School District Bows to Religious Ideology

SF Bay schools phase out gay-friendly curriculum   

ALAMEDA, Calif. (12/10/09)— Following months of heated debate, the Alameda Board of Education has voted to phase out the elementary school curriculum it adopted in May to prevent anti-gay bullying.  

The five member school board voted 4-1 to replace the controversial curriculum with more generic lessons that promote tolerance.

Oh my goodness, you must be wondering what was in that controversial curriculum?  A second-grade picture book that was part of Alameda’s Lesson 9. The book, “Who’s In A Family,” contains pictures of families headed by grandparents, single parents and gay parents, among others.   

So is the problem that the educators of Almeda are suggesting that gay families exist?  Exactly what is the worry about presenting these people as human to second graders?   

“Freedom of religion is protected from harassment and discrimination from anyone. It may be of no consequence to some, but it is a very integral part of many traditional families and should be honored,” said Kellie Wood, who has three children in Alameda schools and is part of a group circulating recall election petitions.

Oh I see, it’s the religious freedom to demoralize and civilly erase the LGBTQ community that was not honored by Lesson 9.  This religious freedom to wage war on the LGBTQ communities civil rights seems to be creating entire new core religious creed for some of the faithful.  It would seem that there are now those who follow a religious code in which one is called to dehumanize sexual minority people at any opportunity and to prevent sexual minority families from having any legal rights with regard to public education.   

Yesterday I pondered the proclaimed central Christian tenant of homophobia presented in a legal filing by a Christian student group.  The Christian Legal Society declared establishing discriminatory practices against the LGBTQ community is fundamental to their core religious identity. 

In considering the Christian Legal Society lawsuit demanding that they be allowed to discriminate against the LGBTQ community at UC Hastings College of Law I wondered why the sexual minority community is the one community religious members have chosen to ban, petition against, and openly abuse in the public arena.    

I pointed out, as I will again and again, that the doctrine of nearly every faith suggests that all non-believers are immoral, fallen, etc. 

And based on the self aggrandizing creed of any single faith any curriculum that promoted  tolerance and respect for other faiths would clearly go against the core beliefs of a member of a particular faith community.  And for many religions any curriculum which promoted girls autonomy would also be blasphemy.  Not to mention any curriculum or educational practices which recognized households where adults were engaged in infidelity.   As well as households headed by those who have broken the scared bonds of a marriage covenant. 

Shoot there are probably a lot of families (at least 50%) that schools should not be recognizing by any curriculum or schoolwide policy in order to protect the sensibilities of the religious.   It would be simplest to just make the priest, reverend, imam, rabbi or other religious leader into the superintendent of the district.  Then we could avoid any future curricular inconsistencies with religious doctrine.   

Because you see there are many fish to fry when converting the public school system to become the promoter or enforcer of a particular religion.  And  hey, why blame the holy for coming into the curriculum from this direction.  It’s working.   Lesson 9 has been pulled from the curriculum.   

Yea cry the zealots – our god reigns over this public school….as it should be.  But wait cry the believers, is this school district still consider protecting sexual minority families from the barrage of abuse they face in the public school system?    

The new anti-bullying lessons approved by the board, at the recommendation of School Superintendent Kirsten Vital, will be supplemented by children’s books that explicitly address six specific forms of bias, including against gays.   

What!?!   The board accepted adjusted plans to continue to do something to address bias against gays?  How dare they refuse to take into account ‘the strong beliefs’  (the religious call to demoralize gay people) of the oppressed religious community!  I guess it’s time to pull out the old establishment clause again!?!   

“This has torn apart our community,” said school trustee Trish Herrera Spencer, the board member most opposed to the gay curriculum and who opposed adding the supplemental books. She said the board’s latest action did not take into consideration “the strong beliefs” of all in the community.   

I believe public school board member Trish Herrera Spencer (member #1 in the 4 to 1 vote) is saying this fight wont be over untill the gays of her community are decimated of any visibility or rights within the school community once again.   Personal creeds according to her civil servant logic obviously trump anyone’s access to education. And so far she is correct and therefore has every reason to believe she can go on down this path of public destruction.  Even as courts find against this religious evangelism, the school district caved in to public pressure and dumped ‘lesson 9.’   

So for anyone who considers herself an ‘ally’ of the LGBTQ community I’d suggest she start thinking deeply about this highly persuasive religious argument for homophobic policies and laws.  And when I say it is highly persuasive I do not mean in any legal sense, I simply mean a majority group is forcing their views and values onto a minority group and everyone else is watching.  

This is the argument: Because my god says so, you have no civil rights, no humanity, and no business being present in our society.   And this theologic reasoning just won again in public arena and resulted in the removal of a piece of curriculum even as it lost the legal battle in the courts once again.

This is not a new argument but it demands a response again and again.   The average bully met by silent witnesses goes on with their aggression and assault until someone – usually a lot of someones – stands against them and makes them stop.  This is part of the lessons schools teach when addressing bullying – silent bystanders fuel aggression – and it is a lesson we as parents, community members, and professional educators must take to heart.    

The ground being lost is very costly. It is the very ground historically fought for by nearly every religious group, by immigrants, by women, by blacks, by people with disabilities and by so many other minority communities denied human and civil rights in public schools.

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Filed under Curriculum Wars, Family Values, Heterosexism, Homophobia, Religion, Sexual Orientation

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