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On CA law mandating teaching gay history in public schools

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 4:18 am - July 15, 2011.
Filed under: California politics,Gay Politics

As I’m sure you can imagine, I have a good deal to say on my governor’s signing legislation “requiring public schools to include the contributions of people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in social studies curriculum.

But, I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.  And a lot on my mind.   So, I’ll just offer some quick thoughts and excerpt a post that pretty much echoes my thoughts.  Basically, we shouldn’t include such contributions just because they were made by gay and lesbian people, nor should we exclude contributions just because they were made by gay and lesbian individuals.

The issue is not the group to which the individual who made the contribution belonged, but the value of the contribution.

That is, we shouldn’t include some minor, insignificant poet in school curricula just because he’s gay, but, shouldn’t exclude Walt Whitman because he was drawn (emotionally, sensually, sexually) to individuals of his own sex.  We should study Whitman because he’s a great poet (perhaps indeed the greatest American poet).

And when teaching Whitman’s poetry or the prose of Oscar Wilde, teachers could reference these artists’ sexuality so that students can better appreciate their work.  Indeed, knowledge of these two writers’ sexuality provides both a window into their creative process and a means to deepen students’ understanding of the stories they tell, the imagery they use and the ideas they convey.

But, is legislation necessary to do that?  I’m skeptical.  So too is my pal Sonicfrog who knows what it’s like to teach students.  He thinks “this is absolutely NUTS!

What exactly are they going to teach?

Harvey Milk?

OK. I have no problem with giving him a mention. That was a somewhat landmark election.

Stonewall Riots?

That’s already taught in the Civil Rights curriculum and was included in the text book I was using while student teaching my social sciences classes.

Read the whole thing.

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24 Comments

  1. I vaguely remember learning about Whitman in high school. Learning of his affection for men, later in my life, didn’t have any kind of impact whatever. And if “equality” is supposed to mean that gays are just like everybody else, why would one want to highlight the fact that they’re different?

    Then again, if it got kids to read Whitman instead of shit heads like Joe Jervis and Dan Savage, I’d be for that.

    Comment by TGC — July 15, 2011 @ 6:09 am - July 15, 2011

  2. In my opinion this is just one more piece of divisive “gay” legislation that is not much different from putting a gun to the head of the heterosexual community to scare the stuffing out of them. It’s more evidence that the LGBT community views it’s self as smarter an better than the “Breeders” and will not stop with the madness until it is “apart and above” the heterosexual citizenry of this country. Hopefully, the LGBT folks like, Dan who haven’t completely lost their minds will continue making critical assesments about this kind of forced indoctrination.

    Comment by Richard Bell — July 15, 2011 @ 8:00 am - July 15, 2011

  3. In a general history course this is indeed ridiculous. There just isn’t enough time to do something like this as well as cover the important topics. I’d rather they learn about Washington, Lincoln, etc. than Milk if I had to choose. Milk may be important but nowhere near many others. Having said this, I don’t have a problem with an elective course that specializes in a particular group like gays, women, Irish-Americans or whatever. There you can learn about more minor figures in history.

    Comment by JohnAGJ — July 15, 2011 @ 8:17 am - July 15, 2011

  4. Probably did not need to happen, but am glad that it is happening.

    Interesting historical info:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CuMkTSiB1A

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_scare

    Comment by rusty — July 15, 2011 @ 8:55 am - July 15, 2011

  5. As a social studies teacher — and former English teacher — I agree with you completely. Unless the issue of sexuality is relevant to a persons accomplishments, why are we dwelling on it — and if a person’s accomplishments are significant, why would we exclude them because of sexuality?

    Who cares, for example, that James Buchanan was probably gay? What matters is not his sexuality, but rather how ineffectual he was in the period leading up to the Civil War. Unless someone can document how his same-sex attraction fed into his failure as a president, I don’t see where it is even a relevant point to mention — just as I don’t see where the claims that Lincoln may have been on the down-low are particularly relevant to his efforts to win the Civil War, either.

    On the other hand, when I teach about ancient Greece I include Sappho — because she is relevant, not because of her sexuality (which I do mention). And when I talk about Alexander the Great, I do bring up the issue of sexuality due to the impact of Hephaestion’s death upon him– but note that the first claims of homosexual activity on Alexander’s part date from nearly a century after his death, so we really can’t be certain of the nature of the relationship. It is sort of like bringing up Cleopatra’s marriage to her brother Ptolemy XIII — you do it not for prurient reasons, but because it is relevant to the historical narrative.

