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Education Reporting, Proposition 8 and Bay Area News Group’s Erotic Family Values

For those of you who don’t live in California or have been under a rock for the last 6 months, Proposition 8 is a proposal to amend the California Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and recognize only marriages between one man and one woman. Voting ‘Yes’ on Proposition 8 would effectively ban gay marriage; a “No” vote would allow it.

Again, this is an education site – the issue here isn’t for or against Prop 8. The issue is a cup of education reporting, a dollop of honesty and a sprinkle of irony. Stay with me here, you lewd and lascivious types. It gets saucy at the end. [Note: "NSFW" = a link is "not safe for work."]

In “If Gay Marriage is Allowed, Will Schools Promote It?” NPR looked at the ad campaigns on both sides. In one popular television spot [YouTube link] features:

“…a young girl who brings home a book called King & King.

“Mom, guess what I learned in school today,” she says in the ad. “I learned how a prince married a prince, and I can marry a princess!”

The ad was based on the real-life story of Robin and Robb Wirthlin, a Mormon couple living in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. Two years ago, their son’s second-grade teacher read King & King to the class.”

Some say the ad is baseless fearmongering; others say it reflects the everyday reality of a legal redefinition of a societal norm.

In “Schools dragged into marriage debate,” Katy Murphy of The Education Report, a blog about Oakland’s schools, wrote:

“Whether you’re a campaign hack or just selling a home alarm system (or tires, or antidepressants, or disinfectant), scare tactics can really come in handy. And there’s probably no easier way to freak people out than to make them think their kids will be in harm’s way if they don’t vote a certain way or buy a certain product.”

One need not commit one’s life to textual exegesis to understand Murphy’s implication: supporters of Prop 8 are dishonest fearmongers [as are tire salesmen and those profit-hungry doctors, too?]. There are certainly over-the-top campaigners on Prop 8; Murphy, however, neglects to point out that those types are on both sides. Murphy cites the NPR article:

“National Public Radio did a story yesterday about how education has become swept up in the California campaign for Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban.”

Murphy is disingenuous once more. Education hasn’t “become swept up” in the Prop 8 debate; education is helping to push the broom – to the tune of $1.25 million from the California Teachers Association.

… and that was it. No mention of the Wirthlins’ MA case – despite it being explained clearly in the NPR piece to which she links – or any of a number of uncomfortable challenges that have either popped up already or surely will in the future. Murphy would like you to believe that the ad is a scare tactic based on irrational, hateful fundamentalism. She links to the YouTube response:

“Here’s the TV ad that prompted the story, followed by a response from State Superintendent Jack O’Connell.”

The ad is more than just a “response from State Superintendent Jack O’Connell.” It’s not a public service announcement by a state official; it’s a paid political advertisement produced and purchased by No On 8, Equality for All.

They write about the ‘scare tactics’ on their sister sites, too.

But what of O’Connell’s claims? Back to the NPR article:

“O’Connell says if Proposition 8 is defeated, that will have no bearing on the state’s education code. “There is no requirement, no mandate for any school in the state of California to have this [gay marriage] required as a course.”"

Very true, Superintendent O’Connell – though no one mentioned your straw man of “a course” being taught about gay marriage. One can assume safely that legislative decisions about society make their way into most classrooms implicitly or out of necessity. Consider that schools don’t have “a course” explaining how stealing private property is illegal, but it’s a lesson of our society, supported by law, that frequently pops up in schools. It will be no different [nor should it be, if Prop 8 is defeated] with a state’s legal ruling on marriage.

Murphy, seemingly horrified at any assertion for Prop 8, concludes:

“Do you think Prop. 8’s defeat — or passage — would have any real impact on education in California?”

Murphy could have peeped at her own website if she wanted to understand the concern some have when education and family values collide. When I accessed Murphy’s article, the right sidebar advertisement – just below that shiny, traditional apple-on-the-desk – was for Perry Mann’s 29th Annual Exotic Erotic Ball. Here’s a screenshot [click here for full-sized version]:

In case you haven’t attended, the Exotic Erotic Ball is “A Celebration of Flesh, Fetish and Fantasy,” and billed as “The World’s #1 Wildest, Sexiest Party.” You can view a generously tame [but still NSFW] photo gallery of the 2007 event here. OvaHere.com has a less-artistic, more realistic dump of [NSFW, either] photos from 2006′s Ball.

But this isn’t about Exotic Erotic Balls-past, it’s about what you get when you click an ad on The Education Report – for example, an ad on a disingenuous post about schools and values:

  • Pricasso, the Penis Painter
  • A dog with a sex toy in its mouth
  • Dozens of barely-censored photos

Click the link and add to the list yourself.

Reading about public education on a news site [Bay Area News Group] and one click later you’re staring at a dog chewing on a dildo.

Ms. Murphy, you let me know if you  or anyone at the Bay Area News Group  would like to have a conversation about why some parents are worried about what their children encounter in even the most benign arenas.

