A bill requiring textbooks for public schools in California to include the history and accomplishments of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people passed the state Assembly this week. We discuss the legislation.

Guests:
Brad Dacus, constitutional attorney and president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit legal defense organization specializing in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights and other civil liberties
Mario Guerrero, director of governmental affairs for Equality California, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy organization in California
Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education and professor emeritus of education at Stanford University
Tom Ammiano, California state assemblymember (D, San Francisco)
Tim Donnelly, California state assemblymember (R, San Bernadino)

  • Colin

    Should we start including the sexual preferences of straight historical figures now ie “Senator So and So preferred blondes” etc.  We are talking about a sexual PREFERENCE, why does this need to be included in young kids text books?

    • Wanda W

      I would say that would be different because senators who prefer blonds are not historically or currently oppressed (beaten up, denied employment, killed, etc.).

      • Colin

        Wanda, we already have LAWS that give people equality.  The ways that laws work is that they are written being blind to who the involved parties are.  In others words, our nation’s laws cannot discriminate based on gender, race, sexual preference, etc.  Do you not see the contradiction of saying that a group must be included based on their sexual preference?  You are then treating a group of people as being an “exception” because of their sexual preference.  Is this not the type of behavior we were supposed to have abolished in this country.

        Should every Jewish person have their religion mentioned in the textbook?  We CERTAINLY don’t mandate that. 

        • minsf

          OK, now you’re contradicting yourself.  In California we DO have laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.   Don’t we need to talk about the passage of those laws, and why society passed those laws? In’t it relevant that people like Alan Turing and Bayard Rustin and Walt Whitman and Alan Ginsburg and Gertrude Stein had to hide who they were or move to another country to live?

          • Colin

            I am not contradicting myself.  Clearly, in history, there has been discrimination, but we now have very good laws to fight it.  Those do not erase history.  My question is, “how is this current legislation going to add ‘more fairness’ then our discrimination laws already do?”

            Again, how does granting someone “exceptional” status equate to equality?

  • Wanda W

    But by default and historically, the group that has been included is white men and other groups have been left out.

    • Colin

      What?  Really?  So in American textbooks we make no mention of the contributions of anyone other than a white male?  Are you serious?  You mean to say that you truly believe that civil rights never happened?  In my high school, over HALF of our required reading in literature classes was books by black authors and were stories about blacks.  The oppressors are gone.  We are a country of equality.  350,000 WHITE AMERICANS died to abolish slavery.  Wake up!

      • Wanda W

        I think we’re doing a much better job in recent decades with ethnic minorities (Black history month, Cesar Chavez day, etc. ) and women, but not (yet) with including the LGBT communities.

  • mike

    You can’t have it both ways. If you want these folks in the textbooks BECAUSE of their sexual habits, then you cannot at the same time maintain that is not the reason they are in the books. If the people these legislators want included are significant figures for other reasons then I say by all means include them. However, who they sleep with is not a factor in qualifying them for recognition.and is improper for any classroom discussion.

    • ramanboucher

      It’s not “who they sleep with” that is usually important, but “who they have relationships with.” My partner is no less important than your wife, though we have sex.

      On the reverse side, there are plenty of noteworthy (or infamous) people who are and will be mentioned in the classroom, whose notoriety is only because of “who they slept with” (e.g. Monica Lewinsky).

      So your argument remains homophobic. The issue is to treat everyone with respect, not to worry about the sexual part of my relationship with my husband.

      • Colin

        Robert, what exactly did Mike say that is homophobic?  As he said, he a gay person made notable contribution to history, they will, as they should be, noted in our textbooks.  We already have equality laws.  Why though, is it necessary to note their sexual preference?  I don’t want to hear about ANYONE’S sexual preference.  I’m just not interested.  Why, in our society, must we focus so heavily on sex?

      • Jess

        Robert, that was a simple mistake in using the appropriate phrase.  Would you address the main point of the post: you can’t have say these folks must be in the books because they’re gay, but at the same time maintain that is the reason they are in the books.

        As an aside, would you show a textbook mentioning Monica Lewinsky, or the wide-stance Larry Craig, or tweeting Anthony Twitter (ok, I can wait 20 years for the last two “historical” figures, but I am sure you get my drift).