    And therein, as is noted here, is what matters — not the inclusion of sexuality for the sake of including sexuality, but its inclusion when it matters (because sometimes it really does matter).

    Comment by Rhymes With Right — July 15, 2011 @ 8:58 am - July 15, 2011

  6. Excellent Reply, RWR.

    It would be akin to discussing the colour of Phil Sheridan’s hair while describing his raids into the Shenedoah valley. Of more import might be his youth spent as a shopkeeper, as it’s believed that’s why we have such detailed records of what he destroyed.

    Comment by The_Livewire — July 15, 2011 @ 9:27 am - July 15, 2011

  7. I was there at the “creation” of black history and it wasn’t pretty. There are still people who insist Beethoven was black. But, then, who cares?

    The chapter on Great Gays and Lesbians Who Made the World a Better Place will undoubtedly gloss over Homophobes Who Helped Downtrodden Gays in Time of Need.

    This type of minority recognition agenda is an utter waste of time. Not long ago, Dan posted a quandary about how to approach a person who might be gay. Are we now going to create a long search of those long dead who might have been gay or lesbian or bi-sexual or whatever?

    Comment by Heliotrope — July 15, 2011 @ 9:32 am - July 15, 2011

  8. So, this is what a state run by Democrats worries about instead of fixing its economy.

    Meanwhile, Red state Indiana has a $1.2 Billion budget surplus.

    Comment by V the K — July 15, 2011 @ 9:33 am - July 15, 2011

  9. Sure. I think Oscar Wilde was a great writer, period.

    But? Wilde (a genuinely great mind) was heavily influenced by Catholicism, and later converted to Christianity before dying. So (my wild guess) is that teachers will be editing out numerous inconveniences in Stalinist fashion. “Our students can’t spell, but they are indoctrinated!”

    The public school system is a joke. Take Wilde again. If we hold the black-and-white idea that he was an innocent angel, will schools teach that his accuser was a militant atheist? Or will that be edited out too? Will pupils learn about Wilde’s politically-incorrect attacks on Victorian nature lovers, and so on?

    LOL: I’d urge American parents to send their kids to private schools or homeschool them, if possible.

    Comment by Ben — July 15, 2011 @ 10:45 am - July 15, 2011

  10. “Our students can’t spell, but they are indoctrinated!”

    That’s pretty much it.

    The hilarious disconnect in our society is of Barack Obama and his syncophants like Levi, Counterfail, and others insisting our schools are substandard and we’re thus getting our rears handed to us in literacy, technology, and innovation — and then mandating that school time be used to teach “gay history” and “Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmmm” in lieu of math, science, and English.

    This is why I am paying for my nephews and nieces to go to private school and not begrudging the expense one whit. At least they will get an education.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — July 15, 2011 @ 11:03 am - July 15, 2011

  11. Rusty – Mention the “Lavender Scare” as part of the lesson concerning “The Red Scare” and all the dynamics there-in???

    Sure.

    Actually devoting a chapter and several days on it???

    To what purpose. Yes, it’s yet another abuse of power. But did it alter the lives of the average citizen or change the Nation? Hell, you have a more compelling argument to talk about drugs in the 50′s (the Beatniks, “Reafer Madness”) than you do about the Lavander Scare!

    Comment by Sonicfrog — July 15, 2011 @ 11:11 am - July 15, 2011

  12. Ben, you get it. Wilde’s religious feeling influenced his writing as did his sexuality. No writer was influenced by just one, shall we say, aspect of his character or passion of his heart. . ..

    To better understand Wilde, it helps to learn that he was gay and that he converted to Christianity at the end of his life.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — July 15, 2011 @ 11:45 am - July 15, 2011

  13. Anybody know of a good book on the Beatniks? I find them interesting for some reason.

    Comment by Sonicfrog — July 15, 2011 @ 12:24 pm - July 15, 2011

  14. I agree with you Dan and Rhymes With Right. There shouldn’t be gay history no more than there should be black history, women’s history, Latino history, Asian-American history, etc. We need to get rid of that. There is only one kind of history in this country and that is American History.

