Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bait and Switch

I like to think I'm something of an iconoclast. At least compared to people's stereotypes about what a 20-something liberal Jew from San Francisco might be. For instance, when it comes to "youth culture," I've found that I'm far more prudish and old-fashioned than people might think. If and when Mrs. Yid and I have children, I have no doubt that I will be a supremely uncool Dad when it comes to what my kids are allowed to do, what media they can consume, and, should they be girls, what clothes they can wear (while I am anxious about the prospect of raising daughters, Mrs. Yid tells me that she doubts that our kids will be the junior-Orgy type).

I say this simply because I work with children, and while I'm glad that most of the kids I see regularly have their heads screwed on straight, it's clear to me that the world they inhabit and which is fed to them 24/7 is clearly not their friend, particularly when it comes to sex stuff.

The irony is that I doubt I'm the only liberal who is made uncomfortable by the idea of 10-year-olds dressing like streetwalkers. When it comes to common causes, I'm pretty sure, "Keep children from being slutty" is fairly bipartisan. You'd never know this by reading conservative op-eds, though. Take this column by a radio host (and Messianic Jewish pastor) named Michael Brown.

Brown bemoans an increasingly sexualized popular culture being marketed to young people, an analysis which I largely agree with.
How many children watch MTV and VH1, mimicking the moves and memorizing the lyrics of the latest song by Britney Spears or Lady Gaga, having no clue that the moves they are making and the words they are mouthing are sexually charged. These kids are too young to have any understanding of sexuality, and yet it is no secret to the TV execs that these same children are a major part of the viewing audience.
What's bizarre, however, is that Brown only talks about his supposed topic for a few paragraphs, before launching into a totally separate discussion about teaching LGBT history in school. For Brown, including gay history in social studies curriculum is apparently the same thing as Molly Cyrus pole-dancing on TV-- maybe worse.
I’m talking about teaching gay history to elementary school children, as now mandated by law in California with the recent passing of SB 48, thereby introducing sexual categories to little ones who haven’t the slightest clue what sexual orientation is, let alone have the ability to wrap their minds around “bisexual” or “transgender.”
Give kids and teachers some credit. Bisexual is really not that hard to explain, Michael. Yes, transgender is more complicated, but also something that small children are perfectly capable of understanding if presented in an age-appropriate context-- which, incidentally, is sort of the teacher's job in the first place. Put it this way: I don't think Kindergarteners are going to be studying the life of Herbert Garrison. Incidentally, the law doesn't give any specifics about age groups or subject matter content. All it says is that social studies will include studying the "role and contributions of... LGBT individuals" to California. Those bastards! How dare they want textbooks to talk about gay or trans folks being productive!
To add insult to injury, parents will have no right to opt their kids out of these classes, a hard lesson parents in other states have already learned, where the courts have sided with the schools rather than the parents. Already in Massachusetts, a couple was so upset with this state-sponsored sexualizing of their first grader that they took their battle to court, where Judge Mark Wolff of the US Court of Appeals ruled that the schools have a greater responsibility to teach “diversity” than to honor the requests of the parents. 
Dude, the whole point of public schools is that they have state-mandated curriculum. Personally I find the concept of having your kid opt-out of any part of the curriculum strange already. If your school is teaching something you have that big of a problem with, maybe a private school would be a good idea for everyone involved, including your child. Also, given that part of the point of SB 48 is to combat bullying and promote inclusion, I have to say, yeah, asking for your kid to be excused is kind of a jerk move. And that's coming from someone who is contractually obligated to sit through multiple anti-bullying assemblies a year.
What is unique in California is not that gay-themed lessons will be taught to little children.
Especially since that's not actually happening.
Rather, it is that these lessons will be mandated across the entire state for all schools and all classes, which, of course, will be reflected in the textbooks that will be used. And, as is well known, what happens in California doesn’t stay in California, meaning that the textbooks printed for our most populous state will be used throughout the nation.
Uh, yeah, the bill was about modifying existing curriculum. That's sort of a state-wide thing. That's how school curriculum works. Have you, by any chance, ever been to a school? You sound like you've just discovered some hidden conspiracy. Also, the second-largest textbook market is Texas, not without its share of conservative activists.
In the specific language of SB 48, the bill amended “the Education Code to include social sciences instruction on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.” And note that previous bills relating to LGBT issues – including AB 537, AB 1785, AB 394, SB 777, SB 572 – were not enough. SB 48 had to go one step further.
Yo, putz! The fact that you managed to find five bills "relating to GLBT issues" has nothing to do with whether SB 48 was needed or not. You didn't, by any chance, bother to read those bills, did you? Two  had to do with updating California anti-discrimination codes for hiring practices, workplace discrimination, etc, and adding GLBT people as a protected category. One was about monitoring school compliance with a previously passed law. Another added Harvey Milk Day to the school calendar. Only one of them, AB 1785, had anything to do with school curriculum (and in fact, most of the bill focused on schools reporting and sharing data on hate-crime incidents). You're throwing any pretense toward intellectual honesty or analysis out the window, Michael. Are you seriously trying to play the "there are too many gay laws" card? Hey, last I checked there were a lot of laws on the books against violent crime, too. Does that mean we shouldn't pass any more laws against that? I mean, since that category is pretty much covered and all, right?
[SB 48] will demand that the categories of “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender” be introduced to six year-olds.
First of all, the law does not specify age groups, so your false outrage about the poor little ones is based on imaginary information. Since the context is within California history, in fact, there's an excellent chance any detailed discussion of this stuff won't come up until at least Third or Fourth grade. Given that you live in North Carolina, I wouldn't expect you to know little details about when Californians study California history, but trust me, that's when we do it.

Second, as I said, there is a way to talk about these topics in an appropriate way. Incidentally, I've noticed that conservative writers who complain about teaching "adult" ideas too early to kids are often using the "too young" argument as an excuse; very often the reality is that for them it's never appropriate to teach these things. Sex ed and evolution are good examples of this.
I have watched videos of classes taught in different parts of the countries where elementary school children are shown pictures of artists or musicians or politicians or other famous figures and are told, “He (or she) was gay,” as if they had the slightest real concept of what “gay” actually meant.
This would be an example of either bad teachers or bad curriculum. I had bad math teachers when I was a kid. Using this logic, we should abolish math class. Incidentally, when conservatives fight tooth-and-nail against any proposal to have GLBT curriculum in the classroom, guess what the result is? More politicized schools, more politicized curriculum, and less thought and effort put into actually making good lessons or teaching them well. People like Michael Brown are at least partly responsible for the very superficial and ideological teaching he complains about.

And, incidentally, Michael? As someone who sat through crappy lessons like that and indeed, made zero connections at the time, let me assure you, bad GLBT history lessons are really not a threat to anyone's kid.
(As I recall, in the early years of elementary school, boys like boys and girls like girls. Does that make all of them “gay”?)
I'm going to give you a droplet of credit here and say this is you failing to be funny, as anyone actually this stupid shouldn't be allowed to write their name, let alone a syndicated column. (And they also let you on the radio? Man, talk about lowering standards.)

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