Friday, May 20, 2011

"Don't say gay" bill: good idea, or not?

The rain that came through today (okay, technically we had severe thunderstorms, but since they didn't actually involve large hail or damaging winds where I live it was just a thunderstorm) has triggered one of those annoying migraines I get. So, before I retreat to darkness and ice again, let me open up a topic of conversation: good idea, or not?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A bill passed Friday by the Tennessee Senate would forbid public school teachers and students in grades kindergarten through eight from discussing the fact that some people are gay.

Opponents deride the measure as the "don't say gay bill." They say it's unfair to the children of gay parents and could lead to more bullying. Supporters say it is intended to give teachers clear guidance for dealing with younger children on a potentially explosive topic.

The bill isn't likely to be taken up by the House before lawmakers adjourn this spring, but the sponsor there has said he would push it forward in 2012 when the General Assembly comes back for the second year of the session. [...]

Under the proposal, any instruction or materials at a public elementary or middle school would be limited to age-appropriate lessons about the science of human reproduction.

The legislation was amended from the original version, which said no elementary or middle schools will "provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality." Republican Senate sponsor Stacey Campfield of Knoxville said some of his colleagues were uncomfortable with that language.

Now, it may surprise some of you, but I could see this as something that could be used in a bad way. On the other hand--why are children in K-8 in need of any discussions about sex other than those involving "the science of human reproduction?" Do we really want to encourage 12 or 13-year-olds, let alone younger children, to engage in sexual activity, experimentation, etc?

Since I'm not up to a lengthy post today: you take it from here. Tell me this is a good idea, and why; or tell me it's a bad one, and why. I'll try to check in with the comments tomorrow--or later tonight if, like what my children call my "vampire headaches," this thing leaves me at sundown.


Anonymous said...

The issue is of relevance to me only when I think back to my primary and elementary school years in the 60s and early 70s. I realize, of course, compared to many of those younger than I grew up with a different standard of sophistication in relation to my family's poverty level. That is, what I had as a child that now are considered standard, would be deemed primitive-- mainly in accessibility to popular culture i.e. exposure to TV, all types of shopping and purchases, even entertainment. Coming from that understanding, we were never short on access to books and ideas from reading. I can honestly say that I had no idea of what homosexuality was until high school when one of the kids in my grade singled out a fellow and spoke disparagingly of him him. He was a couple years ahead of us and I had no idea of what she referred to with regard to his behavior.

Our band director had been a military instrumentalist and was heavily prejudiced. I abhored his manner of treatment of certain members, but he never referred to anyone of us with regard to that issue. He spoke frequently in front of the band about certain people, but our band always won state honors. As kids, empathy was not a topic discussed at the level of social consciousness and we did not complain to our parents or others of the unfairness, mainly because he didn't pick on those of us that might directly suffer the brunt of his wrath.

And, when I was a senior in high school, a guy from California moved to our town who probably nowadays would have been recognized as homosexual, but he was smart and we always liked to have him on our team, so there was no qualms about associating with him.

A couple years later when attending the local community college, I recognized the name of one of the students in the grade ahead of us in high school as leader of the Gay Rights student organization on campus, and still thought nothing of it. Not until the early 80s when AIDS was discussed did I care to understand about sexual orientation.

However, I do think that had the matter ever been a concern in school, to be prohibited in from discussing the issue would have been an infringement on rights to access to knowledge and education smacks of censorship.

We had a set of current encyclopedias in our home when my sons were in school in the last decade. They were encouraged to discuss with us any issues they were unsure of, and sexual orientation was not of concern to them fortunately, that I know about.

Of course, my non-Catholic husband and I didn't bring homosexuality up as a specific topic, but had the children wanted to know about it, I think it would have been a disservice to refuse to discuss it or downplay the moral and political repercussions in our society. Especially, when I felt I could not justifiably give them a Catholic upbringing in a church that seemed to condone rapacious behaviors such as tolerance of pedophilia, scandalous behaviors of public declared Catholic members of society, priest or nun misbehaviors, etc. while at the same time paying such deep homage to the life of Maria Goretti.

Perhaps, if the matter of the differences among rape, pedophilia, sexual orientation, etc. had been discussed, it would have been more clear in my mind that licentious behavior of priests was clearly wrong, and awakened the sense of latent outrage at the injustices dealt by those in charge of providing moral and Christian guidance. Who knows?

Legobelt said...

Great idea. The less social commentary we have in schools, the better. Schools should stick to academics, which seem to have been pushed aside by athletics and social engineering projects.

Rebecca in CA said...

I think there should be a bill introduced called "Stop abusing the word 'gay'".

romishgraffiti said...

I'm with you Erin, once you allow the discussion, pro or con, into it, then it's the camel's nose is in the tent, and then it becomes a small matter for progressives to chip at the perimeter until final collapse. When you are an agent of chaos you can lose a thousand times, but you only need to win once.

Carrie said...

I'm inclined to agree with Legobelt here. But I'd like to read the actual bill myself and hear more commentary on it before I set my opinion in stone.

rdcobb said...

I'm not a fan of school policies becoming laws (state or otherwise). But I can't help wondering how many of the people who object to the "Don't Say Gay Law" would applaud a "Don't Say God Law" keeping any mention of faith or religion out of schools. It's seems more and more that the calls for "tolerance" only go one way.

Anonymous said...

This is not about the topic, but about your migraines, Erin. I too get weather-related migraines and have had great luck with the following:

With the first signal of an impending attack (for me, visual spots followed by flashing aura):

1) Take 1,000 mg of acetaminophen with a cup of a strong caffeine beverage OR just take 2 extra strength exedrin, which already has caffeine.