17 Responses to “Education Reporting, Proposition 8 and Bay Area News Group’s Erotic Family Values”

  1. OK, take a deep breath and repeat after me:

    There’s nothing wrong with being gay.
    There’s nothing wrong with gay marriage.
    There’s nothing wrong with teaching children about gay marriage.

    There – I knew you could do it. The rest is smokescreen for a campaign of hate against gays and lesbians. Don’t be dragged under.

  2. Stephen,

    Your implications that I find “something wrong with being gay” are offensive. This post mentions nothing about how I process the issues of homosexuality, homosexual marriage, or specifically Prop 8 – and I consider your comment an attempt to malign my character.

  3. Jared Stein says:

    Wow, after your well-documented and pretty neutral post I’m pretty surprised to see how shallow Mr. Downes’s reply was. I know this may sound paranoid…

    but based on responses here and on Twitter….

    …I think some people are actually looking for reasons to disagree with you.

  4. If you pray, you’ll know the truth: Jesus says Vote NO!. Why don’t you try it?

  5. ms_teacher says:

    As an educator, I’m offended that education is being pulled into this debate. The reason for CTA’s endorsement for Prop 8 has to do with protecting children at school. In my school, we have had more than one student leave due to harassment because of their classmates perceive them to be gay. I also know of at least one colleague who was forced by parents to leave the school due to constant harassment over his homosexuality. The reason they knew that he was gay? He helped counsel a student who was contemplating committing suicide because he was gay.

    Finally, when you look at my curriculum, there is no place for teaching specifically about gay marriage. However, I do teach acceptance for those who are perceived to be different. I take offense when my students use the word “retard,” “fag,” “nigger,” etc., towards each other. If you want to call that teaching about gay marriage, that’s not my problem.

  6. Technical question. If they are running google ads, might it be that this ad was completely random?
    I discovered this on Miguel Guhlin’s blog.
    http://mguhlin.blogspot.com/2008/10/google-ads-gone.html

  7. yabby says:

    crickey killa blog i thank you sooo!!! etc, much for commenting my blog im glad you liked reading my blog and for sending me a comment well got to go i have allot of questions to answer thank you again bye!!

    from, yabby

  8. Jared,

    All of Mr. Downes’ replies on this site are shallow. He’ll always be the first to comment, he’ll always misrepresent either the facts or my position, and he’ll never, ever come back to continue the discussion. There’s no less responsible, unhinged mouth-frother in the education blogosphere [on the the topic of politics] than Stephen Downes. I considered my tone neutral, too. It was pretty easy to do since the post wasn’t about voting Yes or No on Proposition 8.

    This is also the second time in about a week that a non-political post of mine has been described by Downes as being related to “hate.” I thought I was a fairly mellow guy, but I might be wrong.

    And after this afternoon on Twitter? Yes, people certainly seem to be eager, don’t they?

  9. Reverend Baytzim,

    I’d consider myself an average student of the Bible – not great, but not terrible, either – and I can’t recall Jesus Christ having weighed in on Proposition 8, nor do I think he’s registered to vote in California.

  10. ms_teacher,

    I’d like to hit a few of your points, so I’ll quote you and then respond.

    “The reason for CTA’s endorsement for Prop 8 has to do with protecting children at school.”

    This is unconvincing, and if any element of it is true, it’s a terrible reason. I understand that the CTA would fund a “No” vote in the interests of some of its members – that I understand in full – but what you’ve described in your school has nothing to do with Proposition 8.

    “In my school, we have had more than one student leave due to harassment because of their classmates perceive them to be gay.”

    We both know that behavior like this isn’t to be tolerated. The district already has rules in place [and the state, and the national government via civil rights clarifications] to which Proposition 8 will add nothing. Your administration is the problem – they should be held accountable for their inability to protect the students from discrimination. This has nothing to do with the definition of marriage.

    “I also know of at least one colleague who was forced by parents to leave the school due to constant harassment over his homosexuality.”

    This is as bad as what you wrote about the students. These employees are protected, esp. since they’re public employees, and have at least one union to fight for them. If they’ve been discriminated against – and this charge is true – they would win whatever case they brought forth, which would guarantee future safety for employees in your district. It’s unfortunate that we have to continually stand up for what should be prevented/guaranteed by existing law, but it is, at times, necessary. Again, your district administration and Board of Education are responsible, as well as the State Ed. Dept. if they have ignored or mishandled remedy requests.

    What you’ve described has nothing to do with Proposition 8.

    “Finally, when you look at my curriculum, there is no place for teaching specifically about gay marriage.”

    There won’t be an explicit place or course to ‘teach’ gay marriage in CA schools.

    “However, I do teach acceptance for those who are perceived to be different. I take offense when my students use the word “retard,” “fag,” “nigger,” etc., towards each other. If you want to call that teaching about gay marriage, that’s not my problem.”

