The Bedroom in the Classroom: Clio is Not Amused
By: Dr. Jason R. Edwards
Though my mastery of Greek mythology is not strong enough to know off-hand the muse of historyâ€™s sexual orientation, I do know that Clio might try to persuade her father to hurl thunderbolts from Mt. Olympus into Sacramento as punishment for defiling her beloved discipline.
On July 14, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB 48, which dictates that California schools adopt instructional materials in social science classes that emphasize â€œthe role and contributions of â€¦ lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americansâ€ in history.
When considering the myriad ways such a law tramples on parental rights and academic legitimacy, it is hard to know where to begin. However, since the law will be celebrated by some as a triumph of inclusivity, perhaps it should be noted it solves no conceivable problem currently plaguing California.
Regarding inclusivity, California law already bans discrimination in instructional materials based on â€œrace, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin, or ancestry.â€ Not content with banning discrimination, earlier California legislators already mandated emphases on the contributions of both men and women as well as â€œNative Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americansâ€ and other ethnic and cultural groups in California textbooks and curriculum.
In other words, it is hard to imagine that historically significant lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans are not already being included. The real change here is that while those in the â€œLGBTâ€ crowd used to scream for others to â€œstay out of their bedroom,â€ they now demand that their bedroom be put in everyoneâ€™s classroom.
The absurdity of the law can be seen when considering that despite the proclivity of lowbrow boasting, rarely does a personâ€™s bedroom behavior actually make the person worthy of historical venerationâ€”a fact that undoubtedly contributes to so many students finding history class â€œboring.â€ In fact, when a personâ€™s sexual activity might actually be germane, it is almost always for scandalous reasons; and, ironically, this probably couldnâ€™t be covered since negative associations with a personâ€™s lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender identity is specifically banned by the law. Therefore, according to this new law, sexual preference rather than actual historical significance will determine inclusion.
All of this means that rather than relying on historians and teachers to do their jobsâ€”stem the tide of cultural and historical ignoranceâ€”California politicians have rushed in and demanded that historians and teachers (K-12) waste time endorsing sexual preferences rather than covering their actual subject. And, yes, the law makes no distinction for age or grade levelâ€”including, assumedly, little Johnnyâ€™s and Suzyâ€™s kindergarten class.
Such action makes sense only in a bizarre world where political â€œleadersâ€ of an economically bankrupt state ignore pressing needs in order to tilt at politically correct windmills. Sweetening the irony is the fact that the legislatorsâ€™ usurpation of othersâ€™ jobs (and dereliction of their own) places more financial burdens on their already strapped school system by demanding the purchase of new textbooks and curriculum.
Of course, the tragic ironies of SB 48 do not end with economics. Proponents of SB 48 trumpet the law as â€œanti-bullying,â€ but â€œbullyingâ€ is the mildest term one could have for a law that dictates public teachers trample the values of millions of parents, children, and taxpayers in addition to disregarding their own professional opinions and personal beliefs.
For those thankful that their residency insulates them from the folly of California legislators, it is important to remember that despite laws to the contrary, the United States does have a national curriculum. That curriculum is created by textbook companies, which must cater to high population states. Thereby, while the nation need not fear the actions of Wyomingâ€™s legislature, which publishers will ignore, Californiaâ€™s de jure educational mandates often become the de facto curriculum for the entire country.
Selecting historical subjects through a myopic lens of sexual preference is simply bad historyâ€”a crime egregious enough to outrage Clio. Furthermore, for freedom lovers nationwide, it is also outrageous educational practice and heinous lawmaking.
â€” Dr. Jason R. Edwards is an associate professor of education and history at Grove City College and a fellow with The Center for Vision & Values.