      • minsf

        Colin: I’ll take a stab at that.   Saying “who you go to bed with”  suggests that being gay is just a sexual act, as opposed to straight people who “fall in “love.”  

        • Colin

          I never said that, but that distinction does not alter the point I am making (see below comments).

  • Jess

    Earlier your guest gave an example that if one of the astronauts in today’s space shuttle flight was gay, then his/her contributions would be mentioned.  Wouldn’t his/her contributions be mentioned anyway regardless of their sexual preference background?

  • Aaron

    Call me ignorant, but other than Harvey Milk, what are the stories that we are actually talking abou being taught in schools?

  • JC

    Straight, white, Christen, male is not unbiased or neutral history.  

  • Cemekeller

    When I was in school many history books included elements and chapters regarding the development of everyday culture. My understanding is adding the lgbt’s place in the US culture is perfectly relevant in this way. Why are we talking as though all textbooks never discuss white straight people’s contributions in this way? Additionally, his suggestion that you are imposing a sexual style is ridiculous. If this is the case, then to be fair, you must omit any suggestion of straight people being romantically involved other than the sole purpose of reproducing.

  • Charlie Mezak

    Alan Turing always comes to my mind in these discussions. He arguably invented the modern digital computer. As a homosexual, he endured all kinds of indignities. He was even jailed for being gay! He eventually committed suicide. That non-heterosexual people can be important contributors to society is something that needs to be taught if only the prevent the extinguishing of such geniuses like Turing.

    • Jess

      Alan Turing was never mentioned in my computer science books.  He was definitely banned by the white-men-heterosexual professors club.  We studied a concept called “Popov Machine”, you’ve heard of it, I assume?

    • Colin

      We already have laws to prevent this kind of thing.  If someone wants they could bring this to a court of law, could they not?

      • minsf

        We also have anti-discrimination laws.  Don’t we need to explain why they are needed?

  • Cemekeller

    Incidentally, whenever a group is discriminated in history, they are automatically treated differently. Logically, their historical life is a different contribution and should be included as they are part of our culture.

  • Carol

    As a Christian pastor and leader in interfaith work in Marin County, I believe we are missing the point here about the role of education to form public citizens who respect the dignity and humanity of all people.  Children can absolutely learn about the contributions of the LBGTQ community, even if their personal family beliefs are different.  Just because a more conservative view is held personally, those same people absolutely MUST learn how to respect and treat all persons in the public square with dignity. 

  • Annie B

    I don’t think there’s anything debatable about the moral acceptability of LGBT-ness. I think it’s great to be gay, straight, bi, transgendered, etc!! I would love to see LGBT-straight diversity celebrated more.

    • Colin

      I am sure that Jewish people would also love to see their religion celebrated more as well.  But would we pass laws that require this of our children in the classroom?

      • minsf

        1)  I’m Jewish and I think we get plenty of attention 🙂  2) If you’re teaching world religions, I’d say sure, you mention Judaism, you can’t not do so.  3)  I think Einstein’s life experience was obviously shaped by being Jewish, for example, so saying he was Jewish is appropriate.  4) You can’t avoid Judaism when discussing the Holocaust…but you also have to discuss the other people killed by the nazis, including gay people.  
          It’s not a question of people wanting attention: it’s understanding that the world has lots of people in it, all making contributions.

  • One major problem with the people of color/women analogy is that people in these classes are easily “recognizable” as members of that class. So, when we started adding women to history books outside of “homemakers,” it was clear to students that they are women. Same with most people of color (although some can be mistake as white): include photos of them and people know their race.

    But with LGBT folks, it’s not obvious, so if we want people to know of their contributions, we need to mention their LGBT status.

    I’m not sure I have the answer, I just wanted to point out this difference that I didn’t seem to see covered in the on-air discussion.

    • Colin

      To your point, most races/religions etc are recognizable.  Can you always clearly identify someone as being Filipino American or Jewish American?  By your logic, we must mention that then, as well.  Again, I ask, “When will there be enough equality?”

      You cannot achieve equality by having “exceptional” status.  This is a contradiction.  You will ALWAYS fail to mention some groups.  

      Do our current laws not already cover this?  

      Regardless of how much a group FEELS that they are victims, they must bring their case to court to prove that there has been an INJUSTICE committed against them.  This system already exists in our country.

