California's Book Ban

The California state legislature has passed a book-banning law. Nobody is calling the book ban a book ban because the books the book ban bans offend homosexuals.

If the legislature had extended legislative protection to the hurt feelings of, say, Mormons or evangelical Christians, then everyone would have agreed that it’s a book ban. But it doesn’t, so don’t call the book ban a book ban. You just might get banned, too.

The legislation, awaiting the signature of Governor Jerry Brown, decrees that localities in America’s most populous state “shall not adopt any textbooks or other instructional materials for use in the public schools that contain any matter reflecting adversely upon persons on the basis of…sexual orientation.” The legislation further enjoins school boards to adopt materials that discuss the “role and contributions” of “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.”

And what do “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” believe their “role and contributions” to be?

Playwright Larry Kramer claims that Abraham Lincoln was “a totally gay man.” As he once rationalized to, “So much of the history that is shoveled into the world is bullshit—we really have to invent our own.” Clarence Tripp, whose sexual exploits were constrained neither by taboos about the same sex nor by taboos against different species, came to a similar conclusion about the 16th president in a Simon & Schuster-published book. Paul Russell listed Socrates, St. Augustine, and William Shakespeare as part of his “Gay 100.”

It’s apparently “in” to come out—even several millennia after the fact. But being gay presumably has something to do with liking other gays, not with gays liking you. What evidence is there for the homosexuality of Socrates, St. Augustine, or Lincoln that is half as compelling as the evidence for the homosexuality of everyone who labels them gay?

In literature, some out-there homosexuals also see in-closet homosexuality where the uninitiated don’t. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer? Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway? Prince Hal and Falstaff? Various academics have discovered a sexual element in these literary relationships that has escaped the notice of exactly everybody prior to the 1960s. Were they that ignorant or are we?

One can easily see how California’s interest-group edict could similarly twist biology, health, and other subjects. The law puts feelings before facts.

It’s an invitation to defect from the public schools and a provocation against the captive audience that can neither afford the expense of private schools nor the time to home school. Like religion, teaching morality is better instructed in the home than in the schoolhouse.  

Homosexuals exist. From Alexander the Great to John Maynard Keynes to James Baldwin, gays and lesbians have left an imprint on the world in which we live, discussions of which should be neither outlawed nor mandated. Though this bill represents an aggression against that massive portion of California parents who wish to shield their children from, rather than expose them to, sex, this topic could certainly be discussed intelligently among upperclassmen in a high school.

Too bad this bill isn’t about starting a conversation. It’s about stopping one.

Thirty-three-years ago, an equally harebrained scheme sought to empower California school boards to fire homosexual teachers. Ronald Reagan, despite gearing up for a run for the Republican presidential nomination, offended much of his conservative base by vocally opposing the Briggs Initiative. The ballot measure thankfully lost. Reagan thankfully won the presidency.

Jerry Brown, Reagan’s Golden State gubernatorial successor who again finds himself in Sacramento, today appears in an analogous situation. A special-interest group in his party wishes to curtail freedom in the name of community standards. Banning unpopular books, like firing unpopular teachers, is a bad idea. Whether Brown remains a captive of his party’s special interests, or, like Reagan, transcends them on behalf of freedom, remains to be seen.