way into a California courtroom. But then, a California judge has already overturned the will of the people even after Proposition 8 made that will a part of the California Constitution, so take a wild guess as to how the challenge of this law will go. If I were a gambling man, I know where I’d place my money. Oh that’s right.They don’t have money in California any more. That’s why we’re passing a law that would cost a mountain of cash to revamp our history materials. Oh well, one contradiction at a time.

I suspect the inclusion of religion (despite the general all encompassing word) may have been less concerned about the rights of Christians and more concerned about advancing the kind of Political Correctness which seeks to discourage negative remarks about Islam. If so, we still have a paradox. The Bible, after all, is not the only religious document speaking against homosexuality. So does the Koran (Surah 26).

This author intends no disrespect to gays, lesbians, or same sex couples. Any disagreement (even about lifestyles) can be done in a civil manner. People can be friends without agreeing about or sharing every value. But I would think that anybody, gay or straight, liberal or conservative, should be concerned about the erosion of free speech in our society.

Before jumping to the conclusion that conservatives are trying to do that very thing, limit free speech, keep in mind that the California bill does not propose a dialogue on the subject of homosexuality where students are hearing both sides. If we were talking about older kids in High School, such an exchange might be healthy. Unfortunately, such an exchange also seems to be the farthest thing from Sacramento’s mind.

Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170.

NOTE: For more detail on this sensitive subject and its related topic of same- sex marriage, see Bob’s article, written last year for San Diego Rostra entitled If You Think Gay Marriage Will Not Affect You, Think Again.

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Comments 2

  1. Just for the sake of my curiosity…. Who on Rostra thinks that Bonnie Dumanis and Carl DeMaio ought to be recognized for making history as openly gay leaders, particularly Republican leaders? Who doesn’t?

  2. In Bonnie Dumanis’ case, she has the distinction of being San Diego County’s first female District Attorney as well as its first gay Republican.

    What heartens me most is when these achievements are no longer considered all that extraordinary. Perhaps unusual, but not shocking and not against the odds.

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