Blogging the string in the labyrinth of Crete

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Gender discrimination in schools

The California Education Committee has filed a complaint calling for declaratory judgment over California's planned change of language in their school antidiscrimination code. In particular, the rephrased statute replaces "sex" with "gender", and include "sexual orientation" to the list of topics against which teachers cannot discriminate. Gender is not only the physical sex of the person, but also how the person self-identifies and behaves.

Many of the arguments raised in the complaint are fairly poor. The complaint makes a lot of the teachers having to "have foreknowledge of the private mental impressions, thoughts, and disabilities of each person withwhom the educational institution comes into contact." The claim here is that one might unknowingly discriminate.

This line of reasoning falls apart in the face of the other, unchallenged categories for which it is unlawful to discriminate -- ethnic group identification, race, national origin, and religion among them -- which are invisible but which educators routinely refrain from discriminating against.

The practical argument has to do with restrooms and lockers. The plaintiffs are convinced the change in wording will allow all the boys to go into the girls' restrooms just by claiming transgendered status, and that this will constitute a violation of privacy and safety under California's constitution. I don't know that this is necessarily what the change in language intended, but the transgendered community makes their feelings well enough known that it seems it should have been contemplated as a possibility.

Somehow, it seems somewhat dubious that there would be a huge rush of typical juvenile boys identifying themselves as transgendered just to get these privileges. The social stigma is pretty high just for a chance to sit on the same toilet seat as a girl, or even the potential of changing in the same locker room as a girl (and thereby what? Maybe seeing a girl change briefly? In my high school, we never removed our underwear in the locker rooms). Though a lot of blogs fret over the possibility, I suspect nearly all of those who self-identify as transgendered do indeed have gender identity issues.

The plaintiffs cite the California constitution's promise of safety and privacy to support their claim that the change in wording is unconstitional. I have very little doubt the privacy clause in the California constitution was intended to limit government agents from invading privacy, not to place a duty on the government to keep residents from invading each other's privacy and/or safety. After all, if a transgendered person could invade someone's privacy, why couldn't a person of the same gender identity? If safety and privacy are that much of an issue, why aren't they pushing for everyone to have individually lockable private bathrooms?

The plaintiffs are probably right that requiring allowing transgendered individuals into the bathroom they identify with is a break from tradition, and therefore cultural expectations. However, it is a legislative change of culture, not a judicial one. The legislature is permitted, indeed intended, to make such changes. When the courts do it they are frequently criticized for judicial activism, even though many lauded freedoms were won only through the court's interpretations