Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Teacher's View of Prop 8

I already voted via CA absentee ballot, so even if the fear-mongering ads supporting Proposition 8 were capable of hypnosis, my vote would safely continue to say, "No thanks: I don't much care for discrimination."

The latest polls show that this is a very close race, which it should not be, considering this is 2008 in Cali-fucking-fornia. Come on. It took us 2 years to get the hippies out of the trees of my university, yet we're really this willing to rewrite our state constitution to prefer one type of love over another?

Googling Prop 8 to see why this can actually be a possibility adds to the rage, since Yes-on-8 websites are clearly determined to shit all over the California Education Code with their own versions of truth designed to beguile the public.


Let's summarize what the code actually says, along with a 2003 sex education research study cited by the Yes-on-8 crowd, to understand what it is I actually have to teach your kids:

1) CA Education Code 51933 states that school districts "may provide comprehensive sexual health education" in any grade as long as it is age-appropriate and factual. It's likely your neighborhood school does. 96% of schools chose to do so.

2) CA Education Code 51890 elaborates on what a comprehensive sexual health education program entails, which is a vast spectrum of health topics concerning drugs, exercise, disease and making good decisions. Also included is this topic:

"Family health and child development, including the legal and
financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood."

Notice I don't really get into what marriage is, but the fact that it is legally binding, and involves vague financial aspects. Oh, and sometimes you have kids, too. The big idea here is that with commitment comes responsibility. This will not change with Prop 8.

3) Jumping back to CA Ed. Code 51933, there is another passage concerning marriage that is part of the health program that most schools teach:

"Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and
committed relationships."

Students should consider relationships and committed relationships with respect. Students should respect that 2 people choose to commit to one another. The point, as given from the context, is that commitment and honesty are both traits found in a healthy lifestyle. That includes the commitment of heterosexual couples and of homosexual couples. The institution of marriage and what marriage means is not the focus. This will not change with Prop 8.

4) Yes, you read right, I can talk about homosexual couples. Also from CA Ed. Code 51933:

"Instruction and materials shall be appropriate for use with
pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and
cultural backgrounds, and pupils with disabilities."

My instruction would not be appropriate if I chose to disregard certain sexual orientations and not others. This will not change with Prop 8.

5) Another mention of the role of marriage is contained within CA Education Code 51930 as one of the goals of these programs:

"To encourage a pupil to develop healthy attitudes concerning
adolescent growth and development, body image, gender roles, sexual
orientation, dating, marriage, and family."

Marriage in this context is nothing more than a committed relationship, as another aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Notice again that I am already teaching about sexual orientation and how that relates to dating and committed relationships. This will not change with Prop 8.

6) Despite what CA Education Code states, an ACLU research study conducted in 2003 found that while 96% of schools opted to teach an (optional) sexual health education program, many did not include all of the required components discussed above. For instance, 71% of middle schools omit teaching the required topics about contraception, condom effectiveness or abstinence. Exact data on how frequently the "marriage/committed relationships" topic is taught is not reported, even though proponents of Prop 8 continue with dishonest claims that nearly all schools teach marriage.

7) Knowing all of this, if parents still look unfavorably at the topics covered in this sexual health education program, they have CA Education Code 51938-51939, which states that I must notify parents at the beginning of the year of sexual health topics that will be covered. Parents can request to see any of the materials I will use to teach these topics, and can pull their student out of any or all portions of this program. If you still don't believe me that marriage is not and will not be a focus in your school, ask to see the materials, and if it is not to your liking, request that your child be given alternative instruction. This will not change with Prop 8.

8) My diverse students have diverse perspectives and took diverse life paths to get to where they are now, and my instruction needs to be aware of that. Some kids are raised by families with a mom and a dad, but there are many exceptions to that "rule". To be certain that my kids are growing up with a respect for diversity and an open, critical mind to differences, I need to expose them to these differences now. In the context of a sexual health education program, I teach them that commitment is a healthy choice, regardless of who is doing the committing. This will not change with Prop 8.

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