Monday, October 06, 2008

Prop 8 Myths: Teaching Same-Sex Marriage in Schools

Myth: If same-sex marriage isn't overturned, public schools will be forced to teach kids about same-sex marriage

There are only a couple of places where marriage is even mentioned in the statutes regarding curriculum. Section 51890 of the Calif. Education Code outlines "comprehensive health education programs", in which "pupils will receive instruction to aid them in making decisions in matters of personal, family, and community health." Subjects include "family health and child development, including the legal and financial aspects and responsibilities of marriage and parenthood." In Section 51933, which outlines sexual health education curriculum, the specifications include the following:
  • Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships.
  • Instruction and materials shall be appropriate for use with pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and pupils with disabilities.
  • Instruction and materials shall be age appropriate.
  • All factual information presented shall be medically accurate and objective.
  • Instruction and materials shall encourage a pupil to communicate with his or her parents or guardians about human sexuality.
That's the law as it stands now, and there's no reason that this curriculum would change regardless of whether Prop 8 passes or fails. Teaching respect for marriage and committed relationships, and teaching about the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood are good lessons for students regardless of sexual orientation. As the LA Times editorial board said, in urging a NO on 8 vote, "Assertions that it would require schools to promote gay marriage are utter nonsense."

Meghan Daum had an excellent op-ed piece in the LA Times about teaching marriage in schools. It's worth reading the whole thing, but here's the punchline:
And that's why students need marriage-ed. They need it because we're being taught to associate marriage not with permanent commitment but with social status, diamond rings, gifts, throwing a big party and, for women, wearing a dress that doesn't necessarily fit through the door. As a result, many teens of all sexual orientations (and many adults too) not only confuse sex with love, they confuse the long-term implications of marriage with the short-term gratification of wedding and honeymoon planning.

No matter what happens with Proposition 8, the way the education code is worded, it's unlikely that a lot of classroom time will ever get devoted to thinking deeply about marriage of any brand. That's a shame, because what students desperately need to be steered toward is not straight marriage or gay marriage but grown-up marriage. Now that would be radical.


Anonymous said...

I would also like to teach my child about homosexuality, like that God says it is wrong and a sin.

Cynthia Cox said...

Ignorance is bliss right Mr. Anonymous? You people use the bible to persecute so many people.. If you want to use the bible to teach your kids what us right and wrong, mention that a marriage is not valid in God's if the woman is not a virgin and should be stoned to death. All you do is pick and choose what you want to believe.. Hypocrites.