11th of 21

[Ed. note, re: post title. I’m supposedly doing a month of photo-only posts, of which this would be the 12th. I slipped.  Again.  And the danged Supreme Court hasn’t even tipped its hand yet.]


Alameda parent Karie Frasch, holding a picture of her family: partner Barbara, daughters Amelia and Charolette. 

I came home from the Alameda School Board meeting close to midnight (I write this in the wee hours), and found my daughter already crawled into our bed, her arm entwined with my beloved’s arm, both their heads inclined in the same direction. In his crib my son looked, as he always does when he sleeps, like he was plucked directly from a 16th century painting of cherubim and seraphim,  hastily clad in 21st century jammies.

As I looked at these people I am giving my life to, and would do so over and over again if given the opportunity, I found it utterly impossible to reconcile the words I heard from opponent after opponent of the Caring Schools Curriculum.  

The “carryover” meeting was scheduled to enable the 100+ people to speak who wanted to but couldn’t at the meeting to consider the curriculum last week.  It began at 6:30pm and ended somewhere deep into the next month, it seemed, and was a microcosm of how this whole LGBT/ family diversity curriculum battle is shaping up around here right now.  Only a more or less civil version of it.  

Sadly, some of the less civil part of the evening came from the curriculum’s supporters, in the way of occasional “boos” and hissing at some of the opposition speakers;  one rather lathered up man popped a spring, and essentially begged to be ejected when he felt the procedures for speakers had been circumvented.  I didn’t hear the man in the devil costume the first week, but this week he was in civilian clothing, and the lathered up chap from the curriculum supporter’s side made a cameo in his role. 

Still, the civility on the the opposition’s part was civil only in the “f#ck you very much” sense.  It’s the Miss CA school of charm: “No offense!  But you’re offensive!” Its version last night: “I think you’re morally objectionable and I wish you’d just disappear, and I’m not really thinking about your kids at all; not in the least! But I’m all for tolerance!”  It’s an incivility that is appalling in its utter simplicity, in its naked unselfconsciousness. 

There’s so much to this, and I want to try to render it in more subtle detail. I hope to soon, but this wee hour is not the one in which to do more than paint a few broad strokes. 

Broadly: at the core seems to me to be an utter, absolute, intractable, final conviction that a people (my people) are simply wrong. Because I can’t figure what else to call it, when it’s something others say they are opposed to, something they just “don’t agree with.”  As if one might somehow disagree with the weather, or or disagree with left-handedness.

Where does this leave our children? You tell me.

At the core — deeper by far than the myriad misunderstandings and misinformation regarding the anti-bias, anti-bullying curriculum already in place, to which this would be a supplement, by request of teachers who wanted some tools to use in their classes where they saw harassment and ignorance taking root — at the core seems to be a conviction that it’s a moral issue.  And I agree that reflecting the family structures and truths of all the kids in a classroom is absolutely an ethical, perhaps even a moral issue.  

But that’s not what opponents seeing as “moral” — what’s moral is sexuality, and heterosexuality is moral, and homosexuality is immoral.  The logical extension is that, therefore, our children, as the children of immoral people, should never see their families referred to in class, and even more, should reference ever be made to their families, other kids’ parents need notice so that they can remove their children from class before such mention is made.  

The spectacular irony of the night was that the more the opposition argued that the subject should be removed from schools — that is, the more they insisted, in so many words, on our public invisibility during our kids’ formative years — the more urgently obvious was the need for that very visibility.  One extremely moving gay dad implored the board, “We are not looking for special treatment. We are trying to exist. I’ve got a thick skin, but my child does not, and I need your help on this.”

I took page upon page of notes, and as of page 24 (it was a small pocket notebook), I just wrote at the bottom: “No. Hope.”

Not “no hope” that we’ll ever move on this; I think we will, somehow, battling every inch of the way.  But at that point — as of page 24, must have been well past 10:00pm — I had no hope that any of the opponents of that curriculum in that room would ever really see us.  I mean really.  See.  Us.


Coda / Action Alert:

Though Pacific Justice Institute founder and president Brad Dacus did not speak tonight — for better or worse, most of the opposition was from one Alameda demographic — he is far from silent on the issue of what’s under consideration in the Alameda schools.  

THIS MORNING he will be debating Groundspark’s Debra Chasnoff (filmmaker of “That’s a Family,” a key part of the curriculum) on conservative talk show The Laura Ingram Show.  THIS MORNING — at 11:15 am Eastern, 9:15 am Central, 8:15 am  Pacific Standard Time.  

Please call in and voice your support of LGBT-inclusive curriculum; though the conflict in Alameda is the jumping-off point, the larger topic is the relevance of this curricula everywhere: if the battle royale hasn’t come to your town yet, it will, and we all need to be all over this.  

The Laura Ingram Show will open up comment to callers from around the country, and (particularly because of its conservative audience) it’s important to have some supportive voices call in.  You can listen live at http://1260.am/programming/listen/ ; the number to call is 800-876-4123.

6 thoughts on “11th of 21”

  1. I so hope the school board has the courage and common sense to support the curriculum. They should not have to weather this storm of irrational reaction, but I just hope and pray they can hold fast to putting the well-being of all children first.

  2. Thanks for writing about this so soon. (I checked first thing this morning!) The image of your little cherub in his jammies was a much needed antidote!

    What really stayed with me after last night was the repeated desire on the part of the opponents that “the government” shouldn’t prevent them from teaching their kids to be as prejudiced as they are. Besides everything else that’s wrong with that, it displays an astounding misunderstanding of the role and value of the PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM in civic life.

    That, and these statements: “I’m not prejudiced, BUT,” and “I’m all for tolerance, BUT” and “I’m being bullied by being called a bigot.”

    I look forward to further analysis from you – that experience was a singular one for me, and I’m not quite sure how to digest it. It’s just sitting like a lump in my gut now.

    • Not that I’d want to stroll directly into the symbolism of the snake in Christian mythology. But it does suggest the relative dimension of the lump I’m working on along with you.

  3. We tried to get there in time…we didn’t make it. I’m sorry we weren’t there to lend a modicum of support.
    We’ve known that the struggle, this very basic struggle, was not going to be easy, and we’re seeing (on what seems to be a daily basis!!) that other states are moving faster and further than our supposed gay mecca. The important thing is that there is forward motion. I see reasons for hope all the time- the next generation – those just-barely and soon-to-be adults are with us; for the most part, they won’t tolerate intolerance. They see gay couples in their schools, have friends with gay parents, know transgendered kids; even in the poorer and usually less forward-thinking areas of our cities. My beloved works at the Walgreens on Foothill Blvd @Fruitvale in east Oakland. Hotbed of progressive thought, right? She sees lesbian couples in droves, some families, and a couple of days ago helped the mother of a lesbian teen with her daughter’s prom pics (she in tux, date in dress). It’s coming. Our little ones have those teens and young adults to pave the way for them. The hatred makes my stomach churn, and the idea of children being subjected to it (which we know they are) is appalling, but I really believe the tide is turning, albeit slowly.
    Sorry to be so long-winded, it’s a weakness of mine. Thank you so very much for this post.

    • I am the king of the long-winded. I invented wind. The long kind. I am a veritable turbine. Thomas Dolby’s song “Windpower” was written about me.

      And thank you, angelina, for the glimmer of optimism. After nights like last night, I could use a double dose of it.

  4. Here’s a very illuminating piece of information about the process, sent to me by the man whom I perhaps indecorously describe above as “lathered up.” Which he was. We may have different emotional styles, but he had some good reason to be lathered. Read his letter to the local press about that night:

    Alameda Journal 5/22/2009

    Democratic process missing at meeting

    Alameda school board president Mike McMahon demonstrated his ineptitude in running a fair and democratic process at Monday evening’s public hearing. I showed up on May 12 to address the board about the Safe Schools curriculum. I could not get into the meeting because of the overflow but, like most people who supported the Safe Schools curriculum, I could not get a speaker’s slip because those opposed to the Safe Schools curriculum had taken handfuls of slips and passed it out to their supporters.

    When the public hearing reconvened on May 18, we were told that no new people could sign up to speak and only those who signed up on the previous Tuesday could speak. Yet, one of the district employees admitted that she gave out large stacks of slips to some people, not one per person. It soon became apparent that there were five anti-curriculum speakers for every pro speaker. When one speaker actually admitted that she had not been present for the first meeting, McMahon simply allowed her to continue speaking. I stood up and said this was neither fair nor democratic because I was at the first meeting and could not speak, yet the speaker, who admitted she was not at the first meeting, was allowed to speak. I stated that the process had been corrupted because some had take handfuls of speakers slips. Rather than addressing the unfair and undemocratic process, McMahon had me ejected from the meeting. That is not a democratic leader but someone unsuited for public office.

    Leland Traiman

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