Tag Archives: Dan Walters

Dan Walters on SB 1437

Sheila Kuehl’s SB 1437 adds the LGBT community to a laundry list of other minorities in an education code section that bans treating these minorities adversely in the curriculum.  It bans this adverse treatment in textbooks and day-to-day teaching.  The list includes race, gender, national origin amongst others.  Finally, it also includes “role and contribution” of the LGBT community along with other minorities in social sciences classes.

Dan Walters brings up a counter point: when we legislate on these matters we put ourselves on a slippery slope to, well, Holocaust denial?

To  date the list singled out for mandatory attention are “men and women, black Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Island people and other ethnic groups” while another section of state school law bans instruction “which reflects adversely upon persons because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin or ancestry” and still another prohibits textbooks or other materials “reflecting adversely” on the same grounds.

Essentially, therefore, students must be told about certain groups, but cannot receive any instruction deemed to be negative, which is why, for instance, the Hindu American Foundation is now suing the state to block printing and distribution of new sixth-grade textbooks that are, the group maintains, demeaning to Hindus. Specifically, the foundation doesn’t like the textbooks’ depiction of women’s historically inferior status, the treatment of “untouchables” in the Indian caste system and the theory that Aryan migration played a major role in Indian cultural development.

  Implicitly, the suit is telling state officials that the textbooks must be altered to reflect the Hindu American Foundation’s version of the ethnic group’s history – regardless of what that history may truly be. (SacBee 4/24/06)

Ok, I see how this could actually lead to holocaust denial.  It is a poorly drafted bill in that there is no exception for teaching factual history events.  Does teaching about the Holocaust “reflect adversely” against Germans?  Well, obviously, the answer has to be yes.

So, how do we separate the theory and the practice? Is there some arbitrary standard?  Is it the same as a libel standard in court?  I think the resolution to the Hindu suit will go a long way in determining what these laws really mean.  I think ultimately, there is a place where we are teaching historical fact while still striving to promote a balanced curriculum.

Walters also criticizes the “role and contribution” legislation, but I think this represents at least part of the compromise.  We need to teach history, but if we teach our students not only about the Holocaust, but also about Germany’s advancements and contribution to society, we help decrease hostile feelings. 

But Walters wants to draw a line and not pass 1437.  I agree with some of his points, but can we really draw that line and exclude the LGBT community simply because they are controversial?:

The Legislature’s dictating cultural propaganda of any kind to be distributed in the classroom is troubling. It’s troubling when the cultural identification is homosexuality, and it’s troubling when – as another legislative bill this year would require – the group singled out for special attention is Italian American.

I think the answer is no.  If we are to retain the other legislation banning “reflecting adversely” with the other groups, we must pass 1437. 

Walters chooses the blunt sword, cutting all the legislation. (“It’s a slippery slope, down which California probably has slid too far already.”)  However, perhaps we should do some serious thinking about how we can help reduce discrimination in adults through our education system.  Reform is possible, but ignoring the issue just abdicates an opportunity to improve the state.