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It's Elementary

By Patti Johnson

Should public school teachers in Colorado promote homosexuality in their elementary school classrooms? The teacher training video, “Its Elementary,” assumes that teachers should and portrays how this is being accomplished in schools across the nation. The video was aired by local Channel 12, KBDI, after being rejected by the national Public Broadcasting System as too controversial.

I have viewed the video several times, once before it was edited for television. In the original longer version, the one used in the schools, a child stated that Christians “want to torture them (homosexuals) and stuff like that.” Even without the anti-Christian message, I found the video objectionable from my perspectives as parent and member of the Colorado State Board of Education.

The video begins with a fourth grade teacher probing students attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality, and then proceeding to change them if necessary. The video shows some of the children covering their faces or putting their heads on their desks in embarrassment. They knew instinctively that this discussion did not belong in their classroom. Perhaps they were hearing about this topic for the first time, because their parents were waiting for the appropriate signs of readiness.

Other children showed signs of distress. They were aware of homosexuality, and had been taught that it was deviant behavior. Their teacher, whom they admired, was contradicting the moral teaching of their parents. They were experiencing a confused state referred to by psychiatrists as “cognitive dissonance.” The teacher was insensitive to the discomfort of the children. She was insensitive to the fact that she was intruding upon parental prerogative without permission. How ironic that this values-changing session was supposedly about sensitivity!

The children, eager to please the teacher, responded in the hoped-for and carefully elicited manner by deciding that it was wrong to judge a persons behavior. They concluded that anyone who disapproved of homosexuality is a mean person.

One little boy offered the politically correct opinion, “If youre not very open-minded, its like, um like, you know, like, lets say theres a new kind of vegetable or something, and if youre not very open-minded then you wont try it cuz you dont like to try new things and stuff. If she wasnt open-minded then shed be prejudiced.” What message did the ten-year old glean from this lesson? If children are educated from an early age that its okay to be homosexual, why shouldnt they try this lifestyle for themselves?

The sessions were pure indoctrination. One teacher brought in gay teenagers as guest speakers, with the understanding that young children would view these teens as role models. Another teacher read the book “Ashas Mums ,” (similar to “Heather Has Two Mommies “) and introduced a lesbian couple and their daughter, with the view that such relationships should be celebrated.

Students were told that only a third of children are born to a married man and women. They were told that there are no right or wrong answers (moral relativism). They were told about Elton John and other rock singers and celebrities who are bisexual or homosexual. After all this propaganda, one teacher asked, “To what extent have there been changes in what you think?”

“Its Elementary” justifies beginning in kindergarten with the pro-gay agenda by declaring that teaching this in the home is not working therefore must be taught in the schools. This type of educational arrogance is partially responsible for the exodus of parents from public to private, religious and home schools.

Parents believe, and rightly so, that sensitive and controversial topics, especially those which have a religious and moral component, are the responsibility of the family, not the school. I support parents in this view. Children can and should be taught to respect the rights of others without teachers delving into their beliefs about sexual behaviors. They can be taught common courtesy without values-changing sessions and curricular materials that are inappropriate for their age or which undermine their parents values.

I urge educators to return their focus to academics and electives that comprise a well-rounded scholastic program. That is the distinct and unique mission of the public schools. To the degree that educators take on psycho-social duties that exceed their responsibilities as teachers and intrude upon the domain of the parents, they will sacrifice academic excellence and experience erosion of public support and funding.

Patti Johnson serves on the Colorado State Board of Education, as the representative from the Congressional District. She wrote this article for the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, .

A reply to the above op-ed:

Dear Editor:

I would like to respond to a recent article by Patti Johnson, member of the Colorado State Board of Education.

Let me first say that I am President of the Clear Creek School District RE-1 Board of Education and a new member of the Board of Directors of the Colorado Association of School Boards.

My concerns with the article are several. Ms. Johnson indicated that the film she had seen was a “teacher training video,” but she presents no information about whether this video is actually being used in Colorado and by whom, whether any such programs exist in Colorado school districts, and whether there is any actual curriculum attached to this or if it was the product of some individuals acting on their own or for the benefit of a film crew. This seems like an attempt to rouse public opinion against a hypothetical enemy.

The more significant fallout from such attempts appears in the area of selecting curricula for health and sexuality classes. Clearly, these need to contain information that is both accurate and age-appropriate. I would certainly agree that detailed discussions of sexual behavior of ANY kind with 4th graders is probably not age-appropriate, and issues of sexual orientation at that age might best be involved with things like tolerance and acceptance of individual differences.

Nevertheless, when one disparages the idea that “it’s okay to be homosexual,” as if there is any choice in that matter, and refers to a “pro-gay” agenda, I have to wonder what the real intent is that’s underlying the criticism. That is a pretty clear statement of anti-gay sentiment, in my opinion. Research has presented a clear and growing body of data that supports a genetic basis for sexual orientation. That is not even a question anymore. Saying it’s “not ok” to be homosexual is like saying it’s “not ok” to have green eyes or “not ok” to have a predisposition to high blood pressure — it’s simply the way things are.

As long as there are people who find it an appropriate expression of heterosexual manhood to beat a boy unmercifully and tie him to a fence to die alone, and as long as there are people who consider it an appropriate expression of their religious fervor to picket his funeral with signs that say “Fags die – God laughs” then we are not doing enough as a society or in our institutions of education to create decent, caring adults.

The Jesuits have a saying about education: “Non pro schola — pro vita;” not for school — for life. When school boards around the state are faced with selecting curricula or setting district policies on the types of curricula that will be acceptable in their district, community members who have heard these kinds of unsupported accusations will come out to insult and intimidate board members into adopting inadequate, fear-based curricula which support their “just say no” perspective. It is equally inappropriate for one special interest group with a religious model of what sexuality education should look like to impose that model on ALL children in the district. While explicit discussions of sexual behavior with 4th graders may not be age-appropriate, they are a life and death issue for high schoolers. Where sexuality education is concerned, it is the school’s job to present to students the most current and accurate medical and scientific information available, not to pass judgment on what adults do in their private lives.

As I’m sure Ms. Johnson is well aware, schools would have a lot easier job if they didn’t have to get involved with “psycho-social duties,” but that is simply not the case. Whether these are outside the roles of educators or not is irrelevant — they are expectations of schools by a significant portion of the community, and in some cases, lawmakers as well.

Ms Johnson says ” Parents believe, and rightly so, that sensitive and controversial topics, especially those which have a religious and moral component, are the responsibility of the family, not the school.” Oh really?

Maybe this is true of SOME parents, but if this were universally true no history class would ever have a discussion about things like the moral and societal implications of the Holocaust or the implications of the Sand Creek Massacre, and no literature class would ever examine the idea of demanding “a pound of flesh” as payment for default of a debt, or even the idea of going to the guillotine in someone else’s stead. Do those issues have a “moral component’? You bet! It’s only when we get into issues of sexuality that things get dicey. Schools deal with moral issues all the time. It’s absurd to suggest that they don’t or shouldn’t, because an issue has been raised with which one disagrees.

It is beyond me why some people find ideas so threatening. If your kids have been told something with which you disagree, use that as an opportunity to talk to them. There’s nothing wrong with saying to your child “I disagree and here’s why.” Of course that means one actually has to spend time talking to one’s kids!

I would urge Ms. Johnson to please consider the ramifications of making such inflammatory and un -researched accusations. I would hope that she would take an active role as an educational leader in promoting cooperation and not division among all the players in the process of educating kids. “Non pro schola — pro vita!”

Gaille Robertson

This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles are published for educational purposes only, and the authors speak for themselves. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.

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Copyright 2000