California textbooks will include gays

California public schools will be required to teach students about the “contributions” of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans — and Americans with disabilities — as part of the social studies curriculum in all grades, under a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

California law already requires schools to teach about women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor. The Legislature over the years also has prescribed specific lessons about the Irish potato famine and the Holocaust, among other topics.

Those helpful legislators!

The state can’t afford to buy new textbooks till 2015 at the earliest, but eventually the requirement could affect social studies textbooks sold nationwide.
Advocates hope teaching students that Walt Whitman and Willa Cather  were gay will prevent bullying and suicides. It’s a real problem, but not a real solution.


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  1. Could be worse they could be requiring creationism.

  2. Bill Leonard says:

    OK, can anyone name serious, major, provable contributions made by Lesbian, Gay and Transgendered Persons? Let’s be quite specific, please.

  3. It’s kind of a shame that state legislation dictates the content of textbooks.

    But maybe some good will come of this.

    Who knows?

    Not me.

  4. Here you go, Bill:,_lesbian_or_bisexual_people

    I’m sure none of the contributions made by these these folks will pass muster with you, though. They’re gay, so it doesn’t count, right? Unless, of course, they were involved in pornography. Or they were serial killers. I’m sure you’ll get back to everyone in no time about all of the gay people with that sort of contribution.

  5. In San Jose State I had to take a survey at the end of my calculus class asking if the course was gender neutral or included women and minorities or some drivel like that. It was math, I didn’t see a lot of transgendered sixes or gay threes. There was something wrong with the eights but i think they were just born that way…

  6. Bill Leonard, my point exactly. Particularly in the time frame I teach (1865-present). And unless they make it a specific standard in my state, I won’t be doing it. I don’t even tell my students which ones were straight for pete’s sake. “Oh by the way, FDR was straight when he did all this.” It’s stupid.

    Want to know what the problem is? (my personal feelings about homosexuality aside) The problem is bullying of any kind, regardless of reason or target. Setting up special classes is (in my opinion) a violation of the 14th Amendment. I don’t permit bullying of any kind in my classroom. I despise it and I confront it immediately (and I teach in an alternative school).

  7. The dramatic move toward acceptance of gays in the last 35 years has very little to do with school. Mostly it has to to with television, particularly sitcoms.

    When students in my class saw the protagonists of Barney Miller object to blatant discrimination against a gay character, it made tolerance something that might be OK. After all, they saw it on TV.

    The same progress has been promoted for race relations.

    We educators like to think that young minds are molded by the content of our textbooks.

    Oh, it would really be something if our textbooks had that kind of power instead of being an effective sleeping aide.

    But no, the power is in the script writing for TV and that’s where the power continues to be.

    TV has been enormously effective propaganda for diversity acceptance.

    Textbooks, other books, school sponsored anti-bullying campaigns are but mere drop in the bucket.

  8. Bill Leonard, when you ask, “OK, can anyone name serious, major, provable contributions made by Lesbian, Gay and Transgendered Persons?” do you really doubt the contributions of Lesbian, Gay, and Transgendered Persons, or is your point that you think, in most cases, the historic contribution is unrelated to sexual identity?

    Particularly in the arts, doubting the contributions completely seems insane and even the idea that the sexual identity is incidental to achievement is suspect in many cases, as far as I’m concerned.

    Personally, I’d like to focus on the historic, scientific, artistic, or cultural contributions first and biographical attributes second, so I think prioritizing the curriculum this way is absurd. But dismissing the cultural contributions of non-straights out of hand baffles me.

    I think this is the kind of law that a lot of folks probably don’t really think we need (I don’t think first graders need to be talking about sexuality, period.) , but the political cost of opposing it is so high that, once proposed, it’s mandated.

  9. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    The biggest problem I see is that “gay” doesn’t mean the same thing now that it did in 1850, or in 1700, or in Ancient Greece. Now, the law is apparently about American history, which I suppose limits the discussion some, but still, sexuality wasn’t the same in 1860 as it is now, and it won’t be the same in 80 years as it is now.

    Do the legislators really want us getting into a discussion of what it means to be gay in different times and places? Because if we’re doing history, that’s what we’re going to have to do. That’s going to lead to some interesting discussions about whether being “gay” is natural or learned, innate or environmental, etc. (Let’s put aside the horrifically muddled historical record as to most famous people’s sexuality.)

    Of course, if we’re just disseminating religious doctrine, we can just say screw the evidence, screw the cultural analysis of sexuality. We can just go ahead and teach what we want:

    “Abraham Lincoln was gay, just like Elton John.”

    But I find such a statement to be of dubious historical provenance.

    I don’t have any ready responses or recommendations as to what we should do, but I worry that this law will make for bad history.

    A sidenote: I suspect that most gay boys who are bullied are bullied not because they like guys, but because they happen to be weak and perhaps a bit effeminate. Straight boys who are weak and a bit effeminate get bullied and beat up, too.

    I doubt that anyone ever picked on Alcibiades because he was “gay”, or that anyone would pick on him even today. In other words, I suspect that — again, as far as boys are concerned — homosexuality is a pretense, not a reason, for bullying.

    That said, I can’t speak at all to what girls experience.

