Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Already Happened

So let's decide HOW it's going to happen.

What has happened is that the concept of same-sex marriage has been heard by young children in the classroom. The proponents of prop 8 are trumpeting the field trip as evidence that marriage equality means children will be taught that "same-sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage." Not to burst anyone's bubble, but on a civil level, it is.

Kids need to know the truth. Kindergartners don't need to be taught a unit on the struggle for gay equality. In fact, sexuality and marriage don't need to enter the curriculum until junior high, at least. But what if one of the kids in a kindergarten class is being raised by two women? Or one kid casually mentions to another that his uncle got married to another guy -- and the classmate reacts strangely or even cruelly?

When the subject is raised -- for whatever reason -- when kids have questions, what should teachers do? Tell the kids to ask their parents? Possibly. But that could reinforce the perception of same-sex marriage as something to be ashamed of. (I know, lots of the Yes on 8 people secretly -- or not -- want homosexuality back in the closet, but since it's not going to be, they're going to have to get over it at some point.)

Or should teachers try to avoid the subject until they talk to parents? Or do you spend a few minutes of one class day talking in terms five-year olds can understand: "Though almost all boys one day find themselves really liking girls, some boys get a little older and find out they are attracted to other boys. Some girls discover they like other girls. That's how it is for Mitchell's two moms. It's sort of like being left-handed. We don't know why some people are, but it's wrong to treat anyone differently because of it." Something like that?

The point is, we shouldn't be arguing with the prop 8 proponents about whether discussions of same-sex marriage will happen in public schools. They will. They've been happening for years. Just like discussions of religion. So we need to talk about what we OUGHT to be teaching our children about the subject of civil rights and the "legal and financial aspects of marriage and parenting." That's why we have local schools -- so people can be involved in their children's education.

The field trip, for instance. (You know the one -- the other teachers arranged for a field trip to a fellow teacher's wedding for her young students. It's been a big dust-up in the blogs.) But where's the problem? Parents must always approve their child's attendance on ANY field trip. So if a same-sex wedding ceremony wasn't something you wanted your child to witness, you simply don't sign the permission form. As far as a wedding being an appropriate school activity for kids of that age, I bet it's happened before. I'm betting some kids were allowed to go see a teacher married in a civil ceremony. At some point, it's happened. Same-sex or traditional, a wedding can be a "teachable moment."

The Yes on 8 folks are cleaning our clocks on this issue. We're letting them control the debate. We need to shift the emphasis. Exactly how, I'm not sure yet. But we can't let the debate be about whether or not same-sex marriage will be discussed at all, but about when and how it ought to be in the curriculum so that parents' need for control over certain subjects can be balanced against children's need to understand the truth of how our society works.

Because the truth is, Proposition 8 has NOTHING to do with what kids are taught in schools. Kids are going to learn about same-sex relationships -- in school and everywhere else -- no matter how the vote goes on November 4.


goooooood girl said...

i like......


I'm fine with them teaching about same-sex relationships, it's calling marriage something other than what it is that bothers me.

Perhaps you might consider calling a same-sex union gayriage? Take a look at this blog for the author of the idea (although I'm sure he's not the first to think of it):

Tom said...

I'd be fine if domestic partnerships were required of ALL couples that sought to take on the responsibilities of civil marriage in order to gain its benefits. Leave "marriage" to churches.

However, that's not going to happen anytime soon. If for no other reason than there are just too many laws on the books that refer to "marriage" to make it feasible to change the name. I'm not a lawyer, so perhaps there is a way to say "if the law says 'married' or 'wed,' a 'domestic partnership'counts too now.

Anonymous said...

That does sound like the best solution. Leave the term marriage as a religious term and make all civil unions the same. How hard could it really be to make that change?