Republican lawmakers and conservative activists in Michigan have removed references to civil rights and “core democratic values” in state standards for social studies classes.
The public may comment on the proposed new standards until the end of the month, and the State Board of Education will review that feedback in August before voting — although no date for that has been set, reported Bridge Magazine.
Some prominent Michigan conservatives, including state Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton), served on a focus group that included no Democratic lawmakers or activists — and they recommended the curriculum should not include lessons on small-D democratic principles.
“Some believed that even using the word ‘democratic’ implied partisan leanings,” said Rebecca Baker-Bush, president of the Michigan Council for the Social Studies. “That was a new one on me.”
Colbeck, who is running for governor, told the magazine he wanted to offer perspective on both sides of difficult political topics.
The focus group proposed the elimination of references to individual minority groups in state standards on civil rights, and recommended teaching high school students “how the expansion of rights for some groups can be viewed as an infringement of rights and freedoms of others.”
Five existing references to the NAACP were cut, leaving only one, as well as both references to LGBT people in sections on civil rights.
References to climate change were cut, and Colbeck insisted in notes sent to state officials that the issue was “not settled science.”
Colbeck also insisted the phrase “core democratic values” was not political neutral enough for students to learn about.
“They had this term in there called ‘core democratic values,’” Colbeck said. “I said, ‘Whatever we come up with has to be politically neutral, and it has to be accurate.’ I said, ‘First of all, core democratic values (is) not politically neutral.’ I’m not proposing core republican values, either.”
The lone reference to the Ku Klux Klan was cut, but Colbeck’s original recommendation called for teachers to instruct students that the racist hate group “was founded as an anti-Republican organization not an anti-black organization,” saying that most southern blacks were members of the GOP at the time.
Colbeck told participants that he got about 10 percent of his proposed recommendations into the document sent on the state officials.
Image via Facebook
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Keir Starmer Spox Repeats Debunked Claim That Kids Are Identifying as Cats
A spokesperson for Keir Starmer, the leader of the United Kingdom’s center-left Labour party, has repeated a debunked claim that students are identifying as cats.
A video posted to social media showed a teacher arguing with a student about gender identity. In the clip, a student at Rye College in East Sussex says “If you have a vagina you’re a girl and if you have penis you’re a boy. That’s it,” but the teacher countered, saying “Cisgender is not necessarily the way to be. You are talking about the fact that cisgender is the norm, that you identify with the sexual organ you were born with, that’s basically what you’re saying, which is really despicable,” according to The Argus, a Brighton-based news outlet.
The video went viral, with the framing that the student had objected to another student identifying as a cat, based on a comment one of the students made in the clip: “How can you identify as a cat when you’re a girl?”
With this framing, it was reported on by right-leaning UK newspapers including the Daily Mail and The Telegraph, but without any investigation into the claims, taking the cat comment at face value. The outlet Schools Week, however, reached out to Rye College, which confirmed that “no children at Rye College identifies as a cat or any other animal.”
When asked about this incident by The Telegraph, a spokesperson for Starmer accepted the story as true.
“It’s clearly ridiculous if you’re in a situation where children are not being recognised as children. I think it’s fairly obvious what the right approach should be in this case,” the unnamed spokesman said. “I think children should be told to identify as children.”
The idea of children identifying as cats was common in the United States last year, with the urban legend being cited by at least 20 Republicans, according to NBC News. The urban legend usually involves schools being forced to provide kitty litter for these students. The claim, ridiculous on its face, was credulously accepted and repeated by politicians, despite no evidence. It was amplified by Joe Rogan in an interview with former Representative Tulsi Gabbard, and, again, taken as truth despite Rogan not providing any verifiable details. The claim has been widely debunked by outlets including—but not limited to—the Associated Press, Reuters, and Education Week.
It appears that the claim has now jumped the pond as the United Kingdom faces its own transphobia problem. This January, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced his government would block a Scottish law that would make it easier for transgender citizens to change their legal gender marker. This week, a leaked video showed Sunak making a transphobic joke, and in April, he wrote an op-ed for the Daily Express supporting a ban of transgender people from single-sex spaces.
“When it comes to women’s spaces, women’s prisons, changing rooms, sports, health, I believe that biological sex really matters,” Sunak wrote. “I know what a woman is – and I’ll protect women’s rights and women’s spaces.”
