Textbooks in California
In the mid-1970s, California took the lead in modern-day textbook adoption reform. To redress the use of stereotypes, California enacted its well-intentioned “social content standards” in 1976. Throughout the 80s and 90s, textbook publishers had make numerous changes to reflect emerging social trends. As each six year adoption cycles comes up for review, various interest groups lobby for changes. In 2006, the history book adoption saw the Hindu community looking for changes to the representation of their history in India. Even after the State Board approved some of the changes, a lawsuit followed. While the plantiffs lost the lawsuit, the judge ruled the textbook approval process is invalid.
In April 2006, the California Senate considered legislation to require inclusion of contributions gay people have made to society. The proposed legislation could reignite the cultural debate over values of the family, diversity and tolerance. After passage by the legislative committees, the Governor's staff indicated the Governor would veto the legislation. In August, Sen Keuhl removed key provisions in order support from both political parties and avoid a veto by the Governor. Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters reviewed the annual "gay rights" legislative push. In September, the Governor vetoed the bill. Another bill SB777 was passed in 2007.
In April 2006, a divided state Board of Education adopted far-reaching new guidelines for reading and English language arts textbooks aimed at California's elementary and middle school students, despite objections that the materials do not do enough to help students struggling to learn English. The next day, the Legislature began to looking allowing school districts greater flexibility in non-approved textbook purchases.
Then the state budget reflected the politics of textbook wars, as the State Board saw its budget eliminated by the Legislature. Sacramento Bee columnist commented on this political sausage approach to education. In October, the Governor vetoed legislation regarding additional curriculum for English Language learners.
In recent years, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu groups have weighed in as state educators and publishers developed new social studies books. Challenges have ranged from content to mere pictures that were approved to be changed.
In 2007, the California Legislative Analyst Office issued a review of the ineffiecent textbook adoption process.
Not all changes to textbooks are focused on content. Legislation was introduced in 2005 to limit the weight and size of the textbooks. It did not pass.
California’s Sensitive Guidelines
Source: Thomas Fordham Foundation
In the mid-1970s, California took the lead in modern-day textbook adoption reform. As Frances FitzGerald documented in her 1979 book, America Revised, textbooks from the 1950s and 1960s were overloaded with patriotic pablum, at the cost of honest examination of where the nation had failed to live up to its creed of equality. Women and immigrants were largely invisible in history textbooks, and the settlers’ brutal treatment of Native Americans was minimized. African Americans seemed to appear in history textbooks only as slaves, and the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade were papered over. After Vietnam, the feminist movement, and the race riots of the 1960s, textbooks desperately needed revision and updating to eliminate stereotypes and sexist or racist language.
To redress the use of stereotypes, California enacted its well-intentioned “social content standards” in 1976. These required the state textbook review committee to approve only instructional materials that “accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society, including the contributions of both men and women in all types of roles . . . [and the] contributions of American Indians, American Negroes, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups.” No textbook could contain “any matter reflecting adversely upon any person because of their race, color, creed, national origin, ancestry, [or] sex.” In addition to multicultural tolerance, textbooks had to accurately portray the roles of labor and entrepreneurs, and the necessity to protect the environment. The books also had to encourage thrift, fire prevention, and humane treatment of animals. At the behest of health food groups, California enacted “the junk food rule,” which discouraged the depiction and mention in schoolbooks of foods with little nutritional value.
At first glance, California’s social content standards—at least as applied to minorities and women—appeared to be a common sense and overdue effort to redress the use of stereotypes and prejudicial language. No doubt, in the early years, those guidelines did force publishers to eliminate racist and sexist stereotypes. But the implementation of the social content standards by the California department of education in its “legal compliance reviews” soon outstripped common sense. Since nothing could reflect “adversely” on any group, even, say, a reference to Hell’s Angels would have to cite the motorcycle gang’s positive contributions. The state education department also interpreted the law to mean that ethnicity, gender, and orientation had to be portrayed in an “equitable way” (not just accurately), which led both the state and ethnic and feminist groups to count and categorize every reference to men, women, people with disabilities, members of ethnic groups, and the like. A selection in a reader, or chapter in a social studies textbook, might lack literary quality or skew history. But if it had the right numerical balance of genders and minorities, the textbook could be approved. If, however, it contained elegant writing and classic stories, yet failed to adhere to the multicultural bean-counting rules, it could be rejected.
Among the first books to be challenged under California’s standards were the Holt Basic Reading series, which the National Organization of Women attacked as sexist. A California multiculturalist group also criticized the books as racist, objecting to phrases like “the deputy’s face darkened” and “the afternoon turned black.” Chastened Holt editors quickly regrouped and determined that the next edition would have at least 50 percent females and depict members of minority groups based on their precise percentages in the population. Diane Ravitch reports that the Holt editors “agreed they would show American Indians in business suits. . . . Girls would be pictured fixing a bicycle tire, not looking for a boy to do it, and a ‘Caucasian boy or man would be shown unashamedly crying if the situation were appropriate.’ Girls would be seen working with electricity, studying insects, and solving math problems, while boys would read poetry, chase butterflies, and pay attention to their appearance.”
After stories in the readers were rewritten to change the sex and ethnicity of heroes to heroines—Judy Blume’s story “Freddie in the Middle” became “Maggie in the Middle”—the Holt editors submitted revised editions of the readers in 1977 to the California state board. One editor who had to count the sex of each character in one volume wrote a relieved memo stating, “The in-house count shows 146 female and 146 male characters, or a ratio of 1:1. Animal characters were not included in this count.” Yet this editor’s celebration was premature. At adoption hearings in Texas in 1980, the education task force of NOW attacked the Holt readers because, they said, when animal characters were added in, males outnumbered females by 2:1. “Children of this age are influenced by a story about Mr. Rabbit just as much as they are by a story about Mrs. Jones,’’ one feminist critic declared.
The message sent to publishers was unmistakable: Hew carefully to our rules or your book may get rejected in the biggest textbook markets in the United States. One publisher was told that California’s junk food rule mandated removal of an illustration of a birthday party because children were depicted around a cake, which lacked sufficient nutritional value. A story entitled “A Perfect Day for Ice Cream” was changed in junior high anthologies to “A Perfect Day”; publishers deleted all references to chili burgers, pizza, and ice cream to avoid running afoul of California law. Another publisher changed the sex of the engine in The Little Engine That Could from male to female after state evaluators said the story was gender imbalanced. Even math books were studded with female and minority characters to illustrate what was sometimes called “Rainforest Algebra.” A 1998 third grade math book from Scott-Foresman lists no fewer than twenty-one multicultural advisors on its front page.
Once this Orwellian system of textbook review was in place, it set a precedent that made it impossible to satisfy every ethnic, religious, and age group. When California issued a new history framework in the late 1980s, Houghton Mifflin proposed a textbook series for K-8 students by a lead author, UCLA professor Gary Nash. Nash happened to be an outspoken left-wing critic of “triumphant” American history textbooks and may have been the nation’s leading multicultural historian-advocate. His series for Houghton Mifflin is surely among the most ethnically and culturally diverse American history textbooks ever written. But even this wasn’t enough. Nash was denounced throughout California for being hopelessly Eurocentric. At public hearings on the Nash series, Ravitch reports that:
In 1990, after Houghton Mifflin made dozens of revisions to Nash’s textbooks to appease feminists, and ethnic and religious activists, the state board of education finally approved the series. But by that time, publishers themselves had learned to anticipate the objections that California might raise—and had formulated their own bias/sensitivity guidelines. In effect, publishers agreed to censor their own textbooks before they showed them to state officials. As Ravitch details in The Language Police, the self-censorship of the publishers’ bias guidelines was often more radical—and far more detailed—than even California’s social content standards.
One publisher’s bias guidelines (Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley) fill 161 pages. They state that company textbooks must include illustrations of tall and short people, heavy and thin individuals, people with disabilities, and families headed by two parents, by one parent, by grandparents, by aunts/uncles, and by other adults. When writing about the development of the U.S. Constitution, authors are directed to cite the dubious claim that it was patterned “partially after the League of Five Nations—a union formed by five Iroquois nations.” It is also taboo to mention the academic achievement of Asian American students, since this might suggest that Asian Americans are “studious” or a “model minority.” To ward off any hint of geographic chauvinism, rival Harcourt’s bias guidelines even direct writers to avoid using the word “America” unless it is qualified by North, South, or Central. One must be specific, authors are informed, because there is no place simply “called America.”
Though on the long side, the Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley bias rules are very much in keeping with the robotic egalitarian spirit of other publishers’ guidelines. McGraw-Hill’s direct illustrators to replace women who are depicted as secretaries, nurses, librarians, tellers, or teachers by women doctors, police officers, managers, and construction workers. Men should be portrayed as nurses, secretaries, and elementary school teachers. As Ravitch notes, McGraw-Hill is really directing its artists “to tell lies about history. Until the latter decades of the 20th century, most women who worked were in fact nurses, teachers, and secretaries. . . . To pretend otherwise is to falsify the past. It minimizes the barriers that women faced.”
