As you may or may not know, we live in the community I grew up in. It’s an extremely safe city, with just about every resource that you could want in suburbia. Great hospitals, excellent schools, a fantastic park system, you name it. As a product of this community and its schools, I know that my children should be well-served growing up here, with one very glaring exception: it’s not very diverse. That definitely lead to gaps in my knowledge and life experiences, something I won’t allow to happen to my own children.
In 2012, the state of California passed Senate Bill 48, the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act (FAIR Act for short). This law added language to Education Code Section 51204.5, which states:
Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, 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 and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.
(I bolded the added language.)
To put this simply, California public schools must now include members of these groups in history and social science lessons. Let me break down what this means:
~When kindergarten students learn about families and communities, all sorts of families will be included. Kids will see examples that might include straight parents, gay parents, a widower, a family where kids live with their grandparents, an interracial family, a family with a mom who’s deployed, a family where dad is in a wheelchair.
~Elementary school kids will learn about Louis Braille, or the history of athletes with disabilities, or tolerance.
~Middle school students will learn about Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., or about hate crimes, or equal treatment, or equal access for those with disabilities.
~High school students will learn about the Stonewall Riots, or Harvey Milk, or Ed Roberts, or Gloria Anzaldúa.
If you had to Google any of the people or events mentioned, then you’re demonstrating the need for this legislation.
Did you notice that when I broke down what the law means for students, I didn’t say that little kids will get a lesson on gay sex? Good. Unfortunately, a portion of the people who live in my school district think this is exactly what will happen once history and social science lessons include members of the LGBTQ+ community. This is, quite simply, false. When our kids learn about Neil Armstrong they aren’t informed what sexual positions he preferred. This will be no different.
Most alarmingly, our district’s school board president has said he will not support this “politically correct propaganda,” citing his religious beliefs and the fact he doesn’t want to “promote homosexuality.” He, it seems, is planning to put his personal opinion over his elected responsibility to adhere to the legislation.
Last night our local school board was scheduled to have their first vote on how to begin implementing the new standards and framework (it’s going to be a year-long process). I attended the meeting, along with about 200 other people. When it came time for public comments about the FAIR Act, over 50 people spoke passionately. While I was pleased that the majority of the speakers were in favor of the FAIR Act, I found myself getting depressed as I listened to the people who spoke out against tolerance and inclusion. These are my neighbors. The parents of kids at my local school. I started to question if this was the right school district for my children.
But as the meeting wore on, current students had the chance to speak to the school board. They were so eloquent about why representation matters, and why it’s so important for the kids in our community to know that there’s a whole world out there beyond the homogenous borders of our city. They spoke about their personal experiences, from being bullied for starting a gay/straight alliance at school to feeling left out because her family was never represented in books. I thought about my brother, and how he literally didn’t know another gay person until Ellen Degeneres came out. It is so important for children to see themselves, their families, and their friends reflected in school textbooks.
I believe public schools should be fair, accurate, inclusive, and respectful to EVERYONE, regardless of their race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation. Schools are a place of learning and discovery. Every student has the right to feel safe and valued at school. I was so heartened to see so many current students understand this. I just wish more adults and elected officials did, too.
A freaking MEN! You said it all – my own brother and his wife started homeschooling their kids because of all the things they “heard” would be taught in public school…so frustrating. They just couldn’t seem to get it through their heads that these people are an important part of our history – whether you agree with their lifestyle or not…nobody is teaching how to have gay sex!
Good on ya Heather
I feel for you and your community. I live in Kansas. Sam Brownback is our governor. Enough said.
We had something similar here (Ontario, Canada)although ours was only about our sex Ed classes being updated. Apparently some parents think their kids can learn about sex, but only if it involves a man and a woman. People even protested it, it was ridiculous.
I think how you described it seems very age appropriate – why are so many against this? I’m a conservative for the most part, but even I agree this is okay! Families come in all different sizes (hello…we’ve got 10 kids over here, definitely not a typical-sized family and not for everyone) and all different colors and some have two moms and some have two dads…and then there are those with step parents where there are two moms and two dads (in fact, I used to go to teacher meetings with my stepson’s mom and he would introduce us as “theses are my moms” and I’m sure people made assumptions, lol) but the thing is, if no one is talking about “sex” then I think this is perfectly okay for all ages. I especially like how middle school will learn about Matthew Shepherd because acceptance is something that is SO very important. His story should be told. I believe public schools should be inclusive to everyone, just like you say. My kids are in public schools. I love our public schools.
Thank you so much for attending and being an advocate for those in our communities whose voices are so often silenced.
I don’t understand why people are against this. I think what you described sounds very age appropriate. All ten of my kids are in the public school systems (have been and will be) and I don’t have a problem about my kids learning about anyone, gay or straight, or about different types of family units. I’m wondering, though, did they mention anything about the sex education curriculum being changed?
