Green Room

California Passes Law Mandating Teaching of Gay History: Now What?

posted at 6:21 pm on July 15, 2011 by

It is official. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday making California the first state to require that school textbooks and history lessons include the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

In a statement following the signing into law of SB 48, which passed the state Assembly on July 6 by a vote of 49 to 25, Brown said that “history should be honest.” The measure, he added,

revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.

Making history honest so that it reflects the contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life: Who wouldn’t be for that?

State Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the bill, was even more effusive in his praise of the new law, noting that

[d]enying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them.

Now that history has been made—make that made honest—California finds itself in a “Graduate” moment. At the end of the classic 1967 Mike Nichols film of that name, which launched the big-screen career of Dustin Hoffman, recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock claims his prize. He crashes the wedding of the woman he loves (played by Katharine Ross), bars the door of the ultra-modern church with a crucifix, and boards a city bus with the love of his life by his side. The two look at each other—at first uncertainly, then uncomfortably—as the bus lurches forward. The clear unspoken message is “Now what?”

Which is precisely the quandary facing the state of California. Make no mistake: As one of the three leading states in textbook acquisitions, California can call the shots with the Pearsons and the McGraw-Hills and all the other major educational publishing cartels. They can dictate chapter and verse what the authors of history books write if they are to have a chance of having their oeuvres adopted by the California Department of Education.

So now that California has the legal authority and undivided attention (as always) of the el-hi publishing world, the question before the state curriculum framework committee is “Now what?” How, in other words, will the new History of a Free Nation—Glencoe/McGraw-Hill’s contender for the Golden State’s dollars in the high school history market—differ from previous editions?

According to one analysis of the book in the Textbook Letter, an industry watchdog, History of a Free Nation is currently fraught with myths about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Another review of the same book condemns it as shallow and providing a distorted view of American History, devoting more space, for example, to Benjamin Banneker, a black surveyor, than to founding father and President John Adams. Defenders of this and other schoolbooks will call the charges baseless, but a glimpse at either review shows both to be exhaustive and well-documented.

So it this the company the LGBT community wants to keep in claiming its “rightful place in history”?

Even allowing for the possibility that the accomplishments of gays are accurately recorded, how will they appear in print? Will the books mention that Ann Bancroft (not the actress who appeared in The Graduate and who spelled her name differently anyway but the explorer) was a lesbian? And if so how? Will there be a paragraph reading:

Ann Bancroft, American author, teacher, and adventurer, was the first woman to successfully finish a number of arduous expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. And by the way, she is gay.

Or perhaps they will start calling out attributes of sexual orientation parenthetically, much the way elected officials’ party affiliation and state are called out currently in journalistic writing. Thus, twentieth-century composer Aaron Copland would appear in textbooks as “Aaron Copland (G-J-NY).” The “J” is of course for “Jewish.” (You don’t want to start offending other minorities.)

I would be genuinely interested in learning what Sen. Leno and others who applaud the correction of this deficiency imagine happening. What I have no trouble imagining is what happens when a third grader learns in his social studies text about the accomplishment of a famous gay or lesbian or bisexual or whatever. He will ask his teacher what “gay” (or “lesbian” or “bisexual” or whatever) means. And isn’t this—and the dialog that ensues—what this whole charade is really about?

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Out: Learning the hiostory of the Spanish missions.
In: Learning the history of buttless chaps.

malclave on July 15, 2011 at 6:45 PM

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

WitchDoctor on July 15, 2011 at 6:59 PM

Why not the history of Little People. During WWII they were the only ones who could fit in nose cones of airplanes to do the riveting.

rbj on July 15, 2011 at 7:48 PM

Two years from now. “Number of Private Schools Skyrocket in California”

Ten years from now. “All public schools must have sodomy classes open on weekends and holidays”

Twenty years from now. “California’s 32 public schools in jeopardy of closing as Funds for Aids Super-strain dries up.”

Rovin on July 15, 2011 at 8:06 PM

What is wrong with those people in California?

Knucklehead on July 15, 2011 at 8:22 PM

California education – now with less Math, Reading & Writing but with more useless trivia.

batterup on July 15, 2011 at 8:39 PM

Not trying to play one-up with you, or anyone else, but howzabout the rednecks, hillbillies, bible-thumpers, homeless, handicapped, short, tall, obese, et al?

Example: Fred Knuckledragger – H (hillbilly) /A (atheist) /D (deaf) /SB (squatty body) /L (left handed) /LIQ (low IQ)

Just how much political correctness and teaching are they really up for?

Robert17 on July 15, 2011 at 9:33 PM

Lesbians scare me.

SouthernGent on July 15, 2011 at 9:55 PM

Ah, stage 3 of Madsen and Kirk’s Desensitize, Jam and Convert technique:

Another tactic is to claim that famous historical figures were homosexual. This associates homosexuals with positive images (symbols) just like advertisers use celebrity endorsements.

Famous historical figures are considered especially useful to us for two reasons: first, they are invariably dead as a doornail, hence in no position to deny the truth and sue for libel. Second, and more serious, the virtues and accomplishments that make these historic gay figures admirable cannot be gain said or dismissed by the public, since high school history textbooks have already set them in incontrovertible cement.

Paul Rondeau’s review makes interesting reading.

The Thin Man Returns on July 15, 2011 at 10:36 PM

I’m not getting sucked into this argument.

NaCly dog on July 15, 2011 at 11:35 PM

But what about gingers? And what about persons-of-other-ability? And what about our most discriminated-against group: the ugly? When will we ugly people be given the recognition and protection we are so long overdue?

JohnJ on July 16, 2011 at 1:23 AM

Shark, jummped

BigAlSouth on July 16, 2011 at 6:29 AM

Have to wonder how they will handle the spread of AIDs via the bathhouse circuit.

katiejane on July 16, 2011 at 11:38 AM

I look forward to watching re-runs of The Match Game as part of the curriculum.

Jeddite on July 16, 2011 at 1:07 PM

As someone who supports gay acceptance, about the only place I can see sexual orientation coming up before 1950′s is to have a good discussion of Walt Whitman. The sexual orientation of other gay American before the modern era just isn’t that relevant. While I do think it is good to discuss Whitman honestly, that could be done simply by giving teachers permission to talk about a person being gay when it is relevant. We simply don’t need to cram politically correct stories down kids throats as this law in California would have us do.

thuja on July 16, 2011 at 10:19 PM

California Passes Law Mandating Teaching of Gay History: Now What?

Remember, this is California where the illegal alien children in the schools, combined with the ‘I hate the USA’ hispanics, march in the streets under Mexican Flags in opposition to the USA. Not in opposition to any particular policy, but the entire concept of even allowing the USA to exist.

They are now going to have to dig up Gay Mexicans that had any role in any part of Mexican history. Many people have simply NOT looked at what ALL of these overlapping directives are actually doing to twist history into a completly absurd rewrite. In the end, it is the TRUTH that will be sacrificed.

Freddy on July 17, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Nice bath house ad generated in the sidebar. Oy.

capitalist piglet on July 17, 2011 at 3:50 PM

And this is one of a large number of reasons that my daughter opted to homeschool her children. Take your gay history and shove it.

hachiban on July 17, 2011 at 9:43 PM