Earlier this year, at a Cato Institute forum on textbook adoption in Washington, D.C., Ravitch summed up the current phoniness and reflexive political correctness of sensitivity guidelines by referring to what might be called the “up on the roof” test for illustrators. It is impermissible now to “show an older person seeming old,” Ravitch observed. “The thing with older people is that we’re really vigorous, and the best way to portray a person who is older is preferably in a jogging suit. That’s the main thing we like to do.” The other activity that old people do in textbooks, Ravitch said, “is to get up on the roof a lot. Either the mother is up there, or the old people are up there. But Heaven forbid that the young men should be up there—they’re being nurses and secretaries and teachers.”
Assembly says shorter books would help kids
By Jim Sanders, Sacramento Bee, May 27, 2005
The California Assembly is betting that kids learn more with small books. Lawmakers voted Thursday to ban school districts from purchasing textbooks longer than 200 pages.
The bill, believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, was hailed by supporters as a way to revolutionize education.
Critics lambasted Assembly Bill 756 as silly.
"This bill is really the epitome of micromanagement," said Assemblyman Keith Richman, R-Northridge. "(It's) absolutely ridiculous."
"With all due respect," said Assemblyman Ray Haynes, R-Murrieta, "this Legislature worries more about the rules than they do about whether children learn."
But Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, said critics are thinking too narrowly.
California schools are teaching kids with the same kinds of massive books that were used generations ago, though the world has changed significantly, Goldberg said.
The workplace increasingly demands more than the ability to read Page 435 of some manual.
It requires expertise in using the Internet to research and solve problems, according to Goldberg.
"Our textbooks are not going to be able to meet that standard," said Goldberg, a former Compton high school teacher. "I think it's time for us to begin to approach the problem in a different way."
AB 756 would force publishers to condense key ideas, basic problems and basic knowledge into 200 pages, then to provide a rich appendix with Web sites where students can go for more information.
AB 756 was approved by a vote of 42-28, with most Republicans opposing the measure. It now goes to the Senate.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position on the bill.
The text of AB 756 says it could reduce the cost and weight of textbooks.
Lawmakers were given no estimates, however, of potential impacts to student backpacks or campus coffers.
Goldberg said the thrust of her bill is learning, not economics.
"We're talking about a dynamic education system that brings young people into being a part of the learning process," she said.
No position on AB 756 has been taken by Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of public instruction, or by education groups ranging from the California Teachers Association to the California School Boards Association.
Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, R-Orange, said a 200-page limit could hurt learning, not revolutionize it, for the state's 6 million students.
Spitzer presented the hypothetical of attending a high school comparative literature class that is studying the Bible.
"I can only get about halfway through the Old Testament," he said.
The Association of American Publishers opposes the bill, saying the arbitrary 200-page limit could force publishers to produce multiple volumes to cover the state's content standards.
Textbooks would have to be restructured, the group contends.
"To do this will increase the costs of instructional materials without adding any instructional value," lobbyist Dale Shimasaki, representing publishers, said in a letter of opposition.
Goldberg said she's willing to negotiate over specifics, but that publishers have been uncooperative.
Her bill would apply to future purchases, not existing textbooks.
Michael Kirst, a Stanford education professor and co-director of Policy Analysis for Education, said he's never heard of any such bill nationwide.
"There's no track record that anyone can draw on," he said.
One key question, he said, is whether a 200-page limit would be equally practical for every subject - from math to social science.
"And you'd have to know how aligned the materials are on the Internet with our education standards," he said. "I don't know that anybody has done that."
Nancy Waltz, a former elementary teacher and current president of the San Juan Teachers Association, said she's open-minded about AB 756.
"As long as the standards are being met, textbooks are only a tool. ... (But) I don't know that there needs to be a number of pages mandated."
Hilary McLean, a spokeswoman for O'Connell, said that not every student - at school or at home - has ready access to the Internet.
"You can't carry the computer home with you," said Bill Hauck, president of California Business Roundtable.
"Our problem in California is not the size of textbooks, it's that we have large achievement gaps that need to be closed," he said.
Penny Kastanis, executive director of the California School Library Association, said the Internet is vitally important, but not always accurate.
Books still are valuable, she said.
"What we're finding more and more is that people are saying, 'Who needs an encyclopedia? Who needs an almanac? Just go to the Internet, it's all there.' Well, it's not all there."
Goldberg said homework can be drawn from the 200-page textbooks. Students using campus computers can be referred to accurate Web sites.
Problems aren't insurmountable.
"(AB 756) says don't give students a predigested version of what U.S. history is, let them explore the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress," Goldberg said.
"It's time for California to be the leader that it always has been."
July 13, 2005 Update
Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg has decided to suspend legislation that would ban schools from using textbooks longer than 200 pages. Rather than push for a Senate vote on her bill, Assembly Bill 756, the Los Angeles Democrat will use the remainder of this year to negotiate with publishers, aides said Monday.
Goldberg, whose bill was approved by the Assembly, contends that today's textbooks tend to be too heavy, too expensive and do not go far enough in pushing students to use the Internet.
She proposed AB 756 in an attempt to force publishers to condense key ideas into 200 pages, then to provide a rich appendix with Web sites where students could go for more information.
Republican lawmakers have criticized her bill as frivolous micromanagement.
The Association of American Publishers claims an arbitrary 200-page limit could force publishers to produce multiple volumes to cover the state's content standards.
If negotiations prove unsuccessful, Goldberg could revive AB 756 next year.
Indian History Spat Hits U.S.
By Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, January 25, 2006
In the halls of Sacramento, a special commission is rewriting Indian history: debating whether Aryan invaders conquered the subcontinent, whether Brahman priests had more rights than untouchables, and even whether ancient Indians ate beef.
That this seemingly arcane Indian debate has spilled over into California's board of education is a sign of the growing political muscle of Indian immigrants and the rising American interest in Asia.
The foes — who include established historians and Hindu nationalist revisionists — are familiar to each other in India. But America may increasingly become their new battlefield as other U.S. states follow California in rewriting their own textbooks to bone up on Asian history.
At stake, say scholars who include some of the most elite historians on India, may be a truthful picture of one of the world's emerging powers — one arrived at by academic standards of proof rather than assertions of national or religious pride.
"Some of the groups involved here are not qualified to write textbooks, they do not draw lines between myth and history," says Anu Mandavilli, an Indian doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California, and activist against the Hindu right. Speaking of one of the groups, the Vedic Foundation in Austin, Texas, she adds, "On their website, they claim that Hindu civilization started 111.5 trillion years ago. That makes Hinduism billions of years older than the Big Bang." (The assertion has since been pulled from the site.)
"It would be ridiculous if it weren't so dangerous."
Revisionist debates hot in many nations
Communities use history to define themselves — their core ideals, achievements, and grudges. Small wonder, then, that history is frequently reevaluated as political pendulums shift, or as long-oppressed minority groups finally get their say. History, and efforts to revise it, have touched off recent controversies between Japan and its neighbors over its World War II past, as well as between France and its former colonies over the portrayal of imperialism.
Here in India, Hindu nationalists have pushed forcefully for revisionism after what they see as centuries of cultural domination by the British Raj and Muslim Mogul Empire.
Instigating the California debate were two U.S.-based Hindu groups with long ties to Hindu nationalist parties in India. One, the Vedic Foundation, is a small Hindu sect that aims at simplifying Hinduism to the worship of one god, Vishnu. The other, the Hindu Education Foundation (HEF), was founded in 2004 by a branch of the right-wing Indian group the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
This year, as California's Board of Education commissioned and put up for review textbooks to be used in its 6th-grade classrooms, these two groups came forward with demands for substantial changes.
Textbooks did have glaring mistakes
Some of the changes were no-brainers. One section said, incorrectly, that the Hindi language is written in Arabic script. One photo caption misidentified a Muslim as a Brahman priest.
But instead of focusing on such errors, the groups took steps to add their own nationalist imprint to Indian history.
In one edit, the HEF asked the textbook publisher to change a sentence describing discrimination against women in ancient society to the following: "Men had different duties (dharma) as well as rights than women."
In another edit, the HEF objected to a sentence that said that Aryan rulers had "created a caste system" in India that kept groups separated according to their jobs. The HEF asked this to be changed to the following: "During Vedic times, people were divided into different social groups (varnas) based on their capacity to undertake a particular profession."
The hottest debate centered on when Indian civilization began, and by whom. For the past 150 years, most historical, linguistic, and archaeological research has dated India's earliest settlements to around 2600 BC. And most established historical research contends that the cornerstone of Indian civilization — the practice of Hindu religion — was codified by people who came from outside India, specifically Aryan language speakers from the steppes of Central Asia.
Many Hindu nationalists are upset by the notion that Hinduism could be yet another religion, like Islam and Christianity, with foreign roots. The HEF and Vedic Foundation both lobbied hard to change the wording of California's textbooks so that Hinduism would be described as purely home grown.
