When the Anti-Bulliers Become the Bullies

-By Larry Sand

California Teachers Association backs SB 48 – radical legislation that will reinterpret history, hurt children and cost the taxpayers money

As one who tries to keep up with the latest teacher union doings, a trip to the California Teachers Association legislative page is always illuminating. Recently, I found that the powerful teachers union testified in favor of SB 48, a bill introduced by California State Senator Mark Leno. If passed, this bill would alter the way history is taught, could psychologically damage young children while delivering a blow to the taxpayers of California.

The California Education Code as it is now written says, “Existing law requires instruction in social sciences to include a study of the role and contributions of both men and women to the development of California and the United States.” However, according to the legislative counsel, SB 48 would “require instruction (emphasis mine) in social sciences to also include a study of the role and contributions of Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and other ethnic and cultural groups, to the development of California and the United States.”

A particularly offensive part of the bill says, “The state board or and any governing board shall not adopt any textbooks or other instructional materials for use in the public schools that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, sexual orientation….”

Several things scream out here.

First is the sanitization of the obvious. It would seem that teachers will be forced to ignore the fact that the Nazis were German, that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, that the 9-11 killers were Muslim and that Ku Klux Klansmen were Caucasian because it could adversely affect Germans, Japanese, Muslims or white people.
Then there are the identity politics. Candi Cushman, education analyst with Focus on the Family, perhaps said it best saying that as an anti-discriminatory measure, the bill is unnecessary. “California has some of the most pro-active laws in the nation in this regard already on the books. The appropriate emphasis in history books and social science books is to honor people because of their contributions. It just seems kind of crazy to be promoting them based on their political or sexual identity. You wouldn’t want to leave people out based on that, but neither do you want to base the entire reason that they’re included in history on sexual identity. It should be based on their historical contributions.”
Finally, there is the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans as a cultural entity. So, starting in first grade when history is first introduced, in addition to the ethnicity of a given figure, their sexual proclivities would have to be acknowledged. According to Dr. Miriam Grossman, a specialist in pediatrics and psychiatry who testified during committee hearings on SB 48 said the bill could do damage to children who cannot assimilate certain facts. For example, she said that transgenderism cannot be processed by young children and could be confusing and frightening to them. And parents of the children being exposed to this cannot choose to have their children exempted from these “lessons.”

There is also a fiscal component to SB 48. Since existing textbooks do not comply with the proposed law, new textbooks or supplemental material would have to be purchased. As Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute says, “While the bill’s backers claim it will have no fiscal impact, the many schools in California that do not currently emphasize the sexuality of historical figures will have little choice but to change their curriculum and buy LGBT-friendly instructional materials if the bill becomes law. Other states could also be affected, since publishers typically tailor textbooks to meet the standards of the largest states, forcing many smaller states to reluctantly follow California.”

Even the normally liberal LA Times has weighed in against SB 48. “The bill, SB 48, adds to an overly long list of requirements, some more reasonable than others, that have been pressed upon the state’s textbooks over the years. Minority groups, the elderly and the disabled must be represented proportionally and never portrayed in a bad light. People in poor countries aren’t supposed to be shown as poor, lest they be stereotyped, and information on AIDS in Africa must not reflect negatively on the continent. So poor people aren’t poor and the elderly are physically fit and financially sound, according to the textbooks — and we complain that students are poorly educated.

“Fables don’t make for solid instruction. History is the great story of people, groups and movements — their faults as well as their accomplishments — shaping the world up through the events of today. It is a story best told by historians, not by politicians.”

A couple of questions remain.

Why is Mr. Leno so eager to get this bill passed?

As an openly gay legislator, he claims to have been bullied as a youth. While bullying homosexuals or anyone for that matter is regrettable, this law would do nothing to stop the practice. It will however greatly offend and anger those who see this bill as nothing more than the homosexual lobby’s attempt to force its lifestyle into the lives of American families whose children attend government run schools. Referring to the bill as liberal-progressive fascism, writer Mike Gray says, “Gays are free to indulge their sexual proclivities, but they shouldn’t expect special recognition from the government for it.”

Why is CTA behind this bill?

As I pointed out in an op-ed in 2008, CTA is not really interested in representing its members as it is in advancing its leftist agenda. Did CTA bother to poll its teachers to see if they are in favor of SB 48? Of course not. Do they care about what their dues paying members think? Only if they are already in agreement with the CTA elite’s radical agenda.

Introduced by the Gay, Straight and Lesbian Education Network (GLSEN), this Friday, April 15, is the annual Day of Silence. According to the GLSEN website, this is an attempt to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools. But it seems to me that the anti-bulliers are now in the position where they are trying to silence the rest of us. And if passed, SB 48 will go a long way toward that end.
Larry Sand began his teaching career in New York in 1971. Since 1984, he has taught elementary school as well as English, math, history and ESL in the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he also served as a Title 1 Coordinator. Retired in 2009, he is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues – information teachers will often not get from their school districts or unions.

CTEN was formed in 2006 because a wide range of information from the more global concerns of education policy, education leadership, and education reform, to information having a more personal application, such as professional liability insurance, options of relationships to teachers’ unions, and the effect of unionism on teacher pay, comes to teachers from entities that have a specific agenda. Sand’s comments and op-eds have appeared in City Journal, Associated Press, Newsweek, Townhall Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union Tribune, Los Angeles Daily News, San Jose Mercury News, Orange County Register and other publications. He has appeared on numerous broadcast news programs in Southern California and nationally.

Sand has participated in panel discussions and events focusing on education reform efforts and the impact of teachers’ unions on public education. In March 2010, Sand participated in a debate hosted by the non-profit Intelligence Squared, an organization that regularly hosts Oxford-style debates, which was nationally broadcast on Bloomberg TV and NPR, as well as covered by Newsweek. Sand and his teammates – Terry Moe of the Hoover Institution and former U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige, opposed the proposition – Don’t Blame Teachers Unions For Our Failing Schools. The pro-union team included Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. In August 2010, he was on a panel at the Where’s the Outrage? Conference in San Francisco, where he spoke about how charter school operators can best deal with teachers’ unions. This past January he was on panels in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Mateo in support of National School Choice week.

Sand has also worked with other organizations to present accurate information about the relationship between teachers and their unions, most recently assisting in the production of a video for the Center for Union Facts in which a group of teachers speak truthfully about the teachers’ unions.

CTEN maintains an active and strong new media presence, reaching out to teachers and those interested in education reform across the USA, and around the world, with its popular Facebook page, whose members include teachers, writers, think tankers, and political activists. Since 2006, CTEN has experienced dramatic growth.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001