I agree wholeheartedly with you, Heather. I grew up in a “bubble” in the suburbs of Houston. When I was in school (waaay back in the 80’s), a single female teacher got pregnant. She was told to get married or she would lose her job. Now tell me – how is the fact that she’s a single mom going to impact her ability to coach volleyball? Small town politics in a town founded by Quakers. But I digress.
I consider myself politically down the middle, and I am a Christian. But I also paid attention that day in U.S. history where we learned that our founding fathers left Europe because of religious oppression and they wanted, demanded, a separation of church and state. I didn’t miss much school, so I don’t think I missed the lesson that said our current politicians could ignore the framework of our country and ignore that pesky separation principle. I’m all for saying a prayer or two each day, but I’ll be damned if science texts are going to eliminate evolution.
But hey, I live in Texas. The only thing we’re apparently concerned about is where everyone pees.
Parents and pillars of society like you are who give me hope in these dark times. Thank you Heather. You and Kyle have always been part of the light when I reminisce about high school. It’s a shame that our community has not progressed. But with you, there’s hope.
I’m glad you are advocating for diverse education for your kids and your community, and hate that so many assume that just because someone’s lifestyle includes loving someone of the same sex, it must follow that they are perverted and deviant and a threat to children. It doesn’t make sense. It’s two completely separate things.
Also – possible point of clarification – I bet your brother *did* know someone gay before Ellen came out. It’s just that they weren’t out.
Kim K says:
I LOVE that you went to that meeting! Well done!
As I prepare to march Saturday, thank you for this. It is needed now, and it will be desperately needed the next 4 years.
Absolutely! Education is not a mirror – it’s a window.
I Heart that you speak up.
LOVE that quote, Kyla!!! Let’s hope it REMAINS that way, for YEARS to come!!
I love that quote too Kyla. Writing it down now!
You can move wherever you want, there are assholes of every stripe in every community. You can’t legislate peoples’ thoughts, although we seem to be trying – the best you can do is override those thoughts in your own home.
And all I can say is, with all the other history that kids need to learn good luck to CA fitting it all in!
We’ve always been diverse here, it’s fun looking at my daughters class picture. While white kids usually make up 49% of her class the rest are from other nationalities. They started learning about different Religions in 1st grade during December and that continued through 5th grade. This year (her first in jr high) I don’t remember going over other Religions but they have been learning about famous people of other nationalities. Last week they even were debating is Columbus was a hero or a criminal. Her friends through the years at school have never been white like her, well in 3rd grade there were several white boys ? Who were best friends. I love the school district she’s in, oh its not 100% but none are. She is even getting home ec at her school where they go over sewing and cooking.
I completely agree with what you’ve said here. Learning about and understanding difference matters, and it’s especially important in our country, where decades of systemic racism have put systems into place that prevent diversity in our communities. I’m glad there were more voices of support at your meeting. I teach college students and as much as I complain about them sometimes, they actually make me really hopeful for the future of this country.
This is my new favorite post of yours. Thank you for taking the time to go to that meeting. I used to work with kids at a Title 1 school. There are so many discrepancies between kids from families like yours and kids who live in poverty with parents who lack the ability, money and/or time to be actively involved in their child’s education. I am alarmed at how many parents in my supposedly liberal community never seem to contemplate that while they talk about diversity, they also intentionally move to the neighborhoods with the “good schools,” aka the schools where all the kids come from similarly white, affluent families.
It makes me so angry that someone would be opposed to their kids learning about hate crimes or families different from their own. Unfortunately, there will be those parents in EVERY community. Remember that just because they’re vocal doesn’t mean they represent the majority of their community. Keep going to the meetings and preach it, Heather!
The probably typically thoughtful parents who are fighting this reminded me of what the parents sounded like in a recent Fresh Air episode “How The Systemic Segregation Of Schools Is Maintained By ‘Individual Choices'”(http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/2017/01/16/509518639/fresh-air-for-january-16-2017?showDate=2017-01-16)
Not so random thought for you to consider Heather, I hope you remain engaged, involved and an education advocate but I also think you might consider doing so from an elected position.
Nothing to do with anything but can somebody please explain the difference to me between the first two choices of comment follow-up, please (beyond “followup” & “e-mail” in the first vs “follow-up” and “email”) in the second? I guess I’m confused what the difference between “via” and “by” is maybe?! It drives me crazy trying to grasp but being unable to!
Notify me of followup comments via e-mail
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
What we could all learn from our children if only we would listen when they speak.