"Textbooks must mention that none of the [ancient] texts, nor any Indian tradition, has a recollection of any Aryan invasion or migration," writes S. Kalyanaraman, an engineer and prominent pro-Hindu activist, in an e-mail to this reporter. He and other revisionists refer to recent studies that don't support an Aryan migration, including skeletal anthropology research that claims to show a continuity of record from Neolithic times. Such research has not convinced top Indologists to abandon the Aryan theory, however. The final changes in California's textbooks are expected in the next few weeks, but in the meantime, mainstream academics, both in America and abroad, are setting off alarm bells.
"It was a whitewash," says Michael Witzel, a Harvard University Sanskrit scholar and Indologist, who testified before the commission in Sacramento. "The textbooks before were not very good, but at least they were more or less presentable. Now, it is completely incorrect."
Aryan invasion a British-era theory
Early proponents of the "Aryan Invasion Theory" proposed in 1850 by philologist Max Mueller may have had political agendas to justify the subjugation of the subcontinent, Witzel says, but the preponderance of evidence shows that Aryans came to India, with their horses, their chariots, and their religious beliefs, from outside.
"Unquestionably, all sides of Indian history must be repeatedly re-examined," wrote Witzel and comparative historian Steve Farmer, in an influential article in the Indian magazine Frontline in 2000. "But any massive revisions must arise from the discovery of new evidence, not from desires to boost national or sectarian pride at any cost."
On the other side of the debate, the historian Meenakshi Jain, a self-described nationalist, says that history is meant to be rewritten, depending on the perspective and needs of the present time.
"Indic civilization has been a big victim of misrepresentation and belittling of our culture," says Jain, a historian at Delhi University and author of a high school history textbook accepted by India's previous government, led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.
Pride has its place in history?
Like many Hindus, Jain is proud of the accomplishments of Indian history, such as the fact that three small Hindu kingdoms — Kabul, Zabul, and Sindh — were able to hold off invading Muslim armies for 400 years. She also thinks that students should learn that some of India's most famous temples were commissioned not by upper caste Hindu kings but by aboriginal tribes, who in modern times have been relegated to "backward status."
"There is no such thing as an objective history," Jain says. "So when we write a textbook, we should make students aware of the status of current research of leading scholars in the field. It should not shut out a love for motherland, a pride in your past. If you teach that your country is backward, that it has no redeeming features in our civilization, it can damage a young perspective."
But no matter which version of Indian history California adopts for its 6th graders, it is bound to aggravate someone. The Board of Education has already heard from South Indians who argued that the HEF and Vedic Foundation represent a North Indian upper-caste perspective.
"We were saying, 'These groups don't speak for us,'" says Anu Mandavilli, herself a South Indian. When groups like the Vedic Foundation try to simplify Hinduism as the worship of a single god, "they have their own agendas."
State revises textbooks on Hindu history
By Deepa Ranganathan , Sacaramento Bee, March 9, 2006
The State Board of Education approved hundreds of changes to history textbooks Wednesday, in an attempt to find a compromise amid clashing demands about how ancient Hinduism should be taught in California public schools. The decision - and the hours of emotional public testimony that preceded it at several hearings over six months - demonstrated how tricky it can be to teach students the harsh facts of their heritage without compromising their sense of identity.
The changes the board accepted represent "our best efforts," said member Ruth Green, acknowledging that the decision was unlikely to make everyone happy. One group, the Hindu American Foundation, has already threatened the board with a lawsuit. Other Hindu groups on both sides of the fierce debate said they had reservations about some of the changes but thought the board had been fair.
"I think we made significant progress on Hindu issues," said Khanderao Kand of the Hindu Education Foundation, one of the two groups that presented the board with hundreds of proposed corrections last year.
Anu Mandavilli of Friends of South Asia, a group that has fought the Hindu groups' proposed corrections, thanked the board for "rejecting the ideologically motivated edits" suggested by the two groups.
The decision caps a long and complicated series of public hearings on the matter. The state board adopts new history textbooks every six years. California public school students learn about ancient civilizations - including the origins of Hinduism - in the sixth grade.
Last September, the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation of Austin, Texas, told the board they wanted to see changes in the new history textbooks that the state will introduce this fall.
The requests touched off a stormy debate within the Hindu community and among scholars of the religion.
Supporters of the edits said the textbooks' descriptions of caste and gender discrimination unfairly singled out Hinduism for practices common in the ancient world. Opponents said the proposed changes would whitewash oppression that persists today.
The changes the board accepted Wednesday were recommended by the Department of Education.
Hindu groups sue state panel over textbooks
By Deepa Ranganathan , Sacaramento Bee, March 23, 2006
Two Hindu groups are suing the state Board of Education, alleging the board violated state and federal law when it approved controversial changes to sixth-grade history textbooks earlier this month.
The Hindu American Foundation's complaint, filed in Sacramento Superior Court last week, claims the textbooks, as approved, violate state law by portraying Hinduism in a way that is "demeaning, stereotypical and more critical than the presentation of any other religious tradition."
The group is asking the court to throw out the board's March 8 decision and force it to rely instead on the recommendation of one of the board's advisory committees, which in December approved a different set of changes that two other Hindu organizations had requested.
The complaint of the other group, California Parents for the Equalization of Educational Materials, was filed in U.S. District Court on March 14.
In its complaint, the group argues that the state board violated the First and 14th Amendments by penalizing Hindu groups for their political affiliations and adopting textbook changes that promote Judaism and Christianity over Hinduism.
Both groups argue, in addition, that members of the board ran afoul of a state open meeting law by holding a closed meeting on the issue in January.
Paul Seave, chief counsel for the state board, said he had not read the complaints and could not comment on them.
On Tuesday, a Superior Court judge denied the Hindu American Foundation's request for a temporary restraining order on the printing of the textbooks. The court will hold a preliminary injunction hearing on April 21.
The lawsuits are the latest chapter in a months-long debate over how Hinduism should be portrayed in sixth-grade textbooks on ancient civilizations.
Two Hindu groups proposed hundreds of changes to the textbooks last fall, saying the books offered a negative and inaccurate view of their religion. After months of fierce public debate and the convening of several scholarly panels, the board voted this month to accept some of the groups' suggestions but not others.
Bill requires gays' history to be taught
State Senator Wants California to Lead Way
By Aaron C. Davis, San Jose Mercury News, April 9, 2006
SACRAMENTO - The state Senate will consider a bill that would require California schools to teach students about the contributions gay people have made to society -- an effort that supporters say is an attempt to battle discrimination and opponents say is designed to use the classroom to get children to embrace homosexuality.
The bill, which was passed by a Senate committee Tuesday, would require schools to buy textbooks ``accurately'' portraying ``the sexual diversity of our society.'' More controversially, it could require that students hear history lessons on ``the contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America.''
Though it's a California bill, it could have far-reaching implications, not only by setting a precedent but also because California is the nation's largest textbook buyer and as such often sets the standards for publishers who sell nationwide.
The bill could also bring sex wars roaring back into state politics in an election year in which gay-rights advocates had already purposefully relegated same-sex marriage to the legislative back burner, and as signature-gathering efforts for propositions rolling back gay rights had begun to slow.
``We're totally opposed to inserting sexual orientation into textbooks in our schools. This is more than just accepting it, it's forcing our kids to embrace it, almost celebrate it,'' said Karen England, executive director of the public-policy group Capital Resource Institute, which believes teaching about sexual orientation should be left up to parents.
``This is not about discrimination. California is one of the most friendly gay, lesbian and transgender states in the nation,'' England said. ``This is a bold and out-front attempt to do what I think has always been the goal of a small but very loud group.''
The bill's author, Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, rejects the criticism. ``We've been working since 1995 to try to improve the climate in schools for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender kids, as well as those kids who are just thought to be gay, because there is an enormous amount of harassment and discrimination at stake,'' she said.
As for the need to teach gay history, Kuehl points to research she says concludes that gay students might do better in school and be less at risk for suicide, truancy or drug and alcohol abuse if they saw their own lives more accurately reflected in school textbooks and if the issue were more openly discussed in classrooms.
``Teaching materials mostly contain negative or adverse views of us, and that's when they mention us at all,'' said Kuehl, one of the Legislature's six openly gay lawmakers. A Senate analysis of her bill noted that one of the few times homosexuality is routinely discussed in classrooms is in relationship to pathology. ``In textbooks, it's as if there's no gay people in California at all, so forget about it,'' she said.
The bill expands on the existing state education code that already requires inclusion in the curriculum of the historical role and contributions of members of ethnic and cultural groups.
But central to the coming legislative floor debates will no doubt be questions about how gay issues might be woven into American history. The answer is still up for debate -- as is which historical figures might be outed in the process, and how textbook authors would decide their relevance.
``We're not suddenly going to say, `So and so was gay' when they never said that,'' Kuehl cautioned. ``But if you're teaching Langston Hughes poetry, you get a twofer because he was admittedly gay and he was black. So you could say he was a gay, black poet and talk about that.''