  10. Reason #4,657 why my kids would never attend a government school.

  11. supersub says:

    Agreed with Bill…with a few recent exceptions, any reports of the sexual orientations of prominent individuals are dubious at best. May as well teach students about individuals whose favorite color is blue.

  12. Belinda Gomez says:

    Gee, will Roy Cohn make the list? This sort of fake inclusion doesn’t do anything. Willa Cather certainly never presented herself as a lesbian, so why is California going to out her?

  13. Richard Aubrey says:

    Belinda is right when she refers to Cohn.
    Seems as if it would be a good idea, to keep things in balance, to mention the sexual orientation of various bad folks, too. Dahmer. Gacy. Thing is, I don’t know the sexual orientation of various villains of American history because nobody thought it was important.
    Now that it is, I think we ought to do it.
    Otherwise, the kids will get to thinking that villains of American history were all straight, and that would be unfair to straights.

  14. Bill Leonard:

    Father of computer algorithms, crytopgraphy, and artificial intelligence.
    During WWII, he was in charge of naval cryptography for the British and broke a number of German codes.

    He was rewarded by being prosecuted for being gay, and his punishment was forced chemical castration.

  15. On second thought, Bill, your question is highly offensive.
    Its one thing to think that its silly to discuss the sexual orientation of various prominent people in the arts, sciences, politics, etc. It’s a whole nother level of offensiveness to assume that there do not even exist accomplished gay people… what, you think being gay somehow prevents someone from being accomplished in art, science, engineering, etc.??

  16. Michael E. Lopez says:

    I wonder if talking about how Turing was castrated for homosexuality will reduce bullying.

    Mining history for the sake of moral examples can be such a delicate endeavor.

  17. Turing doesn’t make the case, though, he makes the opposite case: educated people ALREADY knew about Turing, because he made legitimate, important contributions. History doesn’t overlook him, or anyone else, because they’re gay. History overlooks someone because they weren’t important enough.

    I followed the wiki link and browsed the list of “important” gay people. Most of them seem like normal, unremarkable citizens. A few were minor celebrities, but no one you would include in a history class 50 years from now. The only figure I saw on the list who had any historical interest was the Roman emperor Hadrian, who is already famous for his works, not his (suspected) gayness (which as has been correctly pointed out, meant something a bit different at the time).

    The real challenge is: what historically important figure has been overlooked by history because of their sexual orientation?

    This makes about as much sense as requiring that the number of persons covered in history class be distributed evenly in their religious views. Thomas Jefferson? Forget him, we’ve already met our quota of Deists.

  18. “This makes about as much sense as requiring that the number of persons covered in history class be distributed evenly in their religious views.”

    We have a winner! It’s not about ‘teaching’ it’s about indoctrination.

  19. Bill Leonard says:

    NDC, overwhelmingly, the contribution is unrelated to sexual identity.

    Sarah, you’re right: I am unimpressed with such listings. Among the first 20 names on your referenced A list, four were politicians or self-identified “activists.” There was one “art writer/aesthete,” one “gay porn journalist” (I am not making this up), one porn performer, and of course, one serial killer. The other 12 showed no accomplishment worthy of inclusion in a history book. (BTW, from what I’ve read about serial killers, the motivation gets into areas that have little to do with sexual orientation per se.)

    Jab, be offended as much as you wish, but the point of inclusion in any general — or even specialized — history, is the individual’s contribution, not his or her sexual orientation (unless it’s a specific history of GLBT folk.)

    And the contribution ought to transcend the mere making of tons of money or establishment of family dynasties in multigenerational businesses. By that measure, Henry Ford (the moving assembly line) would qualify for inclusion, while the Armours (meat packing) or the Busch family (breweries) would not, and Henry J. Kaiser would be marginal.

    Similarly, presidents and other politicians ought to be included on the basis of accomplishment, not mere election to the job. That’s why Washington, Lincoln, Jefforson and the Roosevelts get so much more space than Rutherford B. Hayes or Grover Cleveland.

    As others have said, this latest state diktat about sexual orientation is all about political correctness and indoctrination; it has nothing to do with history.


  20. Mark Roulo says:

    I wonder if talking about how Turing was castrated for homosexuality will reduce bullying.

    CHEMICALLY castrated.

    He was forced to take drugs, not undergo surgery.

    To answer your question: I don’t see how it could.

  21. “Social studies” does not equal “history” and vice versa.
    I agree in *history* classes, especially at the high school level, the overwhelming main criterion for inclusion should be historical importance.

    But I see no problem with “social studies” curricula, especially at the lower grades fostering a sense of civic duty/engagement and a sense that all different types of people are AMERICAN and can make important contributions.

  22. Michael E. Lopez says:

    “…and a sense that all different types of people are AMERICAN and can make important contributions.”

    I’m generally OK with this, too… but you have to understand that imparting “senses” of this kind really is indoctrination: it’s the “sense” that matters, not the actual fact of the matter.

    Just to make the point completely clear — I might give my students a “sense” that 3+3=6 (which is a good sense to have) or a “sense” that 3+3=7 (which is a bad sense to have).

    Fostering “senses” of things in the way you describe is part of cultural transmission, but it is absolutely and unequivocally worldview indoctrination.

    Which, like I said, might be OK. Maybe we think it’s an objectively good worldview to have. It’s just important to understand what we’re talking about and not confuse it with academic education, more strictly construed.