I live in Ontario, Canada and we went through something very similar recently (I’m not necessarily sure it’s ever “over…”)
The provincial government introduced a new sex Ed curriculum that includes LGBTQ education. Many people opposed argued that this education would teach kids to be gay, teach masterbation, and teach kids various sex positions, etc. The new curriculum did pass and has started being taught which is great because the last update was in the 80’s and that is what I was taught (not a lot!!)
The thing that makes me sad is that uninformed parents can opt their children out of these classes which will create a new generation of uninformed people! But, progress is never easy it seems…
This post made me feel so good this morning. I am a high school social studies teacher in a rural Maine community. I have worked so hard over the years to make sure that my curriculum reflects the diverse historical experiences and contributions that made our country what it is. I have, on more than one occasion, had to deal with parents and school board members who want to limit our students’ educational experiences. It is so important for students and educators to have the support of parents and community members like you!
I live in a tiny town in northwestern Ohio. It is VERY white, VERY straight and VERY republican and yet…my fourteen year old has had two friends come out as gay to her and their friend group and these kids…oh, these kids are so amazing and loving and accepting and I’m so proud of them. I hope their school and their parents and our entire community/nation can follow in these amazing eighth graders’ footsteps.
Thank you for this post.
I agree with you 100%! I think that it is awesome that CA is going to include all of the things you mentioned in their curriculum. I live in FL and I do not even know if this is taught to my 9 year old, (shame on me!) however I will be looking into it. I have raised her to be an open minded person who has known since she could understand, at about 4 years old, that there are all kinds of people in this world. And that we will love all people for who they are and we do not judge. So she already knows pretty much all of it from me. And I am very proud of that and wish other parents would do the same. If we teach them from when they are young to understand how todays world works, and to be accepting of others differences this planet would be a MUCH better place.
I feel rather shocked right now. You had to have legislation changed to implement such diversity into your educational system? We’re in the year 2017. I now understand why there is so much predujice, racism, intolerance and hatred in the States. We Live diversity here, but you not only do not, but there is such terrible respiration by educators, facilitators and or parents because you are all living way behind the times – 50 years or more, I’d say! I felt stunned while reading this post.
Lisa F. says:
Agreed, Heather! If someone is against gay marriage, they shouldn’t marry a gay person. If they are against abortion, they shouldn’t have one, etc. What my gay friends do with their lives in no way impacts mine, other than making me happy to see them happy, however they choose that happiness. Thank you for standing up for inclusion and diversity. Since when did being kind become “political correctness?”
I do hope that the parents rally to elect a new board president as soon as possible for your schools. It is sad that CA had to enact legislation to get proper history taught but I am so GLAD to hear it will be taught!! I don’t see that happening ever here in my conservative town.
Thank you Heather for sharing your views and perspectives with your readers!!! I 100% agree with you; continuing the same fight in our local communities in MN.
Wow! I love how your school district is so forward thinking and yet feel so sad that personal opinion gets in the way of an elected official’s job. I live in NC and absolutely despise what our previous Governor (and other ultra conservative members of government) have done to our state. I am not native to here (I grew up outside of Philadelphia), but I wish more places were as inclusive as your community is trying to be. I live in a wonderful area with fabulous schools and tremendous parental support. We are diverse and promote multiculturalism but I know that isn’t the same just in the next county. I pledge to keep fighting the fight so that my kids will grow up understanding that we are all different yet the same.
Stephanie B. says:
Glad to live in California. I have not looked into what our school board is doing to implement this new law, but I should be keeping an eye on it a bit closer. Good for you for attending!
I hate that, in the year 2017, we still have to worry about inclusion, racism and bigotry. We are in the 21st century people! We all carry around mini computers in our purses that double as phones and yet we can’t just all agree that we all bleed red no matter what color, race, sexuality we are on the outside? We’ve taken so many strides forward in so many areas (i.e. technology) and yet in some areas this country is still stuck in the 1960’s. It’s mind boggling.
It sounds a bit hypocritical to pick a community to live the perfect life and then complain about the lack of diversity in that community. There are plenty of diverse communities if one truly considers diversity a major priority…
I think every community has its own set of issues and the best all of us can do is acknowledge them and work, within our own families and with others in the community, to fix them.
Oh, come on, we pick the communities we live in (at least people who can afford to do so!!), prioritizing schools, health care, commute, diversity etc in different ways. Socio-economic (lack of) diversity, which is often correlated with racial (lack of) diversity, is not something that can easily be accomplished from within your own chosen community, except perhaps via encouraging subsidized/public housing at the local level, school busing etc – which is something even many liberal communities oppose. Even in diverse communities, the schools are often (usually?) not diverse (think private schools vs public schools). It’s easy to talk the talk, much harder to walk the walk!
Of course, diversity comes in many different forms (and to be fair, Heather largely focuses on the LGBTQ+ diversity in her post, as does that FAIR act, I believe – am not in CA and had to look it up).
