This may seem a grotesque comparison, but it is indicative of the danger of basing identity upon behavior—even if it seems advantageous to those so depicted. There is an awful lot more to each of us than our vices.
More seriously, partitioning history destroys its effectiveness. Having written a history of the United States, I feel that the great problem with American historiography has been its isolated treatment of its topic. The French and Indian Wars and the American Revolution, for example, are inevitably taught solely in terms of their origins and effects over here rather than as the result of worldwide conflicts. Our history’s true richness—and its ongoing relevance to the world in which we live—is lost. For this reason, I oppose teaching “black,” “Hispanic,” or “Asian-American” history as such.
There is a pink elephant in the schoolroom—the fact that most Californian parents would still object to what they perceive as the glorification of a lifestyle they consider immoral or dangerous. It is for this reason that I am willing to forego state-mandated “alcoholics history.” Whether one believes for ethical or religious reasons that parents should be their children’s primary educators, or that taxpayers should not have to pay for indoctrination they do not want, it shows once again that our legislators are, to quote Kipling, “drunk with sight of power.”
This present bill is proof that what California really needs is a part-time legislature. The Assemblymen and Senators have too much time on their hands and too much money. They need to get away from fiddling with school curricula (which most of them can’t understand, anyway) and banning foie gras to concentrate on our financial woes and crumbling infrastructure.
Government-mandated programs and standards have proved unable to ground our students in any kind of history. Except for a very few (usually wealthy) school districts, American public education has been a colossal failure. One may prattle about church and state, but school and state require a “wall of separation” if the former is ever to become effective.
Regarding mandatory gay-history inculcation, I was able to reassure my brother, who has seven school-age children. Given California public schools’ inability to teach regular history, I assured him that if the bill becomes law, high-school grads would emerge from their twelve years of daycare as ignorant of Harvey Milk and Stonewall as they presently are of Washington and Appomattox.
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