Aejaie Sellers, executive director of the Billy DeFrank LGBT Center in Santa Clara, said she thinks required gay-history lessons for students are a fantastic idea.
``Gays throughout history should be recognized. This is not something new, this goes back to the 18th and 17th and 16th century,'' said Sellers. ``The decriminalization of history could go back hundreds of years. There are certainly people who have made positive contributions to American history but all we ever hear is the tragic stuff.''
``Who knows,'' Sellers asked, ``that the author of `America the Beautiful,' Katharine Lee Bates, was gay?''
England says she doesn't really care, because a person's contribution to history doesn't hinge on sexual orientation.
``I don't care if, or who, whatever historical figure they want to say is gay,'' England said. ``If we're discussing history, who someone had sex with is inappropriate. I don't think most Californians want history and social sciences taught through the lens of who in history slept with whom.''
Sellers said she thinks the need for gay history and other lessons may vary from school to school.
``There are some schools that have gay-straight alliances where students feel heard and where teachers believe gender identity is not optional, that you're born with it. And it seems teachers there support and reflect that in their teaching. There are other schools where that's not the case.''
Whether the bill becomes law and if gay-history lessons become mandatory might quickly become Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's call.
The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 3-1; voting in favor were Sens. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove; Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk; and Kuehl. Voting against it was Senate Republican leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin.
The bill, SB 1437, requires only a majority vote in the Assembly and Senate, meaning that it could pass even if lawmakers -- Republican and Democrat -- voted the same way they did for last fall's gay-marriage bill. That bill passed, but the governor vetoed it.
Bill would include gays in public school texts
Plan will reignite debate over who controls curricula
By Wyatt Buchanan, Greg Lucas, San Francisco Chronicle, April 16, 2006
A proposal to require California public school textbooks to include gay and lesbian history is a top priority of the Legislature's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Caucus, but opponents say it would indoctrinate students.
The bill is garnering national attention because California makes up roughly 12 percent of the nation's textbook market, though major publishers said they produce national editions for other states so the law won't force kids elsewhere to learn about Harvey Milk or gay pride.
Sponsored by Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, the bill is to come before the full state Senate as soon as Monday, when it also will rekindle a long-running debate over whether state officials or California's 1,053 local school boards should choose curricula.
Another Kuehl bill, which became law in 2000, prohibits schools from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Kuehl was out of the country last week and unavailable for comment.
State law now requires that "men, women, black Americans, American Indians, Mexicans, Asians, Pacific Island people and other ethnic groups" be included in textbook descriptions of "the economic, political and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society."
"This is simply adding the LGBT community to the groups that the state has said must be included in the curriculum," said Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, which backs the bill. "There's nothing special or different.
"All students will benefit from a curriculum that's inclusive and diverse," he said. "The goal is to have students, when they learn about history, to learn about all the history and not have one group excluded. No one benefits from erasing an entire group from the history of the nation and the world."
Opponents of the bill, including major conservative religious political groups, have said the bill will require children to become supporters of gay rights.
"This is about pushing a blatant sexual agenda -- including sex changes that involve cutting off body parts -- upon impressionable schoolchildren as young as kindergarten," said Randy Thomasson, who heads the Campaign for Children and Families.
Thomasson said teaching about racial differences is not like teaching about sexual orientation because, he believes, people can change their sexual orientation. He said the bill "will require the positive portrayal of these lifestyles, with the goal of forcing students to accept them and even consider themselves eligible to engage in them."
Californians contacting the Traditional Values Coalition about the bill are outraged, said Benjamin Lopez, legislative analyst and lobbyist for that organization, which is focusing on six Democratic senators viewed as swing votes on the bill.
"We're seeing the same level of concern, objection and interest as we did with (San Francisco Assemblyman) Mark Leno's gay marriage bill," Lopez said.
The California Family Council cast the bill as "indoctrinating children with a pro-homosexual viewpoint," in its e-mail newsletter this week.
The California School Boards Association, which hasn't taken a position, generally favors vesting more decision-making authority in local boards rather than the state.
"It should be a local-level decision as to what information is appropriate," said Erika Hoffman, the association's senior lobbyist.
The state of Texas recently required health textbooks that used gender-neutral terms for marriage partners to be edited to specify man-woman relationships, said Stephen Driesler, executive director of the school division for the Association of American Publishers.
In California's education standards, gay issues are mentioned only in regard to health education and in a more clinical than cultural context.
Researchers at San Francisco State University studying gay youth and their families have found that not teaching about gays and lesbians affects adolescent development.
"It's very important for self-esteem and for (gay youth) feeling their lives matter and are important," said Caitlin Ryan, who leads the Family Acceptance Project at the school's César E. Chávez Institute.
An American Academy of Pediatrics policy states that environments critical of gay people interfere with the development of gay youth. And a 2003 Preventing School Harassment Study by the California Safe Schools Coalition found that school climate improves and students feel safer and experience less name-calling and other harassment at schools where gay and lesbian issues are taught.
The state adopts new standards for kindergarten through grade 8 in the four core subject matters -- history, math, science and English -- every six years. The state has just completed history and is revising science standards this year. English is set for review in 2008.
Maureen DiMarco, senior vice president for education policy and government affairs at Houghton Mifflin publishing, said states that did not want students to learn about gay and lesbian history and social contributions would not have to include it in their textbooks.
"With controversial curriculum -- and unfortunately gays and lesbians are controversial in a lot of states -- whether that would be included would be determined by each state," she said.
Some California districts, like Berkeley Unified, already discuss gay issues.
"Yes, we discuss that in high schools and middle and elementary schools as well," said Mark Coplan, a district spokesman. "Divorce, divided families, how family situations change. We deal with all of it."
Guidelines for Teaching English Are Adopted
By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2006
A divided state Board of Education on Monday adopted far-reaching new guidelines for reading and English language arts textbooks aimed at California's elementary and middle school students, despite objections that the materials do not do enough to help students struggling to learn English.
The new curriculum, passed on a 6-4 vote, is critical because it will be used to provide detailed guidance for textbook publishers who will supply the books, teacher guides and other instructional materials for classrooms over much of the next decade.
The guidelines specify criteria for oral and written vocabulary development, writing and reading comprehension.
For the first time, the criteria seek to incorporate the needs of English learners, with additional instruction and assessments before and after regular classroom time.
Supporters contend that the curriculum will provide California with some of the most rigorous standards in the nation and ensure equity for all students.
But in a packed hearing room, opponents told board members that the guidelines do not go far enough in addressing the needs of the 1.6 million students who speak little or no English. They proposed an additional option that would allow school districts to incorporate extra instruction for English learners during regular class periods.
They said the new guidelines amount to a "one-size-fits-all" approach that does not take the divergent needs of children into account. And they cited test scores that show that, while students overall are progressing academically, the achievement gap for English learners is widening.
"We're outraged and can't believe that the state of California is prepared to say that one program fits all of the kids," said Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, a member of the group Californians Together, an English-learners advocacy group.
Earlier in the hearing, Darline P. Robles, superintendent of the Los Angeles County Office of Education, told the board that school districts must have flexibility.
And state Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) told board members that the new guidelines represent the "status quo" that has not addressed the needs of the residents in her district, many of whom are English learners.
She noted that California spends more than $500 million on new textbooks every six years.
"As chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, I do not believe in wasting money that does not support a large percentage of the students in this state," Chu said.
Board members who voted against the guidelines said they were undecided on other options and sought further review.
But many other speakers supported the new curriculum and voiced concerns that other options might lead to segregating English learners from other students.
"These criteria ensure that all students are held to the same standard," said Michael Romero, director of reading for the Los Angeles Unified School District. "The additional vocabulary instruction will be greatly appreciated and effectively utilized by thousands of students in our district."
Textbook selection in California is a complex, yearlong process layered by multiple committees and reviews. The final product is a framework, which includes textbook criteria, that is submitted to the state Board of Education for approval or modification.
Textbook publishers then shape their materials to meet the criteria. Panels check content accuracy, scholarship and adherence to state standards. Committees also review social content, such as gender roles and depictions of racial, religious and ethnic groups. The board then makes final selections. New materials are adopted on a six-year cycle. The new selection will be used starting in 2008 and will be the standard through 2014.
Elementary and middle schools must spend most of their textbook funds on state-approved materials.
In recent decades, publishers — seeking a foothold in the state's lucrative market — have been willing to adapt materials in an effort to meet California standards.
Panel Votes to Cut Money for State Education Board
Assembly members seek to slash $1.6 million for staff members and to allow schools to spend government funds on unapproved texts
By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2006
A state Assembly budget panel moved Tuesday to strip funding from the state Board of Education and to allow school districts broader discretion in buying textbooks for students.
The action, led by the Assembly's caucus of Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander and African American legislators, comes a day after a divided board voted to adopt new textbook guidelines for elementary and middle schools that detractors contend are ineffective for students who speak little or no English.
