A FAIR Education in California

In December 2010, bill SB 48 also known as the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Educational Act was introduced to amend the Education codes in California.  On April 14, 2011, California’s Senate passed SB48, and Legislature is currently scheduled to rule on this bill on June 29, 2011.  The FAIR Educational Act was authored and introduced by gay Democrat Senator Mark Leno.  This bill would amend the current law that requires instruction in social sciences to include the studies of the roles in contributions of both men and women to the development of California to also include contributions of 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 or cultural groups, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups as a contemporary part of society.  This essay will focus primarily on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender group that SB48 will be including.

Senator Mark Leno is a fitting figurehead for the bill SB48.  Leno authored AB845 in 2005, and AB43 in 2007 that would have legalized same-sex marriage, however Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed both propositions.  In 2008, same-sex marriage was legalized in California.  Senator Leno presents this bill as a solution to bullying and the negative stigmatism to minority groups in addition to teaching youth about contemporary history.  California’s SB48 could not be argued at any earlier point in time because the issue that SB48 is attempting to solve are current and relevant to the modern American.  California is often the first to lead the country into new liberal and progressive laws and the culture of current times allows people to consider ideas such as gay equality rights like same-sex marriage.  So although this bill is for the state of California, it is possible that in the future we will see more laws like these across the country.

Opponents and proponents of the Fair Educational Act can agree that California has been significantly impacted from the LGBT community and their efforts, and it is clear that history has been changed by their presence.  Not only the people of California, but as citizens of the United States, we are affected by anti-discrimination laws, same-sex marriage laws, and a mental as well as outward awareness of LBGT sensitive terms or connotations in the community.  Therefore, the issue surrounding this bill considers whether the subject matter of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender education is appropriate for the public school system at the elementary schooling level.

LGBT Americans consists of less than 4% of the American population, according to a population study by Gary Gates.  This means that there will likely be more people who reject this law than except it, even without knowing much more about it.  Many organizations are urging the public to voice their disapproval of this bill to lawmakers.  Randy Thomasson, President of SaveCalifornia.com advises, “This clear and present danger should motivate fathers and mothers to rescue their children from California government schools and take them to the safe haven of solid church schools and home schooling.”  Although Thomasson’s perspective is extreme, many parents of children in public schools feel the same way.  There is also concern that there will be no option for parents to withdraw their children from the new curriculum.  In Toronto, Canada, schools have integrated a similar mission with a resource guide for teachers for grades K-12 titled, Challenging Homophobia and Heterosexism.  Canadian parents and teachers alike are prohibited to opt-out from classes and discussions about homosexuality, heterosexuality, and GLBT questions that are required by the new curriculum.  Even though some parents may reject the curriculum, America needs this change to bring LGBT into a positive light for future children.

Discussion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lifestyles in school risks sexualizing the classroom.  Critics say that it is inappropriate to bring up sex-based topics to elementary-age children who are still trying to find their own identities.  Education about the transgender lifestyle could create even more confusion for children because transgenderisim is a topic that is hard to comprehend even for adults.

Many critics of the bill agree that “politicians have no business writing textbooks,” as reported by an editorial in the LA Times.  The addition of SB48 enforced material to textbooks is expected to politicize textbooks.  Because the learning materials will be government regulated, only certain views and comments on LGBT American contributions to history will make the cut.  Further, the FAIR Act will not only affect textbooks in California, but around the nation.  California is the top supplier of textbooks in the nation, and if the bill passes, SB48 can potentially reach students in other states through books.

However, the purpose of education is to learn knowledge that is true.  It is agreed that the contribution and roles of LGBT Americans are influential in American society, so it would be natural for those accomplishments to be taught in a social studies class.  It is important for children to learn about LGBT Americans and their history because it is extremely relevant to contemporary society.

One of the goals of this bill was to prevent bullying in schools.  Bullying is a sad reality for many children today.  Children who deal with problems discovering their sexuality when they are young, can be subject to harmful name calling or other tortures.  Educating children from a young age that things such as homosexuality occur in the community and are accepted through textbooks, and open discussion and exposure, can reduce the negative connotation that often comes with the word “gay.”  When these children become adults, they will be able to carry a positive image of the LGBT community forward and reduce or even rid of the future violence and inequality to them.

The FAIR Educational Act does not try to promote or encourage homosexuality, but give allow students to learn accurate information on contemporary history.  Many more people will attempt to reject what the SB48 is trying to accomplish because Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans are a discrete minority of the American population.   However the effects of this bill will reach all Americans, beginning with California’s youth.  SB48 has an opportunity to improve lives through education.  Just as gay marriage was and still is, disputed within the community and the legal arena, it is just a matter of time before Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender course material is introduced into schools.  While the FAIR Act mission is to reduce the discrimination of LGBT Americans in the history books, are we also discriminating children from learning in the classroom?


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