By Jim Dinsmore
First, just the facts:
On January 1, the "Fair Education Act," Senate Bill 48, went into effect as part of the Education Code of California. The bill added language to Section 51204.5 of the code, which requires inclusion of the contributions of various ethnic and racial groups in the history of California and the United States. The affected section now reads: (the added language is italicized) "...a study of the role and contributions of both 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, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society."
Section 51501 of the code prohibits the use of instructional materials "reflecting adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry." The bill adds "sexual orientation" to that list.
Also, Section 60040 requires instructional materials to "accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society." With the listing of groups already included, the listing from Section 51204.5, above, is now included in this section. Implementation procedures and instructional materials are determined by local school boards.
The above and further information about the entire Education Code is available at the website of the California Department of Education at www.cde.ca.gov. Frequently Asked Questions are included at the website, and for specific questions not addressed, go to KMcDonal@cde.ca.gov, or phone 916-319-0447.
The reaction to this rather simple, straightforward bill has been energetic, to say the least. There is a movement underway to get an initiative on the 2012 ballot to delete the words "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans" from the bill. Unfortunately, those seeking that deletion seem unwilling to allow the bill to stand on its merits, and characterize it as promoting pornography, sexual abuse, rape, promotion of the "gay lifestyle" and all kinds of doomsday prophesies. That is absurd. Those claims are lies, pure and simple. They are intended to stimulate fear, to build on prejudice, and to take advantage of widespread misunderstanding of homosexuality.
Those who seek to marginalize and victimize any group of people always follow the same basic format: Isolate them (keep them in "their place,") dehumanize them in the eyes of the public, and create an artificial reality (propaganda) to describe them as evil, dangerous, worthless, unpatriotic, or some such negative image. It worked for the Nazis, it worked for a long time to perpetuate black slavery, it worked to justify the treatment of Native Americans, and it will work in the effort to marginalize and deny basic rights to LGBT persons as long as we allow it.
The value of the Fair Education Act is that it encourages our children to see other people as persons of value, as contributing to the welfare of our society and our nation. America is a very diverse nation. The only way a diverse nation can be healthy is for the various groups to respect one another, and value the contributions of others. We are past the day when we can sit in our little corner and pass judgment on folks in the other corners..
The Fair Education Act is aimed at the goal of respecting and valuing other persons. In SB48, the focus is on the LGBT community, and recognizing their contributions to our society. As president of PFLAG Tehachapi (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), I applaud that. But at a very deep level, it is about something bigger, something much more basic than just the implications for any one group. It is about what kind of people we want to be and what kind of country we want to have.
AN INVITATION: The March meeting of PFLAG Tehachapi will feature a panel and audience discussion of SB48, and examples of possible instructional material. You are welcome to attend. Thursday, March 15, 7:00pm, Fairfield Inn (Marriott) 422 W. Tehachapi Blvd.
Jim Dinsmore, President, PFLAG Tehachapi
For questions, comments, references, or to learn more email email@example.com
JIM DINSMORE is president of PFLAG Tehachapi. For questions, comments, references, or to learn more email firstname.lastname@example.org.