    Comment by MV — July 15, 2011 @ 1:06 pm - July 15, 2011

  15. It is sort of like bringing up Cleopatra’s marriage to her brother Ptolemy XIII — you do it not for prurient reasons, but because it is relevant to the historical narrative.

    Exactly. In a general history course, which relationships of hers had more of an impact on world history? Marriage to Ptolemy XIII, having a kid with Julius Ceasar, an affair with Marc Antony that led to the ruin of both of them? Obviously the last two. The marriage to her brother Ptolemy XIII would be great to delve into a bit more in a class dedicated to ancient Egyptian history, or something like this, because of the tradition of incestual marriages among the pharoahs tied to their religious beliefs. It’s all fascinating stuff and as a history buff myself I want to know all of this but it is impossible to put all of it in a general course. There simply isn’t enough time and some minor details should not take away from the big stuff. Yet too often I’ve seen where these major details are given short rift or even ignored in order to placate different groups. That’s stupid. If need be they can pass out a sheet that has “To Learn More See…” on it and fill it up with websites, books, articles, etc. that people can check on their own.

    Comment by JohnAGJ — July 15, 2011 @ 1:41 pm - July 15, 2011

  16. I’d urge American parents to send their kids to private schools or homeschool them, if possible.

    You bring up a good point. I think this new law in California is stupid and a waste of time. This is also a shining example of why public schools are a big problem. When you force someone else to pay for your child’s education in a government-run school, they have just as much right to shape the curriculuum as you do. You’ve forfeited some of your rights as parents to raise your child and all the righteous indignation about what someone else wants to teach your kid in public school is meaningless. Whether it’s evolution, creationism, prayers in school, Muslim foot-baths, Bible clubs, GSAs, general sex-ed, gay sex, Latin, or whatever. This is big reason why we need school choice. Yes, we need it because the overall poor performance of public schools but we need it mostly because it restores the proper relationship for parents. It’s up to them to raise their children right, not me. Yet take money out of my pocket for your kid and all my ideas on what’s best for your little tyke are fair game in the schoolhouse whether you like it or not.

    Comment by JohnAGJ — July 15, 2011 @ 1:53 pm - July 15, 2011

  17. The public school system can’t be fixed. It must be shut down and the assets auctioned off to the highest bidder. That money along with the taxes that used to support the system can then be returned to parents so they can choose to home school or send their children to private school. Competition would ensure the “good” teachers will be rewarded and the “bad” teachers would find other work to do. More importantly the students would be educated and ready to achieve succeess in this modern world.

    Comment by Richard Bell — July 15, 2011 @ 3:17 pm - July 15, 2011

  18. Sonic. . .just found the Lavender Scare interesting. The push for GLBT history in CA schools seems totally unnecessary. But it does set a bar and creates conversations. As we approach a time where students won’t be hauling around text books, but rather will be toting around some form of e-reader that will upload educational materials (most that will get updated on a more timely basis). . .like John said most curriculums will probably just have ‘For more info go to …

    Change is hard.

    Here is the latest from my oh so conservative sister

    Musings on Modern Technology

    When I bought my Blackberry, I thought about the 30-year business I ran with 1,800 employees, all without a cell phone that plays music, takes videos, pictures and communicates with Facebook and Twitter. I signed up under duress for Twitter and Facebook so my seven kids, their spouses, 13 grandkids and 2 great-grandkids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle something as simple as Twitter with only 140 characters of space.

    That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends every message to my cell phone and every other program within the texting world.

    My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my cell phone in the garage in my golf bag.

    The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost every now and then going over to the grocery store or library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Bluetooth (it’s red) phone I am supposed to use when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line at Barnes and Noble talking to my wife, and everyone in the nearest 50 yards was glaring at me. I had to take my hearing aid out to use it, and I got a little loud.

    I mean the GPS looked pretty smart on my dashboard, but the lady inside that gadget was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every 10 minutes, she would sarcastically say, “Re-calc-u-lating.” You would think that she could be nicer. It was like she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to make a U-turn at the next light. Then if I made a right turn instead . . . well, it was not a good relationship..

    When I get really lost now, I call my wife and tell her the name of the cross streets, and while she is starting to develop the same tone as Gypsy, the GPS lady, at least she loves me.

    To be perfectly frank, I am still trying to learn how to use the
    cordless phones in our house. We have had them for four years, but I still haven’t figured out how I can lose three phones all at once and have to run around digging under chair cushions and checking bathrooms and dirty laundry baskets when the phone rings.

    The world is just getting too complex for me. They even mess me up every time I go to the grocery store. You would think they could settle on something themselves but this sudden “Paper or plastic?” every time I check out just knocks me for a loop. I bought some of those cloth reusable bags to avoid looking confused, but I never remember to take them in with me.

    Now I toss it back to them. When they ask me, “Paper or plastic?” I just say, “Doesn’t matter to me. I am bi-sacksual.” Then it’s their turn to stare at me with a blank look. I was recently asked if I tweet. I answered, “No, but I do toot a lot.”

    Comment by rusty — July 15, 2011 @ 6:13 pm - July 15, 2011

  19. If someone is creative or very successful, is it because of their sexual orientation? I don’t think so. Remember the old ‘color blind’ society – yeah I miss that one – where people are judged by their characters or actions, not by the color of their skin or their sexual orientation.

    Comment by Leah — July 15, 2011 @ 6:23 pm - July 15, 2011

  20. JohnAGJ — It is important because it led to the later relationships. Had Ptolemy been able to designate Cleopatra as his sole successor, the other two relationships might never have happened. After all,no marriage & no civil war between the siblings/spouses likely eliminates the need for Cleopatra to bed down with JC — and the distinct possibility that Cleopatra would have taken up with Pompey instead of having him murdered like her brother/husband did.

    Comment by Rhymes With Right — July 15, 2011 @ 7:36 pm - July 15, 2011

  21. RWR: True and good points. However, I was speaking of a general history course and not something more specialized. Sure, this can be mentioned as can a number of things about a lot of people and events in history but quite a lot is skipped over or simplified for a good reason: there isn’t enough time to teach it all in schools – especially in public schools. Should they teach about her relationship with Ptolemy XIII but leave out JC or Marc Antony? Or should they stick with JC and MA while giving Ptolemy short shrift due to time constraints? Which relationships had the most impact on world history? Personally I’d like to see all of them taught but I’m aware that there remain limitations on what can actually be taught, especially due to this damnable urge to be PC.

    Let me give you 2 examples of I remember from public school:

    1. I was never taught nor did our textbook mention how much Spain helped us during the Revolution. I found out about this later when reading a book on the subject.

    2. The Amistad case was never mentioned in class nor referred to in our textbook. This was the most prominent slavery case prior to Dred Scott and the only successful SCOTUS case which led to freedom for the enslaved. I was completely unaware of this until I saw Spielberg’s take on the subject and after watching his movie went to the library to learn the truth.

    Should these 2 examples I’ve given been overlooked in teaching a general course on American history? I would argue “no”. Yet because we try and cram so much into a general history course to be PC important stuff like these get overlooked and forgotten. That is what I’m speaking of. Cinque & the Amistad are far more important IMO to teach in a general class than say George Washington Carver’s fancy for peanuts. Ditto for Betsy Ross and Paul Revere.

    Comment by JohnAGJ — July 15, 2011 @ 8:36 pm - July 15, 2011

  22. Oh brother. Just another attempt to establish gays as pseudo-ethnics. Talk about indoctrinating kids with a social construct. But even if gays were an ethnic group this would still suck. As someone commented above, there should only be American history, not Black history, women’s history, Latino history, etc. This academic segregation will only result in Balkanized Americans less committed to the survival of the US as a distinct nation, especially one rooted in Western, Christian civilizaition. But maybe that’s the whole idea.

    Comment by Seane-Anna — July 15, 2011 @ 11:19 pm - July 15, 2011

  23. [...] More from the right: GayPatriot » On CA law mandating teaching gay history in public … [...]

    Pingback by Blog News- Left and Right Views » GayPatriot » On CA law mandating teaching gay history in public … — July 16, 2011 @ 2:36 am - July 16, 2011

  24. I can’t believe that christmas is taken out of school but our children are going to be forced to sit through a homosexual history course. Talk about a sneaky way for the government to take my rights away from me as a christian parent.

    Comment by tori — July 27, 2011 @ 9:35 pm - July 27, 2011

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