|NUMBER 306||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||JULY 2011|
|California Passes Gay History Law|
California students rank in the bottom 10% nationally in reading and math, (based on 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress Test scores), but Governor Jerry Brown just signed a bill into law to ensure they know more about gay historical figures than kids from any other state. The Assembly passed the measure on a 49-25 party line vote after it passed the Senate, 23-14; Democrats control both chambers.
Written by openly gay Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act makes California the first state to mandate that students study "the role and contributions of . . . gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans . . . to the development of California and the United States." The law also forbids the adoption of any textbook or other instructional materials that reflect "adversely" on gays.
Thomasson also predicted that teachers will have no choice but to positively portray LGBT lifestyles, lest they be accused of "reflecting adversely" or "promoting a discriminatory bias." He also pointed out that parents will not be notified, nor will they be able to exempt their children, because the alternative lifestyle lessons will be part of the core curriculum.
Advocates of the law say it's only fair to give homosexuals their historical due, and that teaching about gays' contributions will curb anti-gay stereotypes that make gay youth vulnerable to bullying and suicide.
Focus on the Family education analyst Candi Cushman countered by saying that FAIR is unnecessary as an anti-discrimination measure because California already has some of the strongest laws on the books. She added that people should not be singled out for honor in history books because of their sexual behavior, but should be included based on the merits of their historical contributions.
Significantly, the legislation does not specify a grade in which instruction should begin, leaving many opponents concerned that gay history could be taught as early as first grade. Dr. Miriam Grossman, a specialist in pediatrics and psychiatry, testified during committee hearings that the law could do psychological harm to young children who cannot assimilate certain facts. For example, she said, young children cannot process transgenderism and might be confused or even frightened if made to grapple with the concept.
Critics also say the law will force taxpayers to replace textbooks and other instructional materials at a time when California is facing a massive fiscal crisis. FAIR sponsor Leno said schools won't have to buy new textbooks right away, but must ensure future editions comply with the mandate. The California Department of Education has said it does not expect to adopt new texts until 2015, though teachers could use supplemental materials until then. The textbook revisions could have an impact beyond California, because national publishers tailor books for California's large market that smaller states end up using, too.
Save California and other traditional values organizations urged citizens to express their disapproval of the bill to Governor Brown. "Impressionable children are already being sexually indoctrinated, but [this bill] would be the most in-your-face-brainwashing yet," said Thomasson. "True history focuses on the accomplishments of people — it doesn't talk about what they did in the bedroom."
It's not surprising that Brown signed FAIR, because historically he has supported homosexual groups on most issues, including gay marriage. Still, Karen England of Capitol Resource Family Impact expressed frustration that Brown did not listen to the "thousands and thousands" of phone calls asking him to veto the bill. "He has ignored over half of the people in our state to implement a controversial, objectionable, and poor public school policy measure into California's classrooms," she said.
The California law stands in stark contrast to Tennessee's so-called "don't say gay" bill, which prohibits discussion of homosexuality before high school. The measure has yet to pass in the state's House of Representatives, however. (Associated Press, 7-6-11; bpnews.net, 7-6-11; redcounty.com, 4-11-11)