California is pushing to teach students gay history.
On Tuesday, a bill that would make the state the first to require textbooks and history classes to include the study of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans as well as those with disabilities passed in the state assembly. The bill also bans material that reflects negatively on gays.
The measure passed along a party line vote, 49-25, with one Republican voting in favor. It is now on its way to Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown has not indicated whether or not he will sign it. Former Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill five years ago.
On a whole, Republicans are against the bill. According to The Associated Press, Republicans refer to it as a “well-intentioned but ill-conceived bill.” Concerns are raised that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.
Openly gay Democrat Assembly Speaker, John Perez, is pushing for the governor to sign the bill. "This bill will require California schools to present a more accurate and nuanced view of American history in our social science curriculum by recognizing the accomplishments of groups that are not often recognized," he said, according to the New York Daily News.
If signed, the bill could take effect as early as the 2013-2014 academic year. The measure leaves it up to the local school boards on how to implement the policy. However, it will require school districts to adopt textbooks and other materials to cover the new agenda. California is one of the largest buyers of textbooks, causing fear that this bill could affect school systems throughout the country.
Many California parents are concerned that they will not be allowed to opt their child out of these lessons, even if stating religious reasons. A similar case occurred in the Alameda school district in California in 2009. The school district adopted gay curriculum, however, because the lessons were considered “social science” and not “health education.” Students were not given the choice to opt out.
“If parents are concerned that this curriculum conflicts with their religious beliefs, or if they feel their child isn’t psychologically ready to handle the issue, then they should have first amendment rights and be able to opt out,” says Candi Cushman, an education analyst for Citizen Link, a Focus on the Family affiliate.
Assemblyman Tim Donnellly is against the bill. "I think it's one thing to say that we should be tolerant," Donnelly said, according to the New York Daily News. "It is something else altogether to say that my children are going to be taught that this lifestyle is good."
The bill’s purpose is partly aimed at reducing classroom bullying of gay students.
Cushman states that Focus on the Family promotes bully prevention regardless of sexual identity – or any identity for that matter. “It’s unnecessary to politicize or sexualize the issue. All children should be protected regardless of identity because they are a sacred creation of God. It sends the wrong message to children saying that they are only worthy of protection because of their identity.”
Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby, is a former high school teacher. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, he has raised concerns that the bill will end up micromanaging school instruction. Moreover, he also questioned “how teachers could ascribe a sexual orientation to a historic figure when that person never identified as gay or lesbian” and “when the terms didn't exist.”
"I don't think this helps the teaching of history," Norby said according to the SF Chronicle. "I think it's a distraction."
The SF Chronicle also reports that Republican Assemblywoman Linda Halderman said history should consider people’s actions and not their race or sexual orientation because such an approach "says that you should not think first whether someone is honest, has integrity, does good work."
Cushman agrees, stating that in history class important people should be studied for their contribution to society and not because of their sexual identity. “Focus on the Family’s concern is that it would bring adult identity politics into the classroom and into history. It’s unnecessary and crazy.”
However, supporters of the bill maintain the claim that it will lead to a safer school environment for students in the sexual minority.
The bill is formally supported by the California Teachers Association, several school districts and a progressive religious organization, according to SF Chronicle. It is opposed by many churches and conservative organizations.