      • Colin: That was the point I was raising. Kennedy was our first Catholic President, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at him. It was a big deal to many when he was elected (to both Catholics and Protestants), and I think that mentioning this helps students to understand the historic animosity between these two Christian sects.

        California has affirmed, in our legislature and our courts, that LGBT people are a protected class due to historic discrimination and hate crimes. So I’m thinking that recognizing their contributions is probably a good way to work towards a day when they are no longer victims of hate crimes and discrimination.

        How we decide when we’ve done “enough” recognition, I’m not sure. But as I write about this I become more and more convinced that we need to do it now.

        • Colin

          Lee, do we not ALREADY have laws to protect people against discrimination? 

          Again, how is granting ONE GROUP special status equality?  By doing that, you will ALWAYS be neglecting another group, in fact, numerous other groups.

          So again, besides the laws that we already have, how can we be “more fair?”  When will it be enough.  You cannot quantify it.  It is an endless problem that will always require more government legislation, no?  Is that really the key to fixing this problem, or is the key to simply make a sweeping law that says you cannot discriminate period (which we already have).

        • Colin

          Lee,
          In regards to Kennedy, he was not running a platform based on being Catholic.  While it might be interesting to note, it was not the centerpiece, or did it factor in any perceptible way, into his term as president, just as his extra-marital affairs did not.  So why must we note that about him?

  • Colin

    I shall leave my final comment.

    In light of the fact that we already have anti-discrimination laws, ask yourself, “Where where there be enough equality?”

  • District 11 SF

    Japanese people have suffered the most intense discrimination of any group in the last century.(WW2 concentration camps)  State law should demand that children be taught of only the positive contributions of Japanese people.  No negative references will be allowed.  Only positive views about individuals may be shown based on the race of the person being Japanese.

    I’m half-Japanese.  Lot’s of mixed race people around these days.  What about a special history lesson about half-Japanese people?

    Wait… my sister is a half-Japanese WOMAN.  There needs to be a special positive history lesson on people like her too.

    Wait, wait… my good friend is a Peruvian American immigrant.  There also needs to be a lesson about Peruvian immigrants.

    What, no takers?  What’s so special about gay people besides the fact that Democrats want to pander to them?

  • C O’Cuddehy

    I found it both surreal and offensive that Brad Dacus’ would try to pin the label of biggot on those who recognize that the historically dominant culture in America has often supressed the contributions of women and minorities. His insistence that there were never any religious overtones to the resistence against fully including women and people of color in the public school curriculum is disengenuous at best and outright lying at worst. The most traditional of conservative Christian ideals had no place for women except in the home and was often twisted to support ideas of white superiority. Even today, Mr. Dacus’ is employed by a group which claims to fight for civil liberties, but narrowly defines those as the right of religious conservatives to either impose their beliefs on others or to so restrict the freedom of others that there will be no chance of conservative religious senses being offended. Mr. Dacus’ should check his constitution again. There is no right not to be offended. This backwards view of just what tolerance means is very prevalent among the more radical of conservative pundits. Somehow they believe that tolerance means that they should be able to live as they wish and everyone else should get out of their way or hush up.

  • Nony

    Noting some high achievers as LGBT is good and fair as long as 1)it’s fact, 2)We don’t filter out the opposite side of fact. Just like other groups, there are good people and bad people in LGBT group, having positive LGBT role models gives hope to LGBT youth and improves LGBT presence and I have no problem with that. I also agree people should not be judged by their sexual orientation.

    What I really don’t want to see, is to avoid any negative mentioning of LGBT simply because they are LGBT for the seek of political correctness, for example, to label anything or anyone as homophobic even if it’s just an honest portrait of the fact, and as a result only positive LGBT figures remains. When LGBT come out, there should be nothing left in the closet just for convenience. If my son were to learn LGBT history, he should learn not only Turning and Milk, but also Keynes or even Andrew Cunanan as well. When he learns the history of Castro, he should learn not only the 50’s and 60’s when LGBT was mistreated, but also 80’s and 90’s when AIDS outburst, and why it outburst there. I believe the only way to best prepare him is to fully expose him to all the facts and aspects of the history, no more and no less.

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