Whitewashing History for California's Kids
California's efforts to be inclusive in the classroom could spell disaster for education.
A new law took effect January 1 requiring public schools to include the contributions of gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals in its history lessons. That alone is proving unpopular with some. But the real issue is that the law also bans teaching material that reflects "adversely" on gays or religions.
That sounds nice.
However, in effect, what the law is actually doing is quashing free speech. After all, what does it mean for 9/11? Is the fact that the terrorists were radical Islamists off-limits in the classroom? Will the speech police clamp down on any teacher who dares discuss the role religion played in the attacks?
What about HIV? Is it now illegal to teach in health class that it spread quite notably in the gay community? After all, some people might think that that reflects adversely on gays.
In addition to the free speech implications, the state is essentially codifying revisionist history. If certain groups don't look good, their history doesn't get taught, at least not in its full context. It'd be like glossing over the attack on Pearl Harbor for fear of offending Japanese-Americans, or leaving out portions of the Civil War because it might make Southerners look bad.
It's the epitome of intellectual dishonesty, yet it's now the law of the land in the nation's most populous state. And it's more than political correctness run amok -- it's dangerous.
We used to criticize other countries for doing this sort of thing -- Japan for downplaying the Rape of Nanking, Turkey for denying the Armenian genocide, textbooks in the Arab world for their portrayal of Israel -- yet here we are, doing it in the U.S.
Our children need to be taught history as it really happened, not a sanitized version that makes the ever-growing list of protected classes look good. Teaching used to be about discovering truth, not covering it up for fear of offending some person or group. What are we teaching our kids when we tell them it's more important to make people feel good than to seek knowledge?
No one group is composed entirely of saints. History is full of horrible behavior on everyone's part. To ban teaching anything that reflects "adversely" on a group of people is nothing more than whitewashing history.
It's understandable -- even laudable -- to want to teach our children to be accepting of others, but this is not the way to do it.
Our students lag behind other industrialized nations in math and science, but are way ahead in feeling good about themselves and their differences. But that's not what's going to get this country on the right track.
Schools need to stick to the basics -- reading, writing, arithmetic -- and steer clear of the sort of dishonest social engineering schemes California schools are now engaged in.
Thankfully, some in the Golden State agree. A move is now afoot to put a referendum on the November ballot to repeal the law. Hopefully, it will pass. If not, we're all in trouble. After all, as they say, "As California goes, so goes the nation."