Thursday, December 28, 2017

What Was Important about Sally Ride?

You may have missed this, but we hear this week that the State of California (insert joking reference here) has dictated that the only textbooks that can be used in its schools are those which have been properly overhauled to provide, yes, "inclusive" references in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc., people -- even in their history books.

I have it on good authority that this may not extend all the way into its approved math texts ("How many lesbians does it take ...?"), but it sure as heck got into the history books that California's students, who already have some level of difficulty in reading at the appropriate level, will be required by legislative mandate and bureaucratic overreach, to be taught from.

Now, I suppose that every state has the right, however misguided, to decide what gets taught in its schools.  Lord knows we don't want the Federal government getting near the notion of nationwide standards that states are bound to.  So if the State of California wants to be "inclusive" about whether homosexuals are properly mentioned in their textbooks, well, it has the right, just like the people of the state have the right to yank their kids out of public schools and have them taught in private schools or at home, where the primary purpose is education, not indoctrination.

But there are some unintended consequences in this latest foray by the state of fruits and nuts into screwing up its failing schools.

As an example, I give you this one.  A particular history text was proposed as an option to be taught in state schools.  The state ultimately said yes, but get this -- only after a reference to Sally Ride, the first American female astronaut, was altered to insert the word "lesbian" before her name.

Now, Sally Ride kept her sexual orientation private until just before her death in 2012.  And if the history lesson was specifically about how gay people had to hide their orientation as she did, well, that would be one thing to include her in that list as a part of history.

But when you are talking about our nation's space exploration history, well, her sexual orientation was completely irrelevant to everything she did in her space career.  We know that because only when she was dying did she even let anyone get the word out that she had a "partner" and was gay.  So how is it relevant, so relevant that the state will not even allow that a discussion of the space program be put forth in a textbook without indicating something that obviously was not relevant?

But here is where it gets sticky.  There are certainly prominent figures in history who were gay and didn't care who knew it, or were sufficiently obvious about it to where their orientation was part of their life and their art or profession.  But there are others about whom it was simply something suspected, and for which the evidence is far too slim and far too inadequate for us to make any conclusion about it.  The times of the past have had certain close relationships that were not known to be gay, heterosexual men living together and sharing rooms or even beds, with no outward evidence of anything that today we would suspect.

How far does a textbook go?

At what point -- and I'm specifically talking about historical figures noted in passing, or at least in textbook passages where their accomplishments are noted but their orientation is not relevant to the passage -- is it completely inappropriate to mention that anyone suspected the person was gay?

I mean, Napoleon Bonaparte was married to Josephine.  Probably 90% of textbook references to Napoleon do not mention Josephine (and, by extension, Napoleon being straight) because she was not the important participant in the conquests, victories and defeats of her husband.  Are we supposed to care, or are we supposed to recognize that mentioning her, when her existence is not relevant to the story, seems just odd.

But the State of California clearly sees things differently -- of course, only if the participant in history happens to have been gay (or any of the other conditions in LGBTQDJVFXYZ ...).  And there's no question why an irrelevance is forced to be inserted in a historical textbook -- the politicians who run the state government, from Jerry Brown on down, are trying to use history as a way to gain acceptance for people with whatever you want to call the psychological condition of homosexuality.

"Oh, yeah, Sally Ride, she went up in space -- see, gay people can actually do anything that straight people can.  We have to include them everywhere and celebrate their gayness, la la la" -- even if their gayness had nothing whatsoever, as in Sally Ride's case, to do with their accomplishment.  The State of California cannot separate accomplishment from who the person sleeps with.  OK, sure.

There is nothing that any of us can do.  It is up to the people of the state to make their feelings known at the ballot and, if they agree with a policy like that, they can continue to vote in the same people.  This is a free country, and education is the purview of the states.

I hope there are a lot of private schools in California, though, cause the legislature ain't changing anytime soon.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at or on Twitter at @rmosutton.

1 comment:

  1. The history books are going to be mighty thick due to increased and unnessary information.. every character will have to be introduced with all info about a persons nationality,gender,religion and sexual identity and any other banal wordage to paint that picture. god help you if you leave anything out!