I find this comment maddening simply because if you know anything about this family, you should know their life has been far from perfect. They have been through a hell that I cannot imagine. You missed the point of this whole post…
I am well aware that they went through hell – but that has little to do with this post, and that also does not mean I have to agree with everything Heather writes. I also understand why Heather would have emphasized the LGTBQ+ diversity in her post, which is the reason I added the qualification in my post above.
However, I did take offence at the first paragraph, as I am sick and tired of people claiming to be so liberal, advocating for diversity and then turning around and sending their kids to the 30k/yr private schools or move to the posh suburbs with perfect schools like Thousand Oaks’ (even when the local schools are average and would benefit from the presence of involved parents; I don’t expect anyone with the means to send their kids willingly to the worst of the worst schools, of which there are all too many!). In my opinion, the educational system in this country is far from “fair” and would need a major overhaul – from pre-k onward. We are graduating too many kids who can barely read and write, let alone do math!
To be clear – my issue with your comment was the statement about picking a community to live the “perfect life”. I never said you had to agree with everything she writes…that’s ridiculous.
What a beautiful world if the ignorant could be without fear…..
Good for you attending and sharing your views and opinions. But also good for the people with opposing views to your for attending and sharing their opinions. That’s what tolerance means being able to speak out despite people agreeing with you. Sounds like diverse viewpoints and lifestyles were represented.
Shelley Haddix says:
The whole problem is the adults. The adults teach the children. Watch 10 month old babies play together like they are joined at the hip. They do not care. They do not even think about it. Adults teach bad behavior or belief systems to kids. I do realize that adult was taught that as well. Sometimes it is not what you say, it’s what you don’t say. Stand up. And stand out. Defend people with a loving, kind, gentle heart. Love them and it will disappear. I am getting ready to have a grandchild, i just know it’s coming soon, and this grand daughter is a very very special human being in our family. Her mommy is Caucasian and her daddy is African american. She is a miracle. Now do you think for one minute that I’m not getting closer to a better, close understanding of true prejudice and stereotypes? Yes I can say I understand. But do i? We all know there are some things in life that you really do not understand the full deep meaning until you have actual life experiences.I have to learn how to conduct myself properly in the face of such thinking. I can not be a good role model to her if I am making a hit list for everyone that wrongs her. Figure of speech. I have to teach myself OK teach her in Love and Understanding. Two wrongs don’t make a right. On the flip, I will love her, and want to protect her and want this world to act like it cares about people. It has to be taught and practiced to be effective. So yes she’s a miracle because she will be teaching all of us lessons on life. It may be a different lesson for each person but class will be opening soon.
Is your granddaughter a very very special human because she is caucasian and African American? That is how you make it sound. Would she be any less special if she were just white?
You sound like a proud grandma who is already loving her dear grandbaby. That is wonderful.
What no one here is considering is how this new curriculum is paving the way for American kids to be numbed out to the moral dilemma such a life-style presents. Our future as a nation is a depraved place if we don’t face the moral nature of these things. Yes, there is diversity in families. And we ought to embrace that whole-heartedly. However, a child who is biracial or whose mom is deployed is radically different from a family with 2 moms or 2 dads. The first is a beautiful blend of cultures, the second an age-old situation faced by many kids growing up in any nation with a military. The third is morally and inherently wrong. Children of this latter will grow up confused and warped in their understanding of who they were created by God to be or what normal is.
I do not want my children being introduced to or taught any of this at any age from someone whom I do not know touting their beliefs. It’s interesting that the people whose lifestyle this is can parade their choices, but God forbid if you disagree. Our elected officials are elected because of the stands they will take on the citizen’s behalf. I applaud the school official who is standing against these subtleties that will infect our children to be immune to sin and rebellion. It is not a requirement that officials implement every thing that comes down the road, but rather stand for our constitution. This curriculum may not be teaching blatant things now…but it’s paving the way for more vulgar things in the future.
This is exactly why we privately homeschool and elect to exercise our freedoms to educate our children at home. My kindergarteners and/or preteens do not need to be exposed to LGBT or even have their thoughts go to such a place until they are significantly old enough and sufficiently well-grounded to not be confused or troubled. In the same way we teach them the beauties of commitment and marriage. And to save themselves for marriage…to not easily give away what is precious.
I will do the strenuous work to homeschool my children day in and day out, to teach them about what’s in the world as we come across things on tv, in the store, etc. They will be guided to be discerning and to think clearly and know how to separate out propaganda from truth. They will not be in a bubble nor will they be naive. They will retain their beautiful innocence. They are insulated, not isolated.
I find it completely ridiculous to force children to learn about every type of behavior out there. As a parent you can teach anything you like, but a school needs to take into account people from all different religions. I would never stand for my children being taught these things in school no matter how little the detail.