Sunak and Starmer’s spokesman’s comments follow years of transphobic coverage in the UK media, even from normally left-leaning outlets like The Guardian. Even the country’s state broadcaster was not immune. The BBC published a story originally headlined “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women.” The piece quoted former porn actress Lily Cade. Cade had a history transphobic remarks, including calling for trans women to be lynched. The same article also used a survey from an anti-trans activist group to bolster its claims, even though the survey was not just self-selecting, but had a laughably small sample size of 80 people.
Featured image by Chris McAndrew, used under the Creative Commons license.
‘And Tango Makes Three’ Authors Sue Florida, Say Law Suggests Book ‘Deserved To Be Banned’
The authors of a beloved children’s book about gay penguin parents, And Tango Makes Three, are suing a Florida school board as well as members of the Florida Board of Education. One of the arguments is that the book, based on a true story, is implied to be obscene by the fact that it’s banned.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, the two authors of And Tango Makes Three, along with six children who wish to read the book and their parents. It challenges Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Law, also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The law bans education on sexual orientation and gender identity through the third grade. Many Florida school districts ban students up to that grade from checking out books with LGBTQ themes from school libraries.
The suit alleges is that the law in question is “vague and overbroad,” thus running afoul of the First Amendment. Lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that removing And Tango Makes Three from public school libraries was illegitimate because the libraries do not follow a specific curriculum.
“Books in school libraries are, by nature, optional reading. Even if library shelves constituted curriculum, Lake County had no legitimate pedagogical purpose for barring students’ access to Tango,” the lawsuit reads.
And Tango Makes Three tells the true story of Roy and Silo, male penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City. The penguins were seen performing mating rituals, and had even attempted to hatch a rock. Zookeepers gave the penguins an egg from a different pair of penguins who were unable to hatch it. With Roy and Silo’s help, the egg hatched into a female penguin chick, Tango.
The suit says that the book “contains no obscenity or vulgarity; and it is factually accurate,” and thus it’s appropriate for schoolchildren in the 4- to 8-year-old age range suggested by the publisher. By keeping it out of the hands of children, the school district is violating the First Amendment rights of the authors based on their viewpoint, the suit says.
“By censoring Tango and barring students below the fourth grade from accessing the book in Lake County public school libraries, Defendants have stripped the Authors’ book of an essential aspect of its communicative value. They have also injured the reputation of the Authors and Tango by implicitly and falsely suggesting that the book contains obscene, vulgar, sexual, or age-inappropriate material that deserved to be banned—contrary to the wholesome, positive and family-friendly content of the book—and have thereby deprived the Authors of more of their target audience and speech rights,” the suit continues.
The students are part of the suit because their “right to receive information” has also been infringed, lawyers argue. The six children, identified only by their initials, all wanted to check out the book from their library at the beginning of the school year, but are prohibited by the law. They would check it out, the suit says, if it were available.
Ironically, this is not the only penguin-related lawsuit over the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. In May, the publisher Penguin Random House—no relation to And Tango Makes Three—sued Florida’s Escambia County School District in Pensacola for removing books “based on ideological objections to their contents or disagreement with their messages or themes.”
GOP Lawmaker Wants to Fine Transgender People in North Dakota $1500 if They Use ‘Wrong’ Pronouns
The North Dakota House of Representatives has introduced a bill that would strictly prohibit expanded use of pronouns outside of the gender that the person was assigned at birth.
House Bill 2199 restricts the definition of gender to the “individual’s determined sex at birth” and then requires that all pronoun use be reflective of that same gender. Any violation by anyone who works at an institution that receives state funding, including public schools would be subject to a $1,500 fine.
If gender is challenged, the bill puts the responsibility on the individual to prove their gender.
“Say, they’re a boy, but they come to school and say they’re a girl. As far as that school is concerned in this bill, that person is still a boy. If it becomes contested, the burden will be on the girl, the so-called girl, or the boy, to prove that he is a girl,” said North Dakota State Senator David Clemens while speaking in favor of the bill.
The bill’s sponsor was the only testimony given in support of the bill, as nearly 100 separate forms of testimony was provided against the bill. Even the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee voted to not pass the proposed bill.
“I see no way this law would pass any sort of legal challenge based on basic legal construction principles,” North Dakota Human Rights’ Christina Sambor said in an interview with KFYR-TV of Bismarck. “It is vague, fails to advance any legitimate state interests, and not only would cause impermissible, gender-based discrimination, its very purpose is gender-based discrimination.”
The bill now moves to the Senate floor.
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