In their own words: Two viewpoints on Lesson 9
Alameda Unified’s much-discussed elementary school lessons to address anti-gay slurs and bullying are coming to a vote this coming Tuesday, May 26. Supporters call it a much-needed step toward providing support to students who might be subject to such slurs, and to families who have long lacked visibility in our school system. Opponents accuse the district of trampling parents’ rights to offer their children their own views on homosexuality at a time of their choosing.
The Island decided to give space today to a proponent and an opponent of the plan to offer their views (and I flipped a coin to decide the order). And just a quick note on this specific piece, commenters: I’d prefer it if you used your names on these, please. (Sorry, should have said that two days ago. My bad.)
We’ll start with Kerry Cook, an Alameda resident and former anti-discrimination professional turned stay-at-home mom who opposes the lesson plans:
“Addressing Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” fails to clearly explain to teachers, children or parents what their legal rights and responsibilities are. Instead, it tries to shape beliefs and values around an issue that is too complex for elementary school children. Teachers might not like the values of children from many races, cultures, religions, and traditions, but no law justifies crushing them by teaching words like homophobia incorrectly.
My son has an uncle who has a friend, but he does not have two uncles. Even if my brother “married” his friend, we would still say uncle and friend. It is our right to take away the visibility demanded by homosexual rights activists in our own personal lives. And it is not the school’s responsibility to give homosexual families visibility – just to keep them as safe as all the other groups protected under anti-discrimination laws.
Here is an idea for elementary school instead of the thought-control-curriculum. Review the Nondiscrimination/Harassment Policy BP5145.3 (update if necessary) then write a detailed protocol for responding to all types of teasing and bullying. This protocol is the best tool for teachers if it has the power of disciplinary measures. Write it up in simple terms that make everyone accountable, distribute brochures and conduct presentations for teachers and parents.
Alameda needs a Common Ground Taskforce for K-12 with equal representatives of the different views on homosexuality to undertake this work. I want my son to learn all the facts about homosexuality, but not when he starts kindergarten this August. It is no accident the California Department of Education Health Content Standards wait until seventh grade to introduce sexual orientation. Homosexuality is a complex topic because there are two theories, but one of them is unfashionable, and most adults are confused.
When our children start seventh grade, we will teach them that same sex attraction (SSA) may be temporary and “transgender” behavior may be Gender Identity Disorder (GID). We have a love for our children’s uncle that includes the hope that someday he will find a wife. This is honest, respectful love based on personal relationship over decades; not homophobia. Seventh grade students can evaluate the evidence within the broad context of sex, where this belongs.
Instead of expensive consultants pushing political definitions of homophobia and pressuring children to “come out” and identify as homosexual, I want my children to know all about homosexuality. Blaming people who do not approve is not a very academic approach. Let’s have a task force that will support academic curriculum with all the facts and theories, when the time is right.
For more information, please visit the Concerned Parents website here.
Allan Mann, an Alameda resident and business owner who teaches at Golden Gate University, supports the lessons. Here’s what he has to say:
Forty years ago, Iowa teacher Jane Elliot segregated students in her third grade classroom by the color of their eyes and gave one group special privileges over the other to demonstrate the effects of discrimination. The exercise has since been used nationwide to teach two generations of students how it feels to be discriminated against based on simple biological differences.
People in same-gender relationships and their children know all too well how it feels to be made to feel ashamed, invisible or, worse, to be bullied for a biological difference that occurs naturally in a percentage of the population.
The Alameda Unified School District is expanding its Caring Schools Community curriculum to address, for the first time, differences related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The elementary activities are a wonderful array of age-appropriate exercises that include references to kids who have two mommies or two daddies, or who engage in behavior that does not conform to gender stereotypes. A secondary school curriculum will follow.
Although community support for the new curriculum is widespread, a vocal group of parents have raised objections to the added lessons. Opponents claim that the lessons pay special attention to just one group and ignore the needs of others. They are apparently unaware of how Alameda public schools already address issues of race, religion, gender, national origin and physical ability. The new lessons simply enhance the existing curriculum by focusing on those who have been totally overlooked until now.
Those opposed to the curriculum also say that elementary children are too young to be taught about relationships based on same-gender attraction. However, nothing in this curriculum requires teachers to explain same-gender relationships in sexual terms any more than they currently do when discussing traditional heterosexual relationships.
Opponents say that these lessons elevate one moral viewpoint over another and thereby conflict with their religious belief that homosexual behavior is immoral. In fact, the curriculum removes moral judgment from the equation altogether: It simply acknowledges the existence of same-gender relationships in a non-judgmental manner and encourages the children to treat everyone with respect.
The books that many of us read as children did little to help us prepare for life in a diverse and multicultural world. Over time, many other formerly invisible minorities have been acknowledged through curricula such as this. It’s time for people in same-gender relationships and their children to be able to safely come out of the closet and enjoy the recognition and respectful treatment that they deserve. It’s a small step toward helping people begin to see eye to eye, regardless of what color those eyes might be.
For more information, please visit Alameda C.A.R.E. at http://www.alamedacare.org.