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The Perils of Perfection...

by Tom McClintock [politician] 10/25/07

There’s a great commotion among family and religious groups over the governor’s signing of SB 777 by Senator Sheila Kuehl. It is titled the “California Student Civil Rights Act” and purports to guard children from instruction or activities that “promote a discriminatory bias” on the basis of a long list of criteria including religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnicity.

The left is praising it as a major breakthrough for civil rights and the right is condemning it as actively promoting homosexuality. But putting aside arguments over “gay rights” or “the gay agenda,” the law itself introduces a problematic doctrine into the administration of California’s public and private schools.

Tom McClintock

Mr. McClintock is an expert on matters of the State budget and fiscal discipline. He is a Senator in the California State Legislature and ran for Governor in the 2003 recall election. His valuable website is found at http://www.carepublic.com/blog.html[McClintock index]

It is already illegal for the schools to do anything that “reflects adversely” on people based on this long and growing list of criteria. That’s tenuous enough in a free society. Under the current law, a history teacher, for example, is already on very thin ice if he says, “Europeans brought new diseases to North America” or “some American Indian tribes practiced cannibalism” or “many Germans knew about the Holocaust and raised no protest.” These are factual statements, but I’d be very careful about making them when it’s a crime to say anything that might reflect adversely on any group’s nationality or ethnicity.

But this bill goes even farther. Instead of doing things that “adversely reflect” on certain groups, SB 777 makes it illegal for schools to “promote a discriminatory bias” toward those groups. That’s a big difference.

If a high school elects a prom king and queen, this obviously doesn’t “reflect adversely” on homosexual students. But does it “promote a discriminatory bias” to celebrate a heterosexual stereotype at a school dance without also celebrating a gay couple, a lesbian couple and a transgender couple as well? It’s entirely conceivable that a court will say that exclusion is certainly discriminatory.

If a transgender boy feels uncomfortable in the boys’ locker room, this doesn’t “reflect adversely” on his sexual orientation or identity. But does it constitute a discriminatory bias to say that he can’t use the girl’s locker room? It’s certainly possible that a court will say it does.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo or St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t “reflect adversely” on those who are not of Mexican or Irish descent. But is it discriminatory bias to celebrate these days, but not also St. Andrews Day, Bastille Day and Swedish National Day?

These decisions once were made through common sense and community consensus. Now they will be made through minute regulation and endless litigation. As imperfect as the old system may have been, I suspect that we’re going to find it was vastly superior to this brave new world of perfect harmony enforced by the power of the state.

Here’s a suggestion for the groups that opposed this new law: use it. After all, if courts begin ruling that exclusion is indeed a form of discriminatory bias – which is clearly the intent of this bill – there are no groups more excluded or less tolerated in the public schools today than evangelical Christians, orthodox Jews and traditional Catholics. CRO

Excerpted from a speech that was delivered to the Western Conservative Political Action Conference on October 12, 2007 in Newport Beach.







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