Friday, May 12, 2006

Is Left Coast Education "Leave No Group Behind"?

The AP via MSNBC reports "California might honor gays in textbooks - State Senate passes bill that would also bar negative portrayals". California is number one in the textbook market in the US. The report reads, in part, as follows:

California children would read about homosexuals' contributions to history under a bill approved by state senators who often drew on their own childhood experiences in supporting the measure.

The bill would require California's social science textbooks to include the contributions of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people to the state and nation's history. ...

The measure passed Thursday 22-15, with no Republican votes. It heads to the Assembly, where opponents vowed another fight. ...

The bill — introduced by Democratic Sen. Sheila Kuehl, the state's first openly gay legislator — also would bar textbooks and other instructional material that portrayed gays in a negative light. ...

Two of three gay students are verbally harassed and one of six is physically harassed, said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, which sponsored the legislation. "The invisibility that currently exists (in textbooks) contributes to that," he added.

Other women senators drew parallels to the lack of female or minority role models they saw in history books as children.

Sen. Bill Morrow disputed the comparison. "If you are a black American, you can't help it, you were born that way," he said. "There is not one scintilla of credible scientific evidence that suggests that homosexuality is biological in origin..... It is behavioral; it is not racial."

Sen. Richard Alarcon disagreed. "This is the way ... God made people," said Alarcon. "Let's stop trying to hide this reality."

One thing I immediately thought is how conservative states like Texas might require an alternative version. We could have an Alabama version that required Bear Bryant to be positively mention but the Georgia text could not reference banjo music in Appalachia.

Is Senator Morrow's "logic"really that "you can't help it" if born black? I would also refer the learned Senator to this fine Boston Globe effort by Neil Swidey. Very interesting and certainly enough to qualify for "scintilla" status. It is refreshing to see not all the stupid politicians are here in Alabama.

As for the decision, I'm not very certain that a text is where to start. Mentioning that Langston Hughes, or another significant historical figure was gay, seems appropriate perhaps yet so often it seems like these textbooks, often written via "group think" for "canned curriculum" application, provide contrived examples to meet the requirements of more "group think".

The best place to start might simply be with teachers trying to model appropriate attitudes and allowing them freedom and flexibility in covering material. My son will likely grow up to be a tolerant man yet it will be more likely because I've influenced him more than popular culture or his peers or ...

A final thought is that this will give the Conservative GOP yet another weapon in their need to "fight the culture war" to get regular Americans to vote against their real interests. I can imagine sermons and direct mail and ... being prepared already about the Godless liberals trying to promote their homosexual agendas. Karl Rove ought to send the California Democrats a "Thank You!" note.

Peace ... or War!