Board staff members and advocates for English learners had been negotiating for months to find common ground but had been unable to agree on how much leeway school districts should have to tailor reading curriculum for their diverse student populations.
Tuesday's motions in the budget subcommittee on education were passed on a 4-2 party line vote and will be up for reconsideration next week before moving to the full budget committee as part of the May budget revision.
One motion would delete $1.6 million in state funding for the board's nine staff members. The other would allow school districts to use state instructional funds — about $400 million in this year's budget — to purchase materials not on the state-approved list.
A petition sent last month to Board of Education President Glee Johnson, state Supt. Jack O'Connell and state Secretary of Education Alan Bersin and signed by 32 legislators threatened to remove staff funding from the Board of Education and the Curriculum Commission in the 2006-07 budget unless a compromise could be reached on textbook criteria and another reading issue.
Tuesday's action was a political shot across the bow.
"We feel this is a way to send a message to the state Board of Education that it needs to pay attention to the needs of English learners in the state," Assemblywoman Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) said. "We have been trying for several months to talk to them in these meetings and in fact thought we were making some progress. But to our dismay, we found that the board was totally going to ignore the needs of these students, despite evidence that the achievement gap is increasing."
Neither Johnson nor the board's executive director, Roger Magyar, returned calls seeking comment on the legislative action. O'Connell has not taken a public position on the textbook issue.
Bersin, who is also a member of the Board of Education, voted against adopting the textbook guidelines.
He argued for a delay to gather more information on the merits of providing school districts with further options.
At Monday's board meeting, Magyar defended the board's efforts to reach a consensus.
"We have devoted more time to this issue than a new bicycle gets on Christmas morning," he told the packed meeting.
"We realize we're not addressing every concern, but I can honestly say that what we have adopted, when put into practice and implemented correctly, will be very successful in helping English learners."
Currently, districts are required to spend instructional funds on books, teaching guides and other materials from state-approved book publishers.
Supporters of the status quo contend that it ensures equity and one set of rigorous standards.
The state is in the process of setting criteria for publishers who will supply the books. Selections would be made in 2008 and would govern purchases through 2014.
Gay school bill in trouble
Spokesman says the governor plans to veto curriculum measure, but Kuehl insists it can still pass
By Andy Furillo and Judy Lin, Sacramento Bee, May 25, 2006
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will veto a bill passed by the Senate and pending in the Assembly to revise California's school curriculum to include the contributions of gays and lesbians to the state and nation, a gubernatorial spokesman said Wednesday.
"The governor believes that school curriculum should include all important historical figures, regardless of orientation," said Schwarzenegger's director of communications, Adam Mendelsohn. "However, he does not support the Legislature micromanaging curriculum."
Wednesday's announcement signaled a death blow to the efforts of state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, the openly lesbian author of the measure, to obtain recognition for the contributions of gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual people to the social and historical landscape. Kuehl's bill had passed the Senate on a 22-15 vote on May 11 and was awaiting hearings in the Assembly. She expressed disbelief that Schwarzenegger, who traditionally has withheld comment on legislation until it passes the Legislature and reaches his desk, has broken with his own precedent and made up his mind on a bill that still hadn't been vetted by one house of the Legislature.
"He hasn't made up his mind, I don't care what some underling might have said," Kuehl said.
Kuehl said she hasn't spoken to the Republican governor about the bill yet and that she didn't plan on trying to initiate a conversation with him until it had set sail in the Assembly. She said she intends to approach him on the subject.
"I expect it to go before the (Assembly) Education Committee, perhaps then the Appropriations Committee," Kuehl said. "When it gets to the floor, I expect to talk to the governor, and I expect to get it through. For them to take a position on it, I think is precipitous. There's nothing controversial about it. The right wing has drummed up a lot of old fears. Once people understand what it really does, the response is usually OK."
Schwarzenegger will come around to supporting the bill, Kuehl said, once he "understands how small a change it is."
Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families and a longtime activist who has opposed gay rights legislation, welcomed Schwarzenegger's decision. But he said he wants more out of the governor.
"We're very pleased that Schwarzenegger is listening to the concerns of parents," Thomasson said. "Now the governor needs to pledge to veto the two remaining transsexual, bisexual, homosexual bills, AB 606 and AB 1056. Parents and grandparents are demanding it."
Assembly Bill 606 would ensure that school districts act to reduce harassment of students based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Assembly Bill 1056 would offer $25,000 grants to schools to "promote tolerance and intergroup relations," according to a bill analysis.
Seth Kilbourn, political director for Equality California, which advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and sponsored Senate Bill 1437, said he was surprised that the governor would indicate his opposition to the bill at such an early stage.
"That is disappointing," he said.
With June being Gay Pride Month, Kilbourn said he doesn't see the political benefit for the governor in shooting down the bill.
"This would not be the best time for him to be doing that if he wanted to appear more friendly," Kilbourn said. "He's passed more pieces of legislation benefiting the GLBT community -- except for gay marriage -- than any other governor."
Kilbourn called SB 1437 an important and necessary bill that would help promote tolerance in classrooms.
"We are not asking for anything new. It's part of the diversity as required by the state of California," Kilbourn said. "It has enormous impact on gay and lesbian students. When gay issues are talked about, gay students feel better about themselves. For non-gays, it's an opportunity to learn about an underrepresented group in society and provides a more positive perspective."
Latest from the school policy sausage machine
By Peter Schrag, Sacramento Bee Columnist, July 12, 2006
Anyone who thinks the battle over bilingual education or high academic standards is over in California had better think again. Last month the Legislature, in thrall to the bilingual lobby, cut all funding for the staff of the State Board of Education -- a small, but symbolically large, $1.5 million -- from the state budget. The cut was in retaliation for the board's refusal to approve Option VI, a separate curriculum for English learners that might well have begun the formal resegregation of immigrant kids in California schools.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could have blocked the budget maneuver, which was a slap at him, since the board is the entity that sets his education policy. He could have blue-penciled any number of items dear to the Legislature from the budget and then made a deal to restore the funding. The governor, said Schwarzenegger communications director Adam Mendelsohn, was "disappointed" at the Legislature's action. But clearly the governor doesn't want to resume last year's mud wrestle.
Former Gov. Pete Wilson would have whacked a chunk of the Legislature's own funds from the budget and held it hostage until the board's money was restored. Schwarzenegger, in pursuit of his election-year Mr. Nice Guy act, did nothing, despite warnings from some board members about the consequences.
The most immediate consequence was the resignation late last month of board President Glee Johnson, a Republican and, like all other board members, an appointee of the governor. Although Johnson never aired her anger publicly, her departure echoed the resignation of board executive director Rae Belisle and the near-resignation of one or more board members in 2004.
The two issues are similar. In 2004, the board was incensed that the governor's office had approved a budgetary exemption from board review for materials for English learners -- putting a hole in the state's standards. Both times board members were blind-sided by the administration they were supposed to be serving.
The prime target of the board's ire in 2004 was Bonnie Reiss, the Hollywood lawyer and longtime friend of Maria Shriver, the governor's wife, who had been given the education portfolio in the governor's office but probably didn't understand the board's role or the issues involved. This time the governor's meek response seemed to stem largely from the chastening lesson he learned from his failing tough-guy reform campaign last year.
Both episodes raise a major issue: whether either Schwarzenegger or legislators understand or care about the ambitious academic standards and accountability measures that California put in place over the past decade. Last week, in an extraordinary act, Wilson and former Gov. Gray Davis sent them a letter trying to remind them of their importance.
English learners now must take 2 1/2 hours daily of English-language arts with all other students, plus an extra hour of English immersion keyed to the state's standards. The bilingual crowd wants a wholly separate program.
Mendelsohn said that as an immigrant and (perhaps still) an English learner, the governor understands that rather than segregating them in separate programs, "it's more beneficial" for immigrants to learn English in classes with kids who already speak the language. One test of that understanding will be the two new appointments he has to make to the board.
A ham-handed piece of legislation, SB 1769 by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Whittier, restoring the state board's funding in return for approval of Option VI for English learners is pending in the Legislature. People close to the governor say he'll never support Option VI.
They say he's talking with legislative leaders about the board's funding, but you can't take that to the bank.
The state's academic standards raise important questions -- about local control, about testing, about the best way to move kids from homes where English isn't spoken to English proficiency, about how to teach everything else even as English is being learned. But those are issues for open debate, not budgetary retribution.
The backers of Option VI maintain that the state's existing programs have failed. In the words of a legislative staff analysis of SB 1769, "the performance gap between (English learners) and native English speakers has remained virtually constant in most subject areas for most grade levels since the passage of Proposition 227 (the 1998 initiative that sought to eliminate bilingual education for most California students)."
But that's a meaningless argument. Students are designated as English learners because they don't speak English well. Once they're proficient -- at least in theory -- they're no longer English learners: High scorers leave the category as new immigrants come in. One can hope that individuals will learn faster and move on more quickly, which in fact seems to be happening. There's no way significantly to raise the average proficiency of the group.
