Alex Blaze

Focus on the Family focuses on schools; will we?

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 29, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Alameda County, California, Colorado, Focus on the Family, kids, lgb, schools, sexual orientation, teens

Focus on the Family knows where the battle is right now:

abc_gay_school_080714_mn.jpgAs kids head back to school, conservative Christian media ministry Focus on the Family perceives a bully on the playground: national gay-advocacy groups.

School officials allow these outside groups to introduce policies, curriculum and library books under the guise of diversity, safety or bullying-prevention initiatives, said Focus on the Family education expert Candi Cushman.

"We feel more and more that activists are being deceptive in using anti-bullying rhetoric to introduce their viewpoints, while the viewpoint of Christian students and parents are increasingly belittled," Cushman said.

Public schools increasingly convey that homosexuality is normal and should be accepted, Cushman said, while opposing viewpoints by conservative Christians are portrayed as bigotry.

Not many schools have programs that specifically mention queer people or sexual orientation - instead, the vast majority of schools send the message that there's something so wrong about being LGBT that no one's allowed to discuss it. Coupled with the fact that many teachers tolerate student discourse on queer sexualities (i.e., "Hey, faggot!" "That's so gay!"), I'm wondering why FotF is so worried about. Almost the entire educational system is sending their message.

But they did refer to an example in the article:

Cushman founded, which says it helps Christian parents "confront the gay agenda," which she said includes homosexual-themed curricula, books with sexually graphic content and anti-religion stereotypes, assemblies and celebrations.

Cushman said there have been several incidents in which religious freedom has lost out to the right of gay activists to promote their views. She wasn't aware of any specific problems in Colorado schools, she said, but events in Alameda, Calif., last year illustrate what's at stake.

An Alameda school board adopted a curriculum in 2009 that Focus says promotes homosexuality and gay marriage to elementary school kids. Parents who objected could not opt out of the lessons even if it conflicted with deeply held religious beliefs. The board said, and a judge agreed, that the curriculum was mandatory because of state and local policies regarding student safety and nondiscrimination.

Here's what happened in Alameda last year:

The Alameda school board narrowly adopted an elementary school anti-bully curriculum Tuesday night intended to teach respect for gay and lesbian families and students.

Cheers erupted in Alameda City Hall as the school board completed its 3-2 vote, becoming one of only a handful of Bay Area school districts - including those in San Francisco, Hayward and San Leandro - to specifically mention respect for lesbians and gays in its curriculum. Teachers will begin to use the words "lesbian" and "gay" in fourth-grade classes.

I honestly didn't remember anything about that. Fortunately, the third and fourth paragraphs of the story explained why:

"I'm really happy," said 16-year-old Brian Harris, a gay student who had told the board he had almost decided to "just give up on life" after being called "faggot" and "dyke" by students at his school. "I think this is a big step forward - and a nice break from what else happened in San Francisco today and across California."

Harris was referring to the decision by the state Supreme Court to uphold Proposition 8, the same-sex-marriage ban.

Ah, yes. That's what I was reading post after post about at the time (and what I myself was writing about).

Anyway, the Religious Right knows how to keep their eyes on the prize.

At issue were six 45-minute lessons, one per year from kindergarten through fifth grade, that will be added to existing anti-bullying and safe schools curricula.

The topics the board approved start at the lower grades with the negative impacts of generic teasing. As students advance, the lessons introduce vocabulary such as gay, lesbian and bisexual, and include discussions related to diverse families and sexual orientation stereotypes.

Parents won't be allowed to keep their children out of the classes - an option reserved for lessons on health or sexual education.

Voting for the measure were board members Ron Mooney, Tracy Jensen and Nie Tam. Voting against were Mike McMahon and Trish Spencer. McMahon said he would have voted in favor if the proposal had included an opt-out provision, but Spencer said she believes the new curriculum will "increase harassment" against some religious groups.

And opt-out would be a terrible idea for such a curriculum. The kids who have the sort of parents who would take their kids out of those lessons are the sort of kids who need them the most. If their parents are so homophobic that they'd pull them out of 45 minutes a year of "Don't beat up gay people," then who knows what their kids are learning at home.

Parents don't own their children and children should learn how to be good citizens and happy human beings. It's not that complicated of a message for us to push.

We ought to be fighting the rhetoric put out there by both the rightwing and by many churches, rhetoric that is destructive both to the young queer person and the young homophobe. People generally do the right thing when they're given the correct information, and what better place to give people information than in schools.

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I don't believe anyone should be able to opt out of a program to reduce bullying behavior. The school has gotten that part right at least. However, really in the long range view, how much good is 45 minutes once a year really going to do? I don't see that this will help much at all. Who should be getting those classes are the teachers. Until they stop every single instance of the students substituting the word "gay" for "lame" the atmosphere in schools wont change. Because if the powers that be don't care about lgbt students why should they?

If christians don't like that diversity is being taught in public schools, its time for them to pull their children out of schools that are paid for by the state governments for all americans. No matter their religion, color, country of origin, sexual orientation, or gender status. It's supposed to be education that includes all of americans, not just a select few.

The parable of theTower of Babel says it all to me. It explains why people have different languages. And if you expand that concept, you also have an explanation of why we come in so many pretty colors, why we worship differently, and yes why we love differently as well.

I don't think that they are very secure that their belief systems have "taken" in their little ones, or they wouldn't be so afraid of exposing them to different view points.