Friday, July 14, 2006

Gay "Propaganda" In The Classroom?

I agree with major Sacramento newspaper columnist Dan Walters:

The motives for the very unusual procedure are unclear, but it means that the full Assembly will vote in August on something that should trouble even those who support full equality for gays, including marriage rights. California law already mandates such see-no-evil history instruction for a wide array of ethnic groups, substituting feel-good propaganda for what should be scholarly study. Adding more groups to this exercise in academic affirmative action just makes it that much worse and sends an absolutely wrong message to young minds about the truthfulness of their textbooks. Kids should be getting their history straight -- warts and all -- not sanitized by politicians who are pursuing other agendas...

Treating all people, regardless of sexual orientation, with absolute equality is one thing. In seeking such equality in marriages and other fields, gay rights advocates, it could be said, are occupying the moral high ground. There's nothing moral about legally mandating propaganda of any kind in the classroom.

Actually, I'm all for getting rid of "academic affirmative action" in our textbooks anyway. I said as much last year when I wrote about so-called ethnomathematics:

Just today on her site, Joanne had a story about a soon-to-be-required class in African and African-American history for all students in Philadelphia. One of the points that came up in the comments was, if it's history that's taught, more power to them. If it's nothing more than an attempt at making black students feel good about themselves, it'll be a useless class. One person questions "the idea that 21st century people should feel proud of what people who looked sort of like them did centuries ago, maybe..."

Young people need to be shown that they need to accomplish something in their own lives and be proud of that, not to be proud by dubious association with a group hundreds of years and thousands of miles removed from them.

As it is for race and ethnicity, so it is for sexual orientation.


EllenK said...

Wasn't there a similar effort not to many years ago to offer Ebonics in the classroom? I have no issue with different views of history or culture, but if it's simply to make one group feel good at the expense of another, I don't see the educational point.

freethinker_LIRN said...

So what is, exactly, propaganda? what would be the correct approach to the issue in your opinion?

Darren said...

Propaganda is information or misinformation disseminated specifically to support a specific doctrine; the term usually has negative connotations. Have I missed a nuance here?

The correct way to approach the issue is not to approach it at all. It doesn't matter at all that Edward II was gay, that Michelangelo probably was, and that George Washington most certainly was not.

When you point out that Guion Bluford was the first *black* astronaut, you only reinforce that black astronauts aren't "normal". Do black kids really feel better about themselves because they know who the first black astronaut was? Will gay kids feel better knowing that Edward II was gay? My guess, and it *is* only a guess, is that they won't. As a person whose ancestors were European, I get no sense of pride in knowing that Hernando De Soto was the first European to see the Mississippi River.

freethinker_LIRN said...

Shouldn't the approach be relative to the context? Oscar Wilde's homosexuality is important. Edward II and DaVinci are a different case.

Darren said...

Perhaps, but what I've discussed is in fact the intent of the law. Have a vignette about a gay person--but don't say anything at all that might detract from that person because they're now a member of a protected class.

Open a math book and see the half-page bios on "famous math people", most of whom I'm never heard of and whose work is included solely because of their race or sex. I'll go back to my favorite example--it's like having a picture of Guion Bluford in a science book and calling him a "famous astronaut". What did he do that was so special, except take some different skin pigment into space?