2) This is critical,

a. EITHER get some of your extremities (hands, feet or both) in hot water for 15-20 minutes

b. OR (faster) take a hot shower for 3-5 minutes and then get out and put your head under a blast of very cold water for 2-3 minutes.

This invariably takes me from pre-migraine to post-migraine.

Hope this is helpful.


Red Cardigan said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! I'll have to try this. :)

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Don't say gay... Don't say God...

As someone who has argued that students have a First Amendment right to carry a Bible in their back-pack, I find the comparison interesting.

Attempts to legislate speech seldom work, even if they are not found to be infringements on freedom of speech.

But, the teacher's speech in the classroom is what the Supreme Court calls "employer speech" -- representing an employer rather than oneself.

Legislation should not single out words or concepts. But a curriculum standard which says, until 9th grade, or perhaps 7th grade, classroom instruction and discussion on sexuality will be limited to basic biology, would be reasonable and a good idea.

No doubt some "gay pride" character will claim that homosexuality IS basic biology. But, that hasn't been established, it is only a hypothesis, so it need not be taught. Sexual REPRODUCTION is basic biology. How people FEEL about it is not.

eulogos said...

I don't think this sort of thing is amenable to legislation.

And if you get up to 12 or 13 year olds, they may well ask a question which needs an answer which might just use the forbidden word. A teacher with the best intentions in the world could fall into doing something illegal. A teacher has to be able to say, "Well, some people believe,...and other people believe.." if a question is asked, rather than "We aren't going to discuss this."

Among the questions asked me when I was teaching CCD to children of that age "My father said that 'scumbag' was worse than the F word. I thought scumbag just meant a bum or a no good person. Why is it worse than the F word?"
Should I have had to just say that this wasn't an appropriate subject for CCD? I know that these children have already been taught about "safe sex" in public school, whether we thing they ought to have been or not, so I told the girl a scumbag was a used condom. She said, "Oh, then it is worse than the F word." I think young people ought to get simple honest answers to their questions. And if asked as a teacher something about "gays" I would want to answer it in a straightforward way. If asked as a CCD teacher I would include the church's teaching and also that many people in our society do not agree with it. If asked as a public school teacher I would use the "some people thing" and "other people thing" format.
I see no reason for this to be part of the curriculum but I also see how it could easily arise in class discussion.

I believe I was twelve when my father answered my question about what it was that homosexuals actually did. The issue arose because some people at the Unitarian church were reading the poetry of a homosexual Greek poet, C.P. Cavafy. That was perhaps unusual for 1962, but exposure to the existence of homosexual sex would be the norm now, not the exception. Twelve year olds would have to never read the newspaper, never watch TV news or even TV crime dramas, never talk to other twelve year olds who do those things. So surely some of them will ask questions about it. I don't want to tie the hands of those who answer them. I would hope that in a public school they would answer in a way which doesn't intrude either the particular religion of the teacher, or a 'politically correct' agenda. Sometimes that is too much to hope for. I read about a Catholic student teacher, observing a class, who had to listen to the teacher tell her class that only Protestants were Christians, and not say anything. We think only political correctness reigns in the classroom, but every part of the country is not the same. It is, or it should be, a difficult balancing act for a teacher with beliefs of his or her own, to answer such questions in a public school in a country which does not have a single accepted version of the truth on such important matters. I wish that they would perform this balancing act to the best of their ability without arrogance about their own opinions. I also wish them to be free to answer whatever questions their students raise. I would prefer the inevitable falling off the fence on one side of the other of difficult questions, to an atmosphere of repression in which some issues cannot be discussed.
Susan Peterson

eulogos said...

"some people *think*-other people *think*"
typing too fast.

Anonymous said...

Susan/eulogos has my vote! Young people deserve simple honest answers to their questions. As a grammar school student I heard the word "hooker" and "prostitute" on TV and elsewhere and knew only that it was bad. My parents changed the channel or turned red on those occasions. Period. So I asked an aunt who was babysitting us (she was my mother's age if it matters) and she answered, "It means a woman who sells her body." It was the truth, and I can't imagine what life would be like if she or a teacher or anyone were legally prohibited from educating me.

Muscovite said...

I'm all for children getting answers to their questions. But they should also be taught modesty and appropriateness in speech. Conversation has become more and more coarse and "frank." We have nearly lost the ability to blush. I wouldn't want my children involved in discussions of sensitive or delicate issues in public--certainly not at CCD. I'd expect the teacher to tell the students, "That is a subject you should discuss at home with your own parents."

Anonymous said...

Also, I assume there is a simple answer to this question, but I honestly cannot find it: how is this law not a violation of the First Amendment? Homosexuality is, among other things, a church teaching. As we all know, the RCC teaches that homosexual acts are sinful. Will public grammar school teachers in TN be prohibited from stating that?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

I would go half a step farther. If I were teaching a class, I would say, many religions teach that homosexual acts are sinful -- that is, in some manner contrary to the will of God. It is no part of my job to speak on behalf of God, or tell you what religion is true. For that, you will have to ask your parents, or someone ordained to speak to the faith you believe in.

Although it would be overkill to say so at length, to say that something is "contrary to the will of God" is somewhat different from saying "you are unfit for the rest of us to associate with." I recall a minister who gave an eloquent presentation that "God doesn't approve of booty call every five minutes either, so what makes you any better than a man with another man?"