Proposition 8, Educational Reform & Advocating Ignorance

The Proposition 8 proponents win my award this year for the greatest seeming hypocrisy.  And, yet, I commend them for clarifying for me some of the fundamental issues that face me as I raise my daughter.

On the one hand, proponents of Prop. 8 argue that gay and lesbian people do not need to “marry” because they already have equal rights provided by the Domestic Partnership laws in California .  That sounds like a reasonable argument and leaves the entire debate open to being trivialized as merely a matter of political correctness and semantics.  It allows “tradition” to rule. 

Tradition, so easily associated with mom, apple pie and baseball, can be very compelling.  But, tradition can also be equated with the right of only land-owning, white men to vote, the right to beat your wife, slavery, segregation and many other atrocities we have fought to overcome in our society.  For me, “tradition” does not hold sway.  That we have always done it that way has never held up for me as a reason for any choice.

On the other hand, those same proponents have also engaged in a major scare campaign focused on the idea that children will be taught in school about “gay marriage.”  I’m sure we all have our own feelings about what exactly we want our children taught about gay marriage.  The range of options seems to go from never mentioning it at all, to a middle ground of merely stating as a fact that it exists in society, and finally to the extreme of promoting it as “the” correct choice.  Nobody actually believes the schools are going to promote gay marriage as the correct choice for school children, so really we are arguing about whether or not to recognize the existence of gay and lesbian couples who have made a commitment to each other or some other middle position on the issue.  Not recognizing an entire segment of the population and their commitment to each other seems rather like sticking our heads in the sand and refusing to see reality. 

I do not want to teach my daughter to ignore reality, so I would prefer that she know these things exist in our society.  Knowledge of their very existence allows the conversations necessary to identify and pass down the values I want her to learn.   Ignorance, obviously, comes from the root word “ignore.”  Do Prop. 8 proponents really want to advocate for ignorance?  It seems that way to me. 

I, personally, would rather my daughter learn about the existence of gay marriage than have soda pop, candy and other unhealthy nutritional options available to her at every turn.   I would rather she learn about the existence of gay marriage than be exposed daily to hypocrisy. 

I would rather she learn about the existence of gay marriage than be taught that the standards of other people should be her sole guide in life.   It is only when the schools present their ideas as standards to live by (standardized curriculum, tests and grades present the schools this way to children) that mere exposure to an idea becomes dangerous.  To me, the danger is not that my child will learn that gay marriage exists, but that she might believe that the school knows what is best for her because the school system presents itself that way and parents buy into that idea.  The danger is that she will equate exposure to an idea with endorsement of that idea, whether that be the idea of gay marriage or the idea that sugar is an appropriate reward for a good effort.  I want her to learn to question the ideas she is exposed to.  That is where true learning takes place.

And what about the equal rights provided by domestic partnership laws?  Here is the hypocrisy of the Prop. 8 proponents.  How can there be equal rights when there is not an equal right to choose the language used to describe oneself?  How can there be equal rights when an entire segment of the population is denied existence in the very system that purports to expose our children to the knowledge they need to live their lives?  How can there be equal rights when the educational system, which claims to know what is best for children, filters on the basis of individual and even societal biases the range of information available to those children. 

I am frightened that the school system has so much influence on our children that the very threat of information being available to children in school has as much political force as is apparent in the debate on Proposition 8.  It seems to me that the entire debate is misfocused.  We should not be debating who can get married, who can use the word “marriage” to describe their relationship and whether marriages of all kinds can be discussed in school.  Instead, we should be debating whether we have given the schools too much power over the minds and hearts of our children.  We should be examining whether we, as parents, have abdicated our responsibilities to raise our children to such a degree that exposure to an idea at school is an actual threat. 

If exposure to an idea in school is really a threat to the very foundations of our society, it is the schools that are in need of reform, not marriage laws.  Let’s refocus the debate and leave people to work out their own relationships, calling them whatever they choose.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Beth said,

    November 3, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    Wow! Keep thinking girl! And, keep writing about it! I would love to see your work in progress.

  2. sharon blosk said,

    November 3, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Good thoughts Wizzybus and I couldn’t agree with you more!

  3. John Tapley said,

    November 5, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    A good post. Unfortunately, it may take time for your ideas to take hold with the general public. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading!


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