Maryland school board candidate Marta Schaerr had a column in the Washington Post today arguing that she's not a homophobe. Even though I had never heard of her before today, paragraphs like these make me wonder:
The curriculum should leave students free to determine for themselves whether sexual orientation is a matter of heredity, environment, choice or some combination. Allowing students to make that decision for themselves is not "anti-gay." Nor is it "anti-gay" to seek to ensure that all students are given clear information about the health risks of any sexual practices discussed in the curriculum. American teens -- both gay and straight -- are acquiring sexually transmitted diseases in epidemic proportions. If we're going to talk about anal sex in a health class or a condom video, it's irresponsible not to warn students -- especially gay students -- about the medical evidence showing the heightened health risks of anal sex compared with vaginal sex, even with a condom.
No, that doesn't sound like anything a homophobe would say at all. And obviously every student should be free to "make a choice" about what causes various sexual orientations instead of learning the science behind the matter or just avoiding the topic, just as every should be free to choose what 2+2 equals. My kid says it's 7; how dare you deny him that choice.
A quick google found that Schaerr was involved in several right-wing organizations, the most relevant one to education being Maryland's Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum. They filed a lawsuit with PFOX and an endorsement from NARTH arguing that a county's safer sex curriculum violates their freedom of religion and that "the curriculum implies that homosexuality is a biological trait, not a lifestyle choice. It excludes the viewpoints of ex-gays and those who believe that 'same-sex attraction can be overcome.'"
Lots more came up on her, including her work with several other organizations of the "Organization/Board/Citizens for Family/Traditional/Responsible Families/Values/Culture" genre. It didn't take to long to figure out that she was a right-wing crazy who wants to impose her anti-sex views on her fellow citizens. While I'm sure her views on the budget and curriculum (issues she says she wants to focus on) aren't all that great, it seems her biggest interest is controlling high school genitalia.
Anyway, the fact that someone like that exists isn't that interesting. What is interesting is that these people get on school boards all the time and pass rules that make intervening in anti-gay bullying a fire-able offense for teachers, fire teachers for coming out of the closet, or, in other topics, pass a rule forcing schools to teach Creationism. Then the citizens of the town wonder why their schools are so crazy - how could decent teachers and administrators who had to have some sort of education get the idea that they had to take kids back to the Dark Ages? Oh, yeah, being on the school board usually doesn't require any sort of professional qualifications.
Only when schools boards fuck things up in a very public, very obvious manner do most people care about what they're doing, which is unfortunate. Amy Hunter posted earlier today about just that, how we don't give enough attention to smaller, local- and state-level offices until they do something completely inappropriate for their jobs.
If you're voting tomorrow, take a few minutes and look up who's running for school board in your town. Even if you don't have kids in public schools, you're still paying for those schools and they're there to help build a better society, not please the parents of the kids who are actually in the school (because kids just aren't the property of adults who have free reign to do whatever they want to them).
Before the 2006 election, an older friend and I were talking about how she just doesn't know how to vote in local elections so she just leaves them blank if she doesn't know anyone in that office. Since I voted in Washington state in 2004 with a mail-in ballot, it was easy for me to do a little homework and look up the names while I had them in front of me.
I took out my laptop and we looked up on her secretary of state's website who she could vote for and then looked at their campaign pages and it took only several seconds to see that there were huge ideological gulfs between many of the candidates. For example, for the state secretary of education, the Republican's site focused on tougher discipline, merit pay for teachers, and decreasing the amount of money schools use. The Democrat's frontpage mentioned increased foreign language education, early kindergarten in public schools, and smaller class sizes.
My friend is a teacher, and even though she's not well-informed when it comes to politics, it took her only several seconds to decide that the Democrat was better.
People reading this site regularly are probably already more informed than she was at that point. Take a few seconds and learn about these candidates because they're in charge of what the next generation will learn.