Wednesday, July 06, 2011

CA: Landmark gay history bill goes to governor

California lawmakers on Tuesday sent the governor a bill that would make the state the first requiring public schools to include the contributions of gays and lesbians in social studies curriculum.

The bill, passed on a party-line vote, adds lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as well as people with disabilities to the list of groups that schools must include in the lessons. It also would prohibit material that reflects adversely on gays.

Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco says SB48 is crucial because of the bullying that happens to gay students. Republicans called it a well-intentioned but ill-conceived bill and raised concerns that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.

"This bill will require California schools to present a more accurate and nuanced view of American history in our social science curriculum by recognizing the accomplishments of groups that are not often recognized," said Assembly Speaker John Perez, the first openly gay speaker of the California Assembly.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who has not said whether he would sign it. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill in 2006.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from Twin Peaks, said he was offended as a Christian that the bill was being used to promote a "homosexual agenda" in public schools.

"I think it's one thing to say that we should be tolerant," Donnelly said. "It is something else altogether to say that my children are going to be taught that this lifestyle is good."

California law already requires schools to teach about women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor. The Legislature over the years also has prescribed specific lessons about the Irish potato famine and the Holocaust, among other topics.

SB48 would require, as soon as the 2013-2014 school year, the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that cover the contributions and roles of sexual minorities. The legislation leaves it to local school boards to decide how to implement the requirement. It does not specify a grade level for the instruction to begin.

Opponents argued that such instruction would further burden an already crowded curriculum and expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable. Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, said the bill micromanages the classroom.
"Our founding fathers are turning over in their graves," Donnelly said.

The bill's author, Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said he hopes Brown will sign his bill. He dismissed arguments that the bill promotes certain sexual behaviors and said it removes censorship in textbooks.

"Bottom line, it's only beneficial to share with students the broad diversity of the human experience and that our democracy protects everyone," he said.

Before the Assembly vote, Perez pointed to a few contributions of gay people, including Friedrich von Steuben, one of George Washington's military advisers who fled Prussia after he was hounded as a homosexual.

Von Steuben is credited with being one of the fathers of the Continental Army and teaching essential military drills.

He also cited Alan Turing, a mathematician who helped crack Nazi Germany's secret codes by creating the "Turing bombe," a forerunner of modern computers.

Some churches and conservative family groups warned the bill will drive more parents to take their children out of public schools.

"This sexual brainwashing bill would mandate that children as young as 6 years old be told falsehoods — that homosexuality is biological, when it isn't, or healthy, when it's not," said Randy Thomasson, president of
The Assembly passed the bill on a 49-25 vote.


Britain MUST bring back grammar schools, or risk a generation that fails in life, says biggest study yet on education

Children from working class families are failing in life because they cannot get into good secondary schools, a Government-backed inquiry has found.

The research blames the widening gap between the achievements of rich and poor pupils on ‘selection by mortgage’ – the way middle-class parents are able to buy their way into the best schools by moving into expensive homes in the right catchment areas.

The study is set to re-open the debate about grammar schools, which were largely abolished in the 1970s. Many say this has barred the way to a good education for bright working class children.

The grammar school argument has been fired over the past four years by overwhelming evidence that social mobility – the chance of someone from a poor background doing well in life – has been declining sharply since the 1970s.

Under Gordon Brown’s Labour government, the fall in social mobility was blamed on universities, said to be biased against taking students from poor backgrounds, and on failures in pre-school education.

The new research on social mobility, produced from a survey covering six years of the lives of 33,000 secondary school children, points the finger at the comprehensive system which effectively keeps children from low-income families out of good schools.

The Tories’ war over grammar schools has rumbled on since David Cameron ruled out the opening of more selective schools in 2007 on the ground that parents do not want them.

He accused their supporters of ‘splashing around in the shallow end of educational debate’. Instead the Prime Minister has backed Michael Gove’s programme of opening more mostly non-selective academies and free schools.

The study was produced by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at Essex University, with the Sutton Trust educational charity and the New York-based Russell Sage Foundation.

Professor John Ermisch of the ISER said: ‘The widening of the parental education gap in pupil performance after primary school appears to be related to the sorting of children into secondary schools.

‘Better-educated parents have their children in better quality schools, and the association between school quality and parental background is stronger at secondary school than at primary school. ‘The sorting is primarily achieved by living in areas with good access to better schools.’

Professor Ermisch said lotteries for school places would improve poor children’s chances, ‘but as long as there is large variation in school quality, such a policy would be resisted by better-off parents, because some would be forced to send their children to inferior schools’.

Another wide-ranging project from the Sutton Trust is expected to uncover large differences in aspiration and attainment between state comprehensives on the one hand, and independent schools and the 164 remaining selective English grammars on the other.

This week Tory peer and former Downing Street adviser Lord Blackwell is to launch an amendment to Mr Gove’s Education Bill calling for the introduction of academically streamed classes within comprehensive schools.

The centre-Right think-tank Centre for Policy Studies, with which Lord Blackwell has links, is to publish a call for the creation of a grammar school for every town.

Lord Blackwell said yesterday: ‘Since grammar schools were abolished in many parts of the country – and direct grant schools driven into the private sector – many children have had no access to high quality schools catering for the needs of the brightest children.

‘If they happen to live in an area where there is a good comprehensive they can still get a good education that will get them to the top universities, but often those schools are in more affluent areas where house prices are high. In effect we have selection by postcode.’


Negligent Australian public school: Kid left behind in fast food store restroom

A MOTHER is outraged her son, five, was forced to walk to his grandparents' house unsupervised. It came after he was left behind during an after-hours school excursion.

She said her son, now six, was distraught when he came out of the Hungry Jack's Hawthorn store's toilet after an excursion to Mitcham Cinema last month, only to find other Eden Hills Primary School students and their supervisors had left.

Her son then walked across several roads, as well a railway line, to get to his grandparents' house. "He cried all the way there, he said he felt as though he was not important enough to be remembered," the mother said. "It is a failure of duty of care. They should have had one carer for every eight children but they had just two qualified supervisors for 27 kids."

The boy's father said his son has been suffering from restless sleep and often wakes up in the night calling out for his parents to quell fears he may have been abandoned.

The child's mother said she would be removing him from the school at the end of this week. "We cannot entrust the school to adequately care for our children. It was a crisis situation, he was unsupervised while in the toilet for starters," the mother said.

She said she was horrified to be told of the incident by her mother-in-law, rather than the school supervisor responsible for her son's welfare. "It was just lucky it was him (her son) because he knew the area and where his grandparents' house was," she said. "If it was another student, who knows what would have happened."

In an email sent to the boy's mother, the school admitted "safety standards were not met" and the incident had been reported to Education Minister Jay Weatherill.

The boy's mother, who said the school had failed to adequately discipline the supervisor involved, had also written a letter to Mr Weatherill complaining about the incident.

Department of Education and Children's Services deputy chief executive Jan Andrews said the school and its OSHC unit had apologised to the boy's parents. "When a student count identified that the boy was missing, a staff member immediately ran back to Hungry Jack's to search for him," she said. "Police were called and the child's parent was contacted.

"The school and the OSHC unit acknowledge that the incident should not have occurred, has apologised to the student and family and offered ongoing support." She confirmed DECS were reviewing the circumstances of the incident, including student-staff ratios on the day.


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