    What you’ve described isn’t “teaching about gay marriage,” and I didn’t say that it was. That’s teaching/upholding the civil rights guaranteed to us by law. I’m not about to put up with the offensive straw man you created in that final sentence.

    You’re a self-described “educator” and molder of young minds, though I personally find your argument unconvincing, illogical and wrong-headed. You’re making the case that those who support Proposition 8 are against tolerance, acceptance and [as I've pointed out several times here] basic civil rights.

    But you’re right. That isn’t your problem.

    It’s California’s problem, by and large. If I were your administrator, we’d have a frank chat – you, me and your union rep – about what civil rights are and what civil rights aren’t.

  11. Dean,

    A quick word on Google ads – then The Education Report’s ads.

    I saw Miguel’s post the other day – definitely a concern on most sites. You can set AdSense categories to ‘education’ like his colleague did, but that’s usually not good enough. Advertisers decide what category the ads appear in, so occasionally we get a mismatch… like text for “hot bikini girls” on an education site.

    You can control AdSense over a short bit of time, though. Just takes a while to set the filters, block specific merchants/words, etc.

    As for Bay Area News Group’s ads, they aren’t using Google. The Education Report page uses doubleclick.net for advertising and that performance is tracked using a traffic analysis service. FireBug allowed me to identify the element on the page and look directly at the source code.

    In short, some combination of “busted” and “no excuse.”

  12. ms_teacher says:

    I probably should have stated that the reason I believe that CTA gave money opposing Prop. 8 was due in part in protecting children. You are right, students and teachers are protected under the law from harassment as I described. However, have you been on a middle or high school campus lately? Try to get a kid, especially one who is being intimidated by his or her peers to name their attackers, it’s not going to happen. No one wants to be accused of being a snitch.

    As far as my former colleague goes, the battle wasn’t worth it to him. As a new teacher, he already knew that the District could let him go for any reason within his first two years. As almost any new teacher will tell you, not making any waves is an important criteria in trying to earn tenure.

    Finally, I wasn’t trying to debate this issue with you (so no strawman argument was intended), merely trying to point out from a teacher’s perspective why I think CTA is supporting this issue. Quite frankly, I resent your last comment to me as though I need to be “educated” on civil rights. When television ads are continually played with the implication that if Prop. 8 is defeated that public education will become a hotbed for teaching about the gay life-style, tell me where is the tolerance in that? Where is the acceptance? Funny, an ad just ran from the Yes on Prop. 8 in which they state that Gay Marriage will be taught in California classrooms. These ads are so inflammatory as to be ridiculous.

    I thought long and hard about posting a response, because frankly, I thought your tone was very condescending. We don’t have to agree on this, but nothing in my post attacked what you wrote. It was merely my viewpoint, nothing more.

  13. Cain Hamm says:

    I’ve seen a few postings on LDS blogs that they plan to distribute YES ON 8 literature to kids TOMORROW ON HALLOWEEN. Please see this before voting on Prop 8!

    They claim they want to isolate and insulate kids, and now millions of California kids will be returning home to ask mom and dad about “sodomy” or whatever propaganda the mormons plan to distribute. I’m working on a response to this that I’m hoping I can get to “go viral” tonight. Moms are pretty good about spreading Halloween horror stories via email.

    I’m also amused at how many “YES ON 8″ folks have their Halloween plans on their blogs and webpages. Apparently, glorifying Satan is A-OK, but allowing your neighbors to live in peace even if you disagree with them isn’t. Some “religion!”

  14. Cain,

    This isn’t a place to argue the merits for or against Proposition 8 – I wish that I’d been more clear about that in the post. Feel free to rail on it elsewhere.

  15. Random Reader says:

    I am not from CA–and the issue of what pops up on the web when doing any kind of legit research is one that concerns me. A counselor that I know naively suggested to a teen that one source of info regarding sexuality is the web, and may even have suggested some legit sites. Then she took a look. The reality is that without a super firewall and virus protection set-up the pop-ups and other stuff that come your way can quickly bring your computer down if you look up anything that has to do with, you know, the stuff that young boys want to find out about.

    But the issue of union support for legal gay marriage is one that makes all kinds of sense when you look at the issue from the standpoint of employee benefits–which is their legitimate realm. Some of their members cannot (or would not be able to if Prop 8 passes) access the same benefits as others because their family status would be declared null and void.

  16. ms_teacher,

    Your first comment was irresponsible – the response I gave it is the response it warranted, and that has nothing to do with your stance on the issue. There’s nothing in my post for/against Proposition 8.

    You may resent it, but you still need a crash course on civil rights.

  17. Random Reader,

    I haven’t a clue what your first paragraph is about. I’ll skip it and go to the second one.

    I agree that the CTA has an interest in lobbying for its members. You’ve nailed it when you call it a “legitimate realm.” If the CTA left it at that, or focused chiefly on campaigning for their members, I wouldn’t see any problem at all.

    The reality is that they haven’t stuck within their legitimate realm, and I find that distasteful.

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