But the larger question concerns the making of education policy, which is inherently complex. Zeroing out funding for staff each time some group doesn't like an educational policy decision puts the state on the slippery slope to politicizing everything.
Kuehl Removes Key Portion of Bill on Gays in Textbooks
Sen. Sheila Kuehl drops rule that schoolbooks include history and achievements in favor of an anti-bias provision. Governor vows a veto
By Jordan Rau and Nancy Vogel, Los Angeles Times, August 8, 2006
SACRAMENTO — Facing a certain veto, state lawmakers have abandoned their effort to require that textbooks in California schools detail the history and achievements of gays and lesbians in America.
Supporters removed that provision of the gay rights bill, which passed the California Senate in May, so that the measure only bars teaching anything that "reflects adversely" on people because of their sexual orientation. Schools would also be prohibited from sponsoring any activities that sanction such a bias.
The revised law is certain to win full approval by the Democratic-led Legislature. If the bill is signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, it would add that protection to California's existing anti-discrimination law, which prohibits instructional materials and teachers from pedagogy that is negative about race, ethnicity, disability, nationality or religion.
State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), the author of SB 1437, said she made the change even though it removed 90% of the import of the measure, which would have been the first in the country to mandate the teaching of homosexuals' contributions. The bill had drawn strong support from gay activists but ridicule from social conservatives and others who objected to the notion of debating historical figures' sexual orientations in textbooks.
"I did this because I'm hoping this is small enough and important enough at the same time that the governor can sign it even in an election year," Kuehl said Monday.
But Schwarzenegger's office, which had taken the rare step of announcing his intention to veto the bill, provided no encouraging signal that he would change his mind.
"The governor will not sign a bill that micromanages curriculum that is better left to the state Board of Education," Schwarzenegger press secretary Margita Thompson said.
The Campaign for Children and Families, a conservative group, condemned the altered measure, saying that it would still prohibit teachers from telling students that there is such thing as "the natural family" and that bisexual parents are abnormal.
"Gov. Schwarzenegger said he would veto SB 1437," said Randy Thomasson, the Sacramento-based group's president. "Fathers and mothers expect Arnold not to let them down."
In a preliminary vote Monday in the Assembly, 20 Republicans supported the changes, which passed 65 to 2, with 13 legislators abstaining. A spokesman for the GOP caucus said the members would not support the bill when it comes up for a final vote, but it still has more than enough Democratic votes to pass.
Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, a gay rights group, said he was disappointed with the changes, but the revised bill would make it possible to catalog and investigate complaints about teachers' derogatory statements.
"We'll move forward one piece at a time," he said.
He said his group had decided to endorse Schwarzenegger's Democratic challenger, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, because Schwarzenegger, though "the best Republican governor" on gay rights issues, "puts politics above principle" and has vetoed a number of priorities, including legalized gay marriage.
The group had endorsed state Controller Steve Westly over Angelides in the Democratic primary.
Gay rights advocates give ground, but perennial battle continues
By Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee Columnist, August 14, 2006
As the Legislature reconvened last week, a flurry of electronic battle cries marked resumption of the perennial war over homosexuality -- and pro-gay rights forces immediately beat a tactical retreat on the year's most controversial bill.
Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, and other supporters of her bill to mandate positive images of gays in textbooks and classroom, faced with a veto threat from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, dropped those provisions. Instead, the measure, Senate Bill 1437, now would prohibit instruction or textbooks that "reflects adversely" on groups because of their sexual orientation.
That doesn't satisfy the Campaign for Children and Families and other groups on the other side of the gay rights battle. The bill "still requires all teachers, all textbooks and all instructional materials to positively portray cross-dressing, sex-change operations, bisexuality and homosexuality, including homosexual marriages," said CCF's president, Randy Thomasson. It is, however, a significant change, conceivably enough to overcome Schwarzenegger's rationale for opposing SB 1437, that it would, in the words of a spokesman, be "micromanaging curriculum" from Sacramento, rather than allowing local officials to decide what's taught.
Whether heartfelt or politically expedient, Schwarzenegger's position is a logical one. The state already mandates positive classroom imagery for several ethnic and cultural groups, thereby skewing history for political purposes. Before it was changed, SB 1437 would have been another step down that slippery slope. It's one thing to mandate instruction along ideological lines -- which smacks of official propaganda -- but it's quite another to prohibit gratuitously negative images based on sexual orientation.
"I'm very disappointed that the governor twisted our arms on this," Kuehl said, while expressing hope that with the changes, Schwarzenegger might be induced to to sign the bill.
Kuehl will maintain that shifting from active instructional standards to passive protection would not be micromanaging curriculum -- and that has the opponents of SB 1437 a bit worried, even though Schwarzenegger doesn't want to discomfit Republican conservatives as he seeks re-election this year. "Gov. Schwarzenegger said he would veto SB 1437," Thomasson said. "Fathers and mothers expect Arnold not to let them down."
While the battle over SB 1437 continues, gay rights advocates and their opponents are slugging it out on a number of other measures that the former are pushing in a Legislature dominated by friendly Democrats. They include:
Notably, the list of contentious gay rights issues still pending during the few weeks of the legislative session does not include same-sex marriage. That's been put on hold while the state's appellate courts deal with lawsuits that test the validity of Proposition 22, the ballot measure that California voters ratified to declare that only marriages between men and women would be officially recognized.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom challenged the law by authorizing marriage licenses for same-sex couples and hundreds of weddings performed before the practice was halted. A local judge declared Proposition 22 to be unconstitutional and the judicial battle was joined. A state appellate court recently heard arguments, but regardless of its ruling, the question will land in the laps of Supreme Court justices.
Judge dismisses Hindus' claim of bias in a 6th-grade textbook
But he calls process of approval for all school texts invalid
By Charles Burress, San Francisco Chornicle, September 6, 2006
A double-edged ruling by a Sacramento judge has rejected claims that California's 6th-grade textbooks contain anti-Hindu bias and should be recalled, but he found the approval process for all state textbooks "invalid."
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette dismissed claims by the Hindu American Foundation that the state's new 6th-grade history and social sciences textbooks paint a derogatory picture of early Hinduism.
The foundation sued the Board of Education in March after it approved textbooks for school districts to use this fall.
Marlette ruled that the process by which the State Board of Education adopted the textbooks violated state law and that the state must adopt new textbook-approval regulations.
"We think largely it's really a positive ruling," said Hilary McLean, spokeswoman for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "I'm sure we'll be able to address the concerns of the court and correct any procedural issues that were raised in the judge's ruling."
Paul Seave, chief counsel for the State Board of Education, called it a "fair ruling" and said he doesn't anticipate appealing if the plaintiffs don't appeal.
The Hindu American Foundation issued a statement whose headline said the group "wins lawsuit." Attorneys for the Hindu American Foundation said the ruling means their clients' focus "should shift to changing the standards and framework that set the criteria that must be covered in any textbook covering Hinduism," the statement said.
Deborah Caplan, one of those attorneys, said the plaintiffs hope the potentially significant ruling will allow more public input in the approval process, and she said "a different process might result in different content." She said no decision has been made about an appeal.
Marlette issued the ruling tentatively on Friday, but both Caplan and Seave said he is expected to make it final.
The textbooks' approval followed stormy hearings and months of controversy over contentions by the Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Foundation that the textbooks demean Hinduism with depictions of the untouchable class and of women as having inferior status, and by including the theory that an Aryan invasion or migration was a key catalyst for the blossoming of ancient Indian culture.
Marlette found the textbooks' descriptions neutral. On the caste system, for example, he wrote: "The caste system is a historical reality. ... Nothing in the applicable standards requires textbooks writers to ignore a historical reality of such significant dimension, even if studying it might engender certain negative reactions in students."
At the same time, Marlette found that the state has been adopting textbooks "under invalid 'underground procedures' " and not, as required, under regulations adopted pursuant to the state Administrative Procedures Act.
Schwarzenegger vetoes bill on gay protections in textbooks
But he calls process of approval for all school texts invalid
By Associated Press , September 8, 2006
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill Wednesday that would have barred textbooks from using language that would be discriminatory to gays, saying the state's education laws already prevent discrimination.
The bill's author, state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, called the veto "inexplicable."
Kuehl's bill initially would have required California's social science textbooks to include the historical contributions of homosexuals, but the state Assembly amended it at her request in an effort to avoid a veto from the Republican governor.
The final version of SB 1437 would have prohibited any negative portrayal of homosexuals in textbooks and other instructional material, expanding current anti-discrimination laws that apply to minorities.
But in a veto message, Schwarzenegger said California's education code already prohibits discrimination in schools and says everyone is entitled to "equal rights and opportunities in our state educational institutions, regardless of their sex, ethnic group, race, national origin, religion, disability and sexual orientation."
"I and this administration are firmly committed to the vigorous enforcement of these protections," he said.
Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, expressed frustration over the veto and said she had explicitly changed the legislation to address the governor's opposition.
"I an extremely disappointed that the governor chose to respond to a small, shrill group of right-wing extremists rather than a fair-minded majority of Californians who support this reasonable measure," she said in a statement.
Kuehl said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are still vulnerable to discrimination in instructional materials and school activities.
Schwarzenegger said the bill barred any materials or activities that "reflect adversely" on people, which was vague and potentially confusing. He said it "would not strengthen this important area of legal protection from bias based on sexual orientation."
English-learner curriculum vetoed
By Dorothy Korber, Sacramento Bee, Ocotber 3, 2006
As he promised, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a state Senate bill to create a special curriculum for public school students who are learning to speak English.
Senate Bill 1769, by Sen. Martha Escutia, would have required the state Board of Education to develop special textbooks and other materials for students who are non-native speakers.
In Friday's veto message, the governor said such an approach would isolate students from their classmates.
"This sort of segregated learning is not only detrimental to the language learning process -- it would have a divisive impact on our children, classrooms, schools, teachers, and our larger society," Schwarzenegger said.
"It undermines the very principle of inclusiveness that inspires so many entrepreneurial and hard-working immigrants to pursue the American dream."
Though Schwarzenegger made no secret of his opposition, Escutia said Monday that she was disappointed by the veto.
"The data clearly shows that the state has failed to close the achievement gap between English learners and native English speakers," said the Whittier Democrat. "School board members, administrators and teachers across the state fought for passage of SB 1769 so they would have the much-needed tools to improve the English acquisition of all our students."
Another supporter of SB 1769 said the governor missed the point.
"We believe he is sorely misinformed," said Martha Zaragoza-Diaz of the California Association for Bilingual Education. "No language in the bill states that these kids need to be removed or segregated. These instructional materials are geared for classrooms that already have an overwhelming majority of English learners. They are already segregated because of that."
Escutia introduced SB 1769 to counter the state Board of Education's approval of a new language arts framework in April. That framework, which will be used to develop new textbooks due in 2008, does not provide separate instructional materials for English learners.
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger also said he has taken action to restore funding to the state Board of Education. The Legislature eliminated the board's $1.6 million budget this summer in retaliation for its rejection of the proposed curriculum for English learners.
"It is my hope," the governor wrote, "that the Legislature will approve a bill next session that restores the state Board of Education funding without attempting to leverage those funds to advance a policy agenda."
Meanwhile, funding to cover the board's nine staff positions is coming from the Governor's Office and the state Department of Education.
"We are continuing to operate normally, although leanly," said Gary Borden, deputy director to the state board.
The 11-member board, appointed by the governor, is the governing and policy-making body of the California Department of Education.
Religion, textbook dispute rekindled
State board to decide on activists' complaints about picture of Sikh founder
By Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee, March 8, 2007
A picture of the founder of the Sikh religion in a seventh-grade textbook has reignited what's become a common dilemma for California's education establishment: How much influence should contemporary religious groups have in crafting history lessons for the state's 6.3 million public school students?
The state Board of Education is scheduled to vote today on whether to remove a picture from a history textbook that shows the founder of the Sikh religion in a way that Sikh leaders find offensive. It's the latest in a pattern of compromises as religious groups and textbook publishers vie over the minds of one of the most diverse student bodies in the country.
In recent years, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu groups have weighed in as state educators and publishers developed new social studies books. Those textbooks are now read in classrooms across California and the nation.
One of them has caught the attention of Sikh leaders in Sacramento. "An Age of Voyages: 1350-1600," published by Oxford University Press, shows Guru Nanak, who founded the Sikh religion in India in the 1500s, wearing a golden crown and a closely cropped beard and mustache.
Sikh activists complained about the image, saying the portrait makes Guru Nanak look like a Muslim chieftain. The picture, which hangs in a museum in London, was originally painted in the 19th century, after Muslims ruled India.
The publisher offered an alternative image of the Sikh founder, an 18th century painting that shows him wearing a red hat and trim beard. Sikhs objected to that image, too, saying it makes their founder look like a Hindu. The red mark on his forehead and sacred string across his chest are both symbols from Hinduism.
Sikhs proposed a 20th century picture of Guru Nanak that shows him the way they believe he looked -- with a turban on his head, a flowing beard and an unshorn mustache. Observant Sikh men cover their heads with a turban and do not cut their facial hair.
"It says he's the founder of the Sikh religion. The founder of the Sikh religion should look like a Sikh," said Onkar Bindra, a Sacramento Sikh who spends his retirement educating the public about his religion.
"Children will connect Guru Nanak's picture with Sikhs they see on the street. ... Otherwise they will think maybe these people are from the Middle East."
The textbook company refused to print the picture favored by Bindra and other Sikhs, which was painted in the 1960s. Casper Grathwohl, publisher of Oxford University Press, said the company prides itself on using historic images in its history texts.
"We have tried consistently to provide images that are as close to primary sources as possible -- art and images from the time period," Grathwohl said.No images exist from Guru Nanak's lifetime, 1469 to 1538, but Grathwohl says the older images are more accurate than the contemporary picture Sikhs print in their newspapers and hang on the walls of their homes.
Sikhs began actively promoting what they view as a accurate imagery of their founder after 9/11, said Pashaura Singh, a professor of religious studies at UC Riverside.
"Sikhs became more concerned that if the image of the founder of the Sikh religion is not presented well, that's going to create a negative stereotype of Sikhs in the American society," he said.
Because the publisher and the Sikh activists couldn't agree on a picture for the textbook, Grathwohl proposed eliminating imagery from the passage on Sikh history. The state Board of Education must now decide whether to remove the picture from future copies of the book.
"That's the fairest way to deal with it -- no imagery at all," said Tom Adams, director of curriculum with the state Department of Education.
It's a solution that leaves both the publisher and the Sikh leaders unhappy -- about the only point the two sides agree on.
"We are not interested in offending current practitioners but we're also not interested in compromising the academic standards we set for the whole series," Grathwohl said.
"Advocacy groups deciding what images should go into the book, I think is dangerous ground."
But it's not new.
Hindu organizations last year packed state Board of Education meetings when the panel was deciding how textbooks should present ancient Hinduism. Two Hindu groups subsequently sued the state for adopting lessons they found offensive.
A Muslim Sacramento man last year tried to get a geography book removed from his son's school because he objected to the portrayal of Muslims in a chapter about Sept. 11.
Jewish and Christian groups have lobbied policymakers and textbook publishers for years in an effort to shape how their religions are portrayed.
It's a long-standing practice that has grown wider in recent years, said Gilbert T. Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council, a New York group that critiques social studies texts.
"We're seeing more and more pressure groups, particularly religious groups, making trouble with the board of education. It's part of an intensifying activism on many different fronts," he said.
"These groups, whether they're Muslim or Hindu or Sikh, are pushing hard to get the kind of place in textbooks that they want. And they're very demanding."
Bindra, who sits on the board of the Sikh temple in West Sacramento, says he's not proselytizing, just trying to help diversity thrive.
"We want to correct that mistaken identity by educating people," he said. "And I thought that educating through the school books would be the best way, though it may take 20 years."
State sides with Sikhs on text
Activists saw picture of founder as offensive
By Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee, March 9, 2007
After commending a roomful of Sikh activists for successfully influencing public policy, the State Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to remove a picture Sikh leaders find offensive from future printings of a textbook and to cover it -- with a sticker -- in copies now circulating in California schools.
The picture that upset the Sikh activists appears in a seventh-grade history book called "An Age of Voyages: 1350-1600." It is a reproduction of a 19th century painting that shows the founder of their religion in the style of a Muslim chieftain, with a short beard and mustache and wearing a golden crown on his head.
Sikhs representing temples across Northern California asked the board to replace that picture with one that shows Guru Nanak with a long beard and mustache and a turban on his head -- the way Sikhs believe he looked when he created the religion in the 1500s. Observant Sikhs still dress in this fashion; they wear turbans and do not trim their facial hair.
About 20 Sikhs wearing turbans in shades of orange, yellow and purple carried an enormous portrait of Guru Nanak into the meeting and displayed it during their testimony. One after another, they described their unhappiness with the image in the text, saying it will confuse Sikh children who believe their founder wore a turban and misinform non-Sikh children unaware of the difference between Sikhs and Muslims.
"When my kids go to school I want them to feel proud," said Gurcharan Singh Mann of the Sikh temple in Fremont.
"The publisher is misrepresenting reality."
It was clear their pleas struck a chord. An African American high school teacher spoke emotionally in support of the Sikhs.
"I can attest to the pain of what a bad picture in a history book can do to a child," Curtis Washington said, choking back tears.
The debate over who gets to tell schoolchildren the history of a people has been growing in California. Many religious and ethnic groups have tried to shape the way they are portrayed in state-approved history books.
Diane Ravitch, author of "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn," said California's decisions about textbooks affect the entire country because publishers cater to the largest states.
"We're a very, very, very diverse society and if every group -- religious, ethnic, gender, every group with a special interest in seeing history portrayed their way -- if they all get their ways, we'll have nothing left," Ravitch said.
That will lead to a nation that knows "nothing about history other than what groups want them to know," she said.
The State Board of Education didn't seem concerned about that. After listening to public comment, board members agreed to remove the picture of Guru Nanak from future printings of the book and debated whether to go even further and cover the offending image in existing books.
Board member Donald Fisher said he wanted to change the books now in circulation.
"We may not have a legal right to tell them (how to change the book), but I think they would do what we're suggesting," said Fisher. "Otherwise we may not buy their next book."
The board voted unanimously to do as Fisher wished: remove the image from future printings and ask the publisher to make a sticker that California schools can use to cover it in the roughly 500 books circulating here.
What that sticker will look like has not been determined. The board urged the publisher to develop a sticker that "covers the existing image of Guru Nanak and displays an appropriate picture of Guru Nanak or text explaining use of the sticker."
Board member Alan Bersin said such a sticker would create "a teachable moment about the First Amendment, about the loyalty to the Sikh view and why that image is (controversial)."
"This has been a good exercise in American democracy," he said.
Board member Yvonne Chan said that she sympathized with the Sikhs' concern about being stereotyped or misunderstood because she is Chinese. She praised the Sikhs.
"See how mobilized you are? You can change opinions; you can change policy," Chan said.
No one from Oxford University Press, which published the textbook in question, spoke at the meeting. In the days before, publisher Casper Grathwohl said his company uses only historic images in its history texts. The portrait favored by Sikhs, which was painted in the 1960s, is too modern for Oxford, he said.
The Bee called Grathwohl in New York after the board's vote to see if his company would make the cover-up sticker they requested. He declined to comment.
Onkar Bindra, a Sacramento Sikh who led the effort to remove the Muslim-style image of Guru Nanak from the text, said he was pleased.
"I would urge the board to make sure that a proper picture is included" in future printings, he said.
"The department and the publisher should have the wisdom to consult with us."
Ravitch, a professor of education at New York University, said she wasn't surprised by the board's decision. When the state approved textbooks several years ago, she said, the board responded to criticism from activists of every kind: Armenian, Polish, Arab, American Indian, Chinese, Japanese, African American, Latino, feminist, gay, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and atheist.
"The question is: Are they supposed to be accurate or are they supposed to be sensitive?" she said.
"California, unfortunately, leads the nation in trying to sanitize textbooks and make them sensitive."
SB 777 (KUEHL) - STUDENT CIVIL RIGHTS ACT
Source: ACSA Governmental Relations, Posted: December 20, 2007
Editor’s Note: The legal aspects of this advisory were reviewed by the Education Law Practice Group attorneys of Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo. This effort was coordinated by Anthony DeMarto, associate with the firm. ACSA extends its thanks and gratitude to Mr. DeMarto and his colleagues for their assistance with this advisory.
A recently adopted state legislative measure has garnered significant attention and fostered considerable controversy in recent weeks. This advisory is intended to provide education leaders background information and policy / program implementation recommendations.
SB 777 (Kuehl)—The Student Civil Rights Act—was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger at the end of the 2007 state legislative session. Since then, organizations throughout the state have launched a signature-gathering effort to initiate a statewide ballot referendum seeking to overturn the measure. In addition, opponents of SB 777 have sponsored a series of protests and other advocacy strategies to highlight their position to the measure. These have included “keep your kids at home” days, presentations to school boards, protests in front of LEAs and/or school sites, and presentations to local churches, just to name a few. Due in part to these actions, SB 777 has attracted considerable attention, and evoked varying statements in regard to its status and effect. ACSA was and remains neutral on the measure, viewing it as a clarification of existing law.
The immediate history of this issue dates back to the enactment of AB 537 (Kuehl)—The California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000. In that measure, the Legislature banned harassment and discrimination in California public schools and universities on the basis of characteristics contained in the prohibition of hate crimes set forth in Penal Code Section 422.5. Those characteristics included: actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with a person who has any of these characteristics. Although discrimination on the basis of several of these characteristics was already prohibited in public education, the safe schools law enacted in 2000 added new protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender including gender related identity, appearance and behavior. AB 537 also incorporated the concepts of “actual or perceived” and “association with” into student civil rights protections.
AB 537 amended the global prohibitions against discrimination contained in Education Code Sections 200 & 220 for K-12 schools and Education Code Sections 66250 & 66270 for institutions of higher education. It did not, however, update a number of more specific prohibitions against discrimination scattered throughout the Education Code. SB 777’s author argues that these sections have not been updated to reflect the state’s evolving civil rights protections for students. One example offered by the author is that Education Code Section 235 related to charter schools prohibits “racial, sex or ethnic discrimination,” but makes no mention of disability, nationality, religion or sexual orientation, despite the legal obligation of charter schools to not discriminate on these bases. ACSA supported AB 537.
What does the bill do?
According to the author’s office, the intent of SB 777 was to clean up and further clarify existing civil rights protections for California students. The bill seeks to clarify the parameters of those protections by providing a list of prohibited bases of discrimination in publicly funded K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. The bill added this list of prohibited bases of discrimination to existing global prohibitions against discrimination contained in Education Codes 220 and 66270. The bill then updated a number of more specific prohibitions against discrimination scattered throughout the Education Code to reference the updated global prohibitions against discrimination contained in Education Code Section 220 and 66270. Finally, the measure replaces the Education Code’s references to “handicapped students” with the more up-to-date terminology “students with disabilities.”
The author believed the bill was necessary to ensure that the Education Code was consistent across the board. Specific directives against discrimination in various sections of the code are subsumed by and subordinate to the global prohibitions against discrimination contained in Education Code Section 220 and 66270. However, Senator Kuehl argued that exclusion of these characteristics in specific sections of the Education Code created confusion and uncertainty when members of the education community consult those sections of the code to understand their obligations. The governor and a majority of the Legislature concurred with these arguments and adopted the measure.
Status of the bill
Several news outlets have reported that the bill’s enactment has been stayed due to the opposition’s efforts to overturn the bill via statewide referendum. That information is inaccurate, although an as yet unresolved lawsuit filed in November is attempting to accomplish this objective. The measure will not be stayed until opponents gather a sufficient number of valid signatures of registered voters by January 10, 2008. If the signatures are validated by the Secretary of State, the referendum seeking to overturn SB 777 will be placed on the next appropriate statewide ballot for voter consideration. Absent a successful signature drive and placement on the ballot, the measure will go into effect on January 1, 2008 and remain in place unless stayed or overturned via court-ordered action or ballot measure.
Arguments in opposition
Opponents have argued the following in letters and public comments:
- This bill would ban any instruction or activities in schools that reflect adversely upon homosexuals, transgender individuals and bisexuals, and therefore any teaching promoting traditional families would be discriminatory.
- Any activities such as having a prom king and queen, or utilizing gender-specific bathroom would also be considered discriminatory.
- Teachers won’t be able to mention “mom and dad,” but must instead say parents because this could be interpreted as being discriminatory.
ACSA’s policy and legal perspectives
ACSA continues to believe that SB 777 is a clarification of existing law. Existing law forbids LEAs from discriminating against students based on actual or perceived gender, sex, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, nationality, religion, mental or physical disability, or sexual orientation. For nearly all of these characteristics, the prohibition applies as well to discrimination based on a perception of the characteristic or association with a person or group with the actual or perceived characteristic.
Notwithstanding potential areas for clarification to address the above-stated arguments in opposition, ACSA does not believe the bill significantly alters existing K-12 curriculum, instruction, or LEA and school site operations pertaining to activities taking place during and/or after instructional hours. The most significant changes to K-12 student civil rights actually occurred in AB 537 in 2000. To the extent applicable to SB 777, it would seem that the opposition’s arguments would have likely materialized after passage of AB 537. Possible legal challenges cited by opponents could develop with or without the enactment of SB 777. Indeed, the California Department of Education addressed some of these same issues (e.g. that gender specific bathrooms remained lawful) in a 2004 legal advisory, and then-State Superintendent for Public Instruction, Delaine Eastin, commissioned a task force comprised of representatives from all aspects of society to review the impacts of AB 537 and make recommendations. Guidance regarding the impact of SB 777 on such issues could provide the necessary clarification to assuage any potential issues of contention. It is certainly possible that the bill could indirectly fuel broader political or legal debates on related social issues, but these discussions are not directly manifested by the enactment of SB 777.
Education leaders are encouraged to review their current anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies to ensure they are up-to-date and in accordance with federal and state laws. Education leaders should also continue to pursue proactive programs and policies that foster safe and open education environments for all students. Should SB 777’s enactment be stayed due to ballot referendum, then enactment of the measure will be determined via statewide ballot. If the referendum effort is not successful, then the measure will take effect January 1, 2008. Either way, LEAs will continue to be subject to existing statutes (Education Code Section 200 and 220) pertaining to student protections and civil rights. As such, SB 777 should not result in significant changes in how LEAs and school sites comply with and enforce existing federal and state laws pertaining to anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and student civil rights.
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