Thursday, July 21, 2011

Indoctrination and the Fair Education Act

Kyle Cupp of Journeys in Alterity discusses the new law in California. I found his insights helpful since I have been wondering what options are left for parents in California who do not want their children indoctrinated but have no other choice but the public school system. Kyle says:
Now I say the following as someone who believes in a handful of doctrines: If you’re a parent fearful of indoctrination at your school system, teach your child/children to see through indoctrination. Teach the boys and girls to think—critically and with a healthy dose of suspicion. Most kids already have the interrogative foundation for critical thought: they ask “Why?” and “How come?” to every statement some supposedly learned person makes.
Personally, this is how I was taught, and when I asked questions I was always given explanations by my parents. As a student I learned to sift arguments and draw my own conclusions based upon evidence. However, I do want to say that a lot depends upon the child and his temperament. Some children, in spite of their parents' best efforts, are more easily daunted by what is going on around them in the classroom. They are more easily swayed by peer pressure. It does not mean they have weak characters. It is just that different personality types have different approaches to learning and different ways dealing with the world. I have seen children from the same family react in totally unique ways to the same methods of education. Some children find it harder not to be absorbed into the system and for them nonconformity is more of a challenge. Therein lies the struggle which many parents already have for the souls of their children

Kyle links to a post on the blog The League of Ordinary Gentlemen which brings up some points about the aforesaid law in California which show it to be impractical as well as unacceptable. How does one teach about the historical contributions of "gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans" when before contemporary times there were no such categorizations. In the past there only men, women and acts of sodomy. Sodomy included several behaviors, same-sex activity being only one aspect of sodomy. Mr. Likko says:
What grade level would you aim the curriculum at? Are we going to spend a lot of time questioning the personal sexuality of people like Eleanor Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover? Neither of them ever came out of the closet. We often assume Ms. Roosevelt had a longtime woman lover, and rumors of Hoover’s transvestism have become something of a pound-on-the-coffin joke. We have no idea and no way of knowing if James Buchanan and William Rufus King were lovers, although that seems a credible theory. But, Buchanan shouldn’t be anyone’s idea of a heroic President; the only significant legacy of this Presidency was a Civil War he did nothing to prevent. The evidence for Abraham Lincoln’s purported affairs with men at various points in his life strike me as rather sketchier than the evidence for Buchanan.

To this notion, it seems to me that Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan, J. Edgar Hoover, and Eleanor Roosevelt are all worthwhile enough historical figures to study for their public lives and public achievements, and by comparison their private lives are relatively uninteresting. The rebuttal is, “It’s useful to teach our kids that it’s fun speculate about the sex lives of powerful people long dead. Gets them interested in history!” but whether J. Edgar Hoover liked to get his frack on with other dudes or wear pantyhose under his dickies is frankly not nearly so important as his fifty-year history of blackmailing the entire U.S. government into keeping him in his role as America’s top cop.
Simply because in the past the private lives of famous people were indeed private, we have no way of knowing if they were truly homosexual or not. Even Walt Whitman's homosexuality has been debated. I do not know how many people at the time were aware of his alleged proclivities, his poetry being shocking enough for its earthiness. I remember reading Whitman in high school  but I never noticed the sexual overtones; it was not pointed out to me and I was too innocent to pick up on it. I was nevertheless able to appreciate his genius and originality and still do. So are Whitman's intimate inclinations going to be emphasized to small children in California, as if his work was about nothing else? What purpose is there in having small children indulge in lurid speculations about the boudoir habits of well-known historical figures? Isn't the human person more than a set of inclinations which may change over time or be reined in if self-control is exercised?

What the Fair Education Act is really about is exposing children to squalid information about the private lives of adults. It is information that they do not need to have in order to appreciate the life work of outstanding historical characters especially since it is material mostly based upon rumor and hearsay. When the classroom becomes filled with too much unnecessary and confusing knowledge then a genuine opening of the mind is hindered rather than fostered. Share


tubbs said...

Can you just imagine the canon for these "studies". Move over Clio, let me write up the syllabus: Let's see, we'll start with Ken Anger's "Hollywood Babylon", and then we'll move on to the works of Kitty Kelly ........................

elena maria vidal said...

Really. It does not make any sense from an educational point of view.

J.K. Baltzersen said...

Thank you, Mrs. Russell, for posting this.

Having returned home from Vienna on Sunday, having attended the "grand finale" there, it gives a feeling of the crazy world we do live in.

I am glad I live far away from California. Vienna is closer. Yet this madness is still closer than what I returned from. Unfortunately.

History is about philosophy and acts. I may be charitable and include a few other things, but sexual orientation is not one of them. Only as a specialization.

The history of sexual orientation has legitimacy as a specialization of history as any other specialization -- although I do tend to agree that the deprivatization of these things is decline. However, it does not belong as a permeating element of general history and social studies education. Nor does it deserve special "rights."

We can only hope that the way this will be done is including it as a specialization at higher class levels. I would argue at high school level, perhaps in junior high school. However, I do not know the details of the legislation. So I do not know if this is even legally possible. Also, we might suspect -- from experience with the American legal system -- that fear of litigation will not allow minimalist solutions in practice.

We know that the official history that is taught in schools is written by the victors. The diversity that is needed is to introduce balance through allowing alternative perspectives to be discussed. Now we see another diversity getting that place, and the supporters of the current system can claim diversity. Yet the diversity that really matters is not there.

lara77 said...

Though I certainly believe we do not choose our sexuality I tend to agree with this so called need to dig in to the personal lives of famous people. Whether someone one is gay or straight is not important. WHAT is important is the quality of their life; the contributions to society and what they gave back to the nation. In the end that is what is important.

elena maria vidal said...

J.K, you are so right. I studied a great deal about sexual orientation as part of my Psychology major in college. There is a time and a place for such studies. Unfortunately the new legislation is aimed at children as young as six, which is as inappropriate as it is nonsensical.

Lara, I do think that we should focus on the deeds of famous people although in the case of some historical characters knowing about their private life can help to come to an understanding of their actions. How much easier it is to understand Nero when we read about what he did for amusement in his spare time. However, it is usually not stuff that little children need to know about.

Julygirl said...

If Jesus were living in this age, hanging out with 12 other guys, some married, some not; much would be said about His sexuality. I am not defending any lifestyle and I am not judging any lifestyle. This is why we built houses, to get away from other people and their 'ways'.

Divine Theatre said...

I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am to have come across your lovely blog! Initially I was intrigued by the title and the original, informative posts, not to mention the aesthetic draw!
I home school my child (in Illinois) so she may have a chance at an unbiased education. I do not, nor will I ever, see the need to delve into the topic of the sexual orientation of historical figures. To what end? Is it not enough to teach her tolerance of all people and move on? Tabloid History is not part of our curriculum!

elena maria vidal said...

DT, you have a wonderful blog, too. I am glad you found me! Yes, I don't see the relevance of feeding children such information before they are ready to put it in perspective. If a child sees something as shocking or weird it tends to distract them from what is really important.

elena maria vidal said...

Julygirl, of course since He was not married and lived with other men people today might draw all kinds of morbid and sacrilegious conclusions.