Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Misleading Comments of Jack O' Connell--California Superintendent of Public Schools

In recent commercials, Jack O' Connell, the California State Superintendent of Public Education has made some interesting comments with which I, as an educator and citizen of this great state, would like to take issue. As a teacher of English Language Arts, it is my job to instruct students in the use of language, and to explore its uses in written or verbal communication. Here is what I have discovered in the sophistry of Mr. O' Connell's remarks:
Mr. O' Connell states, "Proposition 8 has nothing to do with schools or kids. Our schools aren't required to teach anything about marriage." I suppose that Mr. O' Connell is making this statement based on an argument over semantics within the California Teaching Content Standards. It is true, to my knowledge, that there is nothing in the actual wording of the content standards that says "requires" in connection to the word "marriage." But there are a lot of standards that would lead to the teaching of marriage in public schools, which, in fact, are required. Furthermore, it is preposterous to think that Mr. O' Connell really knows what is going on in each school district across the state of California and within the individual school sites and classrooms. Each district, while conforming to the standards, creates its own curriculum in connection to the standards. Each district adopts its own textbooks and creates its own pacing guides which cover specific standards and themes. How can he claim that some districts do not have themes dealing with family and marriage? Has he visited each district and reviewed the individual documents? Furthermore, textbook publishers will be pressured to include works dealing with same-sex marriage by special interest groups who will undoubtedly sue the textbook publishers for discrimination if they refuse to include such diversity (we have already seen them sue other individuals who have been opposed to their position--see the link to the NPR article on my previous blog).
The proof of Mr. O' Connell's errors may be found from his own website. Granted, it will take a lot of digging in order to find the information that you are searching for (which the average voter will not be willing to do). As such, I have done a little, though not entirely exhaustive, digging myself. If we explore the document "HEALTH EDUCATION CONTENT STANDARDS FOR CALIFORNIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS (Kindergarten through Grade 12)" we will discover the following standard for Grade 1: "Describe how members of a family have various roles, responsibilities, and individual needs" (Standard 1.1.G.4). While this standard does not mention marriage, it does mention the role of family members, which implies marriage, and will lead to a discussion on the roles of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and etc. If same-sex marriage is passed, this will include the teaching of two mothers or two fathers in the roles of families. Either Mr. O' Connell is not aware of this state standard or he chooses to play ignorant over what it really means. If he is not aware, then he is simply uninformed with the falsehood he has made in his latest commercial (which is completely irresponsible of a public official). If he is aware of the standard, then he is straight lying to the people of California (which is completely shameful and a cause for removal from office). Other standards that do not explicitly say "marriage" but would lead to its discussion include: Grade 3, Standard 3.2.M.5, which states, "Describe internal and external factors that affect friendships and family relationships," Grade 5, Standard 5.1.G.6, which states, "Recognize that there are individual differences in growth and development, body image, and gender roles." and others include Grade 5 standards 5.1.G.7 and 5.2.G.11; Grade 7/8 standards 7/8.1.G.8, 7/8.2.G.15, and 7/8.5.G.30. And these are just a few within the Health Education strand. If we were to look at the History standards and the English Language Arts standards, we will not find anything that states "marriage" in the standards themselves, but an event such as adopting same-sex marriage will be one that is considered important enough to adopt into history books (thus being taught in public schools) and will be justified in reading materials for language arts (if parents object to stories that contain characters involved in same-sex marriage, they will have no right to act on their objection because it is state law). These stories could be introduced at any grade level and nobody would have a right to object. I have a friend who teaches 2nd grade who has informed me that she has already come across such a story in a supplemental reading book. While the story is not mandatory to read, there would be nothing that parents could do if a teacher chose to read such a selection. Hence, while the opposition to prop 8 claims that it will not be "mandatory" to teach same-sex marriage in public schools, they knowingly cannot say that it will not be taught in public schools. The reality is that some classrooms will teach it while others will not. If your child happens to be in one of the classrooms that teaches it, you have no right to object.
Furthermore, same-sex marriage will be taught in lessons dealing with tolerance. Unfortunately, there will be no tolerance for those who are opposed to the practice. Students will be taught that anyone who expresses disapproval over the practice would be considered intolerant, ignorant, hateful, and a bigot (I've already been branded such by people who oppose my views. I do not call them such names because I am respectful of other people's points of view. It is unfortunate that so many who claim to be advocates of tolerance are, in fact intolerant to dissenting points of view).
Needless to say, same-sex marriage will radically change the fundamentals of our society. Opponents of prop 8 claim that same-sex marriage will not affect anyone. They are wrong. Use your reason and inform yourself on the issue and VOTE YES ON PROP 8.


Jennette said...
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Jennette said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennette said...

While it is true that there is no mention of education within the 14 or so words of Proposition 8, there will be some ramifications if it does not pass. It follows the analogy of how to cook a frog: slowly increasing the heat of the water until the frog doesn't realize until it's too late that the water itself is boiling. And it's too late.
So the heat is gradually being increased, and this does include California's public education. There is undoubtedly an agenda to push homosexuality and gay marriage under the banner of "diversity". Just a recent example: The attempted passage of CA- AB 2567 Harvey Milk Day Bill.This bill sailed all the way through Congress, and if it had not been vetoed by the Governator, it would have required all public schools to "conduct suitable commemorative exercises" on May 22to honor the late San Francisco supervisor and gay-rights activist Harvey Milk. Many people say that Milk also was a champion of homosexual experimentation, sexual activism, anti-religion, and supported the abolishment of sexual boundaries. While many of the things he did do for SF are good (he did initiate the law for dog owners to pick up after their dogs), I don't think his ideas are something that requires commemoration in public schools.
I'm grateful for the diversity that I was exposed to being raised in California. I think more importantly, my feelings on diversity and how I treat others is based on principles that I learned primarily in the home, not school. While I did have to explore gay issues (including a new vocabulary) for my profession and Masters Degree, I don't believe children need to be taught regarding these same issues to consider themselves to be "culturally competent."
So the heat is still being turned up, but its up to the public to decide when to jump out of the pot.
Sorry for the long comment.

Piper said...

I am curious to know why equality is such an issue here? There wasn't a time too long ago that blacks and whites could not marry - would you expect schools not to mention interracial couples when "talking" about the family? This proposition is a blatant attack on human rights, something you supposedly support in previous blogs. Do you have any idea how many same-sex couples are raising children in loving homes? Sheesh, do you even associate with same-sex couples?

You wrote "same-sex marriage will radically change the fundamentals of our society." How exactly does this happen? With or without the proposition, there will be same sex couples raising children. No doubt, it will be coming up in schools when Tommy asks Suzy why she has a mom and a dad and he has two dads. It's naive to think by passing this proposition you will effectively "remove" the awareness or teachings of same-sex marriage from schools. What you are doing is voting against human rights, and the "protect our marriage and our children" line is just another facade.

Merrie said...

Today as I walked the campus of my school, I noticed several classes in the area of social studies, discussing the CA Propostions. One class in particular was discussing the pros and cons of Proposition 8. Even before the measure has passed or failed, gay marriage is being taught in school.