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Really Get Back To Basics

January 1, 2012
Mike Myer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

All right, class. Who can tell me the answer to this question? If Susie has two lesbian "mommies" and Sam has two transgender "daddies," how many adults who have contributed to California's glorious history are in the two groups?

It may come to that, if Golden State teachers want to squeeze education into the curriculum at public schools. Basic education may have to be squeezed in to more politically correct lessons.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed into law a bill requiring that public schools include in social studies lessons the contributions of gays, lesbians, transgender people and bisexuals. Controversy over the measure has focused on the moral and social aspects of the law.

That misses a critical point - and before you laugh (or grit your teeth, as the case may be) about the Californians, consider the new law is merely a symptom of a big problem facing schools in every state, including West Virginia and Ohio. It is micro-managing of public school curriculums by politicians.

Think about this: How much time and effort will California teachers have to put into finding ways to work gays, lesbians and the transgendered into history lessons? Heaven help them when they have to do the research to find prominent bisexuals to talk about.

How many classroom hours will the teachers have to devote to so-called LGBT lessons to meet the state law? How many state department of education bureaucrats will be paid to monitor compliance?

Now, let's have a multiplication exercise: How much more time, effort and money goes into meeting California's other laws demanding specific instruction on the contributions of women, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, European-Americans, American Indians, entrepreneurs and organized labor?

Whatever happened to just teaching history? Is there any time left in the school year for that?

Every state has detailed requirements for what public schools must teach. West Virginia and Ohio educators have to keep their eyes on hundreds of specific "learning outcomes." Teachers' lesson plans are reviewed to ensure they comply. Standardized tests check whether students grasp the material.

Most educators hate the system. They have a point.

But, defenders argue, how else can we guarantee our children will be taught the basics? There lies the contradiction that may well be the most serious threat to public education today.

If curriculum laws indeed were limited to the basics, I doubt there would be a problem. They are not, however. In what universe is LGBT information basic?

Instead of passing new laws requiring specific - and idiotic - lessons in schools, why not really get back to the basics? Here in West Virginia and Ohio, legislators could craft a good model for the rest of the country by mandating state departments of education simplify curriculum rules. If it's not truly basic, no matter how many special interests demand it, eliminate it.

That would never happen in California, of course. But here in West Virginia and Ohio, we're better than that.

Myer can be reached at:

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