Two European countries are engaged in gay textbook battles, and one American school district is engaged in a debate over their gag order on sexual orientation. Here's the news from Poland:
A gay rights group urged the Polish government on Wednesday to withdraw a book authorized for use in secondary schools that it says portrays homosexuality as an illness that can be cured.
The 'Association for Diversity' said the textbook, one of two authorized recently for use in family and sexual education classes, limits itself to a narrow, traditional view of homosexuality espoused by Poland's powerful Catholic Church.[...]
A previous edition of the book had gone further by putting homosexuality on a par with incest and pedophilia, ['Diversity' spokesman Przemek Szczeplocki] added.
"This latest edition is more subtle but this is just as dangerous as it can seem less outrageous and more convincing to students," said Szczeplocki.
And the Netherlands:
Two fathers go out to buy a guinea pig that costs 17.95 euros in the pet shop. The shop owner gives them a discount of 20 per cent. How much must Jan's fathers pay?
In the near future, math books could be posing this question, or one like it, to school kids in the Netherlands. Soon the country's geography and foreign language textbooks will no longer be able to ignore the reality of same-sex parenting in Holland. [...]
"At the moment schoolbooks do not reflect life here," says Frans Grijzenhout, director of the Noordhof Uitgeverij publishing house.
"When a textbook deals with a family going on holiday, for example, the accompanying drawing will show a father, a mother and children. But there are other types of families."
In future, Noordhof's books will reflect the existence of same-sex parents in Holland. The country's schoolbooks already deal with Holland's multicultural society with depictions of Muslim girls wearing headscarves, says Grijzenhout. "In the same way we intend to bring homosexuality to children's attention."
Holland's association for the Integration of homosexuals has welcomed the move. It says the "hetero-normality in schoolbooks" should have done been away with long ago. For a long time the association has been observing a "decline in tolerance towards homosexuals" in Holland. [...]
However, the Netherlands' Calvinist community, as well as the country's conservative Catholics, has rejected the prospect of same-sex couples in school textbooks.
"Schools should not be forced to accept homosexual emancipation," says the newspaper the Reformatorisch Dagblad, the most important orthodox Protestant publication in Holland.
The Association for Christian Reformed Education has also made it clear no "homo-schoolbooks" will be distributed in its schools.
The point isn't that either of these countries is a better place to live in; rather, we ought to be more concerned with education since that's a great way to reach an entire generation. Schools, no matter what they say or don't say, are going to be sending messages about sexual orientation and what's normal and not normal, so we might make sure those messages are positive.
Consider this story I briefly posted on yesterday, where local fundies in Minnesota, worried that a few recent gay teen suicides in the town would cause the district to respond to homophobia in the school environment, formed a group to keep LGBT kids thinking that they're abnormal and that something is wrong with them that can only be fixed through
The woman sobbed as she told her son's story to the Anoka-Hennepin School Board on Monday. "Hi, I'm Tammy Aaberg, the mother of Justin Aaberg, who was a gay student at Anoka High School who committed suicide July 9th of this year." The school district has become ground zero in the battle between those who want safe spaces for LGBT students and those who want any mention of homosexuality banned from high school campuses.
According to LGBT advocates, Justin's death is one of three suicides by gay students in the last year, and while the district says it takes bullying seriously and has beefed up discipline against harassment, it has spurned invitations by LGBT groups to do anti-bullying education. To make matters more complicated, a group of parents opposed to homosexuality has formed to put pressure on the board not to bow to LGBT interests.
The district -- the state's largest, with around 40,000 students -- made headlines last year when the Minnesota Department of Human Rights alleged that two teachers conspired to harass a student, Alex Merritt, who they thought was gay. The news led to protests at school board meetings urging the district to adopt stronger anti-bullying policies and offers by LGBT groups to provide education. The school board rebuffed those efforts.[...]
Megan, another 2010 graduate, took issue with the school's policies. "It says that it is better for students to go to their home or their community or their church. I can't go to any of those. I go home and my parents tell me I am cursed. I go to my church and I am rejected and condemned. I go to my community? What community do I have to go to?"
Megan was referring to a 2009 school board policy that says sexual orientation is not to be taught in the district.
Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations. Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.
In July, a shadow group of parents formed in the district with the intention on staving off any advances for LGBT students. The Parents Action League launched its website in June along with a petition that reads, "Whereas homosexual behavior exposes participants to many life-threatening health risks; and whereas the classroom environment needs to be solely focused on academics; Therefore, we the undersigned citizens of Anoka-Hennepin School District No. 11 do whole heartedly support and desire that the School Board adhere to ... the AH District 11 Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy."[...]
It wants the district to "respect traditional family values" and to "provide valid resources for students (and their families) struggling with sexual identity and/or same-sex attraction." It seeks to "ensure that all health curriculum teach healthy sexuality and promote abstinence until marriage." The group also wants the district to "promote the Day of Truth" each year.
The Day of Truth is an event organized by Exodus International, a group that says it can turn gay people straight through Christian prayer. It encourages students to bring the Exodus message into schools one day before the Day of Silence, an event that draws attention to violence against LGBT people.
The Parents Action League also has concerns about the district. It bemoans a "lack of resources and assistance for those students seeking to leave the homosexual lifestyle" and "an increase in pro-gay curriculum materials and resources used in our schools."
The group is also concerned about "the health risks to students who are affirmed and labeled as 'gay' and who may participate in homosexual acts" and "the pro-gay activist teachers who fail to abide by district policies and use their classroom to promote their personal agendas."
The right will keep on making the "focus on academics" excuse, even though nothing could be worse for education than to make it seem like students are learning abstract concepts that relate in no way to the world they're living in (not to mention the hypocrisy in pushing for abstinence-only education and ex-gay therapy while denouncing anything that's not "solely focused on academics").
What's disheartening, though, is that some people in this community (and I'm not sure they're all parents, either) see three teens commit suicide because of homophobia and decide that it's homosexuality, not homophobia, that is a "life-threatening health risk." Maybe these adults are lost causes, but their kids aren't. And just because these kids, both queer and straight, have jerks for parents doesn't mean they shouldn't be presented with an alternative.