Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed Senate Bill No.48 into law, making California the first state in the Union to require public schools to update their curriculum “to include a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.”
Proponents of the bill gave three underlying reasons for their support: to combat bullying, to end discrimination toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LBGT) community in textbooks, and to give LBGT children an understanding of their history.
The only problem is none of the provided reasons stand up against even the mildest test of scrutiny.
The reality of childhood bullying has existed for time immemorial, and any child different from the norm will likely have to deal with bullying in some form or another. Whether a child is a racial or ethnic minority, overweight, short, acne prone, socially awkward, or gay, odds are he or she will experience bullying in a public school setting. Does anyone really believe that paying homage to the gay community in history textbooks will make an ounce of difference on the playground? Insecure bullies aren’t exactly concerned about the latest outreach project from the local diversity department.
Rather than actually addressing real solutions to childhood bullying, this bill merely reflects the need of legislators to congratulate themselves for their own “good” intentions and to appease a segment of their constituency.
Apart from bullying, a more central reason to pass this bill was to end institutional discrimination in textbooks toward homosexuals. Gerald Unks, an editor of The Gay Teen writes, “Within the typical secondary school curriculum, homosexuals do not exist. They are ‘nonpersons’ in the finest Stalinist sense. They have fought no battles, held no offices, explored nowhere, written no literature, built nothing, invented nothing and solved no equations.”
This happens to be a patently false accusation. No modern economics textbook leaves out John Maynard Keynes. Likewise, when the great composers are mentioned, Tchaikovsky is always among them. Both men are known to have been practicing homosexuals in the past, yet neither is blacklisted.
And so the complaint is not that homosexuals are blotted out from history but instead that the sexual identities of great men and women in history are not mentioned. This is an entirely different sort of perceived problem.
What Unks and others want to see is “bi-sexual economist Keynes theorized…” which is as utterly ridiculous as “heterosexual economist Milton Friedman wrote…” or “heterosexual President Obama announced today…”
Neither the economic theories of Keynes nor the music of Tchaikovsky has anything to do with their sexual identities; their homosexuality is irrelevant to their impact on history, economics, or music. Teaching a child that Keynes had gay relationships in his youth does not help that child in understanding his macroeconomic theories.
To be clear, it is important that LBGT children know their history; it is important for all children to know their history for that matter. How a gay child’s history differs from a straight child’s history is where my contention lies.
Morgan Freeman summed up the issue quite well in a “60 Minutes” interview with Mike Wallace a few years back. He opposes the idea of a black history month because “black history is American history,” and to relegate it to a month is simply “ridiculous.” He argued that the way to move past racism was to stop talking about it: “I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.”
That is exactly the way to approach this issue. This entire method of dividing historical curriculum into racial or sexual identity columns is ridiculous. The new law dictates the study of “men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups.” The purpose of which is not to cover important historical events or figures that have made an impact, or to ensure that the next generation learns the past lest they are “condemned to repeat it,” as George Santayana warned, but to use history as a tool to address self-esteem issues.
This contemptible method of education has even been used on our own campus. The UAA commons annually displays the achievements of various racial minorities on its walls in commemoration of black history month. If anything, minorities ought to be offended by the racial categorizing of accomplishments by their ancestors and demand that it be ended.
Thomas Sowell once stated that, “many great thinkers of the past– whether in medicine or philosophy, science or economics– labored not simply to advance whatever particular group they happened to have come from but to advance the human race.”
The great strides made toward combating racial discrimination by black leaders such as Martin Luther King do not belong under “black accomplishments,” but under human accomplishments.
Gay history is human history and should not be judged by how it will affect the self-esteem of a minority, but by its importance and impact on the history of the human race. And considering the dismal state of American education, perhaps learning the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic should take precedence over social engineering.