CA mandates teaching of 'gay accomplishments' to American history students
Social history is a relatively new sub-genre of historical scholarship, dating to the early decades of the 20th century. It is, quite simply, the history of ordinary people which, if examined in the context of events and personalities, reveals a side of history previously hidden by narrative and other forms of historical study.
There is nothing wrong with studying history in this manner - as long as we don't lose sight of the Big Picture. Narrative history may be flawed in some respects, but it has the distinct advantage of offering the scholar a broad outline of events in which economics, culture, and politics can be injected to fill out some of the gaps in our knowledge.
The trend in the last 30 years of teaching history at the Junior and Senior high level has been for school districts to purchase textbooks that carefully and deliberately highlight the "accomplishments" of minorities, women, and other groups previously ignored. These textbooks are paeans to diversity and multi-culturalism - buzzwords that get most conservatives dander up but can also be seen as engaging the minds of young people toward our past. This, in and of itself, is a good thing and should pique the curiosity of students to go beyond the textbook and learn more about the American story.
Again, there is nothing inherently wrong about this method of teaching history. The problem lies in losing context. The story of America goes far beyond simple narrative or contrived social history. The complex web of personalities and events that shaped our destiny demands that much more care be given to weighing the relative importance of historical events in order to give a more complete picture of our founding and development to students.
California is going force its public schools to teach about the "accomplishments" of gays, lesbians, and transgendered Americans. Mandating that such instruction be given to students is not the job of government at any level - especially for the reasons offered by the bill's sponsor.
The bill by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) had sparked hot debate in the Legislature where it was pushed through by the Democratic majority. Republicans argued it forces a "gay agenda" on students, but Leno said it would reduce bullying by educating young people about the accomplishments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community.
"Today we are making history in California by ensuring that our textbooks and instructional materials no longer exclude the contributions of LGBT Americans," Leno said. "Denying LGBT people their rightful place in history gives our young people an inaccurate and incomplete view of the world around them.''
There is no evidence anywhere that teaching about "gay accomplishments" will reduce bullying - an issue that has now replaced "obesity" as the hot word of the year. And I would question whether LGBT people were "excluded" from the history books or whether their "accomplishments" might be less than other minorities.
Until quite recently, gays were in the closet. What kind of context can you give a gay or lesbian who kept their sexual identity hidden while accomplishing great things? How did their sexual preference contribute to their deeds when they kept that part of themselves hidden from the rest of the world?
No doubt recent history and the telling of the fight for gay rights would make a splendid addition to textbooks - if it's not already being taught. But I question whether the state should be in the business of ordering schools to shoehorn selective history into curricula that is as contrived as it is superfluous. History should be taught to pass on knowledge, not make it a slave to a cultural agenda or political correctness.
Talk about sending the wrong message to students...