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Small Wonders: Honor them for what they’ve done

You know what I like best about Sequoia National Park? The fact that conservationist John Muir walked off its dusty trails and into a warm bed with a woman.

What inspires me most about Neil Armstrong? That a straight man was willing to take one small step for mankind.

Why do I appreciate the Declaration of Independence? Because the Founding Fathers proudly wore heels, Capri pants and powdered wigs when they signed it.




But now that I have your attention: Should a person’s sexual identity be the criteria by which we measure their brave, noble and unselfish accomplishments?

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the FAIR Education Act into law. It amends existing state law, which required public school social science instruction to include “a study of the role and contributions of both men and women to the development of California and the United States.” Beyond just men and women, the amended law now includes Native, African, Mexican and Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, persons with disabilities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

It’s the last four groups, the LGBT Americans, that have fur flying, in case you were wondering.


The amended law also prohibits educators from promoting “a discriminatory bias on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, [or] sexual orientation.” And it makes it illegal for public schools to adopt textbooks and instructional materials “that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of race or ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, nationality, [or] sexual orientation.”

These latter two regulations should go without saying. I see nothing wrong with prohibiting from the educational system the negative, discriminatory portrayal of any group of people. Frankly, I’m surprised this wasn’t law sooner.

But the legal requirement to include notable figures into social science curricula based simply upon their sexual orientation smacks of political correctness gone one step too far.

My opposition to just this part of the new law is not based upon “traditional” or “family” or conservative values. Nor is it based upon my religious faith. I’ve used my weekly 800 words here in the past to support the rights of those seeking same-sex marriage and to denounce what I see as so much un-Christian rhetoric and hate speech from my brethren in the faith.

My opposition to this particular section of the new law is that it unfairly holds up a person’s bedroom habits above their accomplishments. It makes their bravery commendable only because of the gender of the person they love and sleep with.

We must applaud greatness and courage for itself. I want to know about, and I want my children to learn about, the great things people of every color, creed and condition have done to make our country a better place.

But the skin color, physical ability, origin of birth — and most certainly the consensual adult shagging habits — of those people should be considered secondary, if at all, to the achievement itself. It should not be the sole reason their accomplishment is worthy of attention.

As with all such measures, there is a lot of hype, propaganda and rumor about what this law will do — most of it inaccurate.


This law is not a part of the “gay agenda” to sexualize history lessons. It is not a subversive plot to indoctrinate our youth into a life filled with Barbra Streisand worship and stylish, well-fitting clothes from Banana Republic.

The bill does not require schools and textbooks to portray homosexuality and “transgenderism” in a glorified light, as so many alarmists are decrying. Nor does it require my children to march in their local gay rights parade or to praise homosexuals for being homosexual.

Beyond the grandstanding of the law’s makers and the scare tactics of their opposition, the text of this law reads as a legitimate attempt to teach our children about the widest, most accurate spectrum of the people and events that have shaped this nation, and to prevent the exclusion and discrimination of those whose lifestyle some deem unsuitable.

While I agree with the spirit of this measure, I believe the enactment of it is flawed, with just a hint of pandering.

Would LGBT Americans rather be honored for what they did or who they slept with?

In the end, this law leaves much room for future debate and interpretation at the local level, where it belongs. How it will impact in the classroom is hard to say.

But before you start pulling your kids out of public schools for fear they will be forced to learn about George Michael’s outstanding performances in California’s public restrooms, take heart. Due to the ongoing budget crisis in our state, development and review of instructional materials by the state school board is currently “dormant.”

In other words, thank the bad economy. For the foreseeable future, nothing will change.


PATRICK CANEDAY can be reached on Facebook, at and
 [Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Barbra Streisand.]