Another coffin nail for US public education

California's new gay-friendly curriculum raises questions about the future of government-run schools.
Kevin Ryan | Jul 11 2011 | comment  



Earlier this month, the left-leaning California State Legislature overwhelmingly passed The FAIR Education Act (SB 48) and has sent the bill on Governor Jerry Brown for what will surely be a celebratory signing. The FAIR Education Act is the seventh sexual indoctrination law to teach the state’s children to regard homosexuality, transsexuality (sex-changes operations) and bisexuality as good and natural. This is another in an impressive string of legal victories by gay activists. On the other hand, it further fuels a growing national discontent with public education.

Among the bill’s provisions are that textbooks and instructional materials must positively promote “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” as role models and that children as young as 6 will be taught to admire homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality.

Teachers, even those with religious objections to the gay life style, will be made to positively portray homosexuality, same-sex “marriages,” bisexuality, and transsexuality, because to be silent can bring the charge of “reflecting adversely”. School boards will be required to select textbooks and other instructional materials that positively portray sex-change operations, same-sex “marriages”, because to be silent on these subjects opens them up to charges of “reflecting adversely. Finally, parents will not be notified, nor will they be able to exempt their children, from this new core curriculum.

In a free society where parents were financially able to select and direct the education of their children, such a pro-gay curriculum would make a reasonable choice for that minute portion of parent population who believes it is healthy and useful to educate young children and teens into these complex and controversial issues of human sexuality. But such is not the case in the US today where only a small percentage of parents can afford to send their children to private or religious schools.

Given the brute fact that the state can and does put parents in the slammer for not delivering up their children for the state approved and directed schooling, this new legislation has about it a distinct Stalinist odor. The odor is particularly strong in the nostrils of those parents who believe such grave matters as how one lives out their sexuality is not the educational province of the state bureaucrats who create the lesson plans for teachers.

It is tempting to dismiss this soon-to-be statewide curriculum as just another in a long line of outrageous and kooky, La-La Land events seemingly designed to keep the rest of us chuckling and mildly finger-wagging. However, the Sunshine State is the 800-pound gorilla of the textbook world and teachers and parents in Montana, Iowa and Georgia will surely be seeing the “gay agenda” in their next textbook adoptions.

It is, of course, morally reprehensible to be against an effort to stamp out bullying, especially if it involves matters of sexual self-identification. One does so at the fear of destroying one’s professional reputation and endangering life and limb. (Thankfully, I have no reputation to endanger and I am writing from a secure location known only to the editors of MercatorNet and the United States Internal Revenue Service.) That said, targeted anti-bullying campaigns, such as this current California effort, have always struck me as ineffective and rather phony.

Few children grow to maturity without feeling envy, jealousy, extreme frustration and, sometimes, real rage. In the hot-house and regimented world of our crowded schools, these feelings have and always will find an outlet. It is a fact of life, just as water runs downhill, that the strong will attempt to prey on the weak.

What should be done about it? Religion has one powerful set of answers. It tells us that we have fallen human natures which each of us must work hard to overcome. And that that twit who is getting on our nerves is, in fact, a child of God and I must treat him as such. But, of course, bringing such a dangerous idea into the public school would lead to a full-employment act for tort lawyers.

Another idea would be to teach the nation’s core documents and the meaning of such phrases as “certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But, really teach them. Explain them. Build them into the rituals and procedures of the school. Make the virtues of respect and fair play which undergird a good society a major focus of the curriculum. Recognize students who exemplify these habits of good character. Demand adherence to them or face distasteful consequences, such as separation into less commodious environments.

Another idea… and one which is receiving a great boost from legislation requiring a gay-friendly curriculum… is to eliminate state-run public schools. That is, make a transition to one of the many school choice options that put parents back in charge of their children’s education.

Increasingly, the very idea of the state answering the core educational question, “what is most worth a child knowing,” is being acknowledged as dangerous and a violation of parents’ right to control the education of their children. Currently in the US the parents of well over one million children are making huge personal and financial sacrifices to homeschool their children, and the movement is growing. While motivations vary, many of these parents have withdrawn their children from the public school because of the very over-sexualized environment this new California legislation will doubtlessly intensify.

It is tempting to take solace in the idea that this latest school victory by gay activists is a step too far and will spark a revolt. However, the public school teachers unions, local, state and national, are very strong and very politically protected. The opposition is underfunded, disorganized and tends to have a short attention span.

On the other hand, if attempts to alter our children’s understanding of their sexuality and what is the correct way for them to live out their sexuality cannot arouse parents to action, what, in God’s name and our nation’s future, will?

Kevin Ryan founded the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University, where he is professor emeritus. He has written and edited 20 books. He has appeared on CBS's "This Morning", ABC's "Good Morning America", "The O’Reilly Factor", CNN and the Public Broadcasting System speaking on character education. He can be reached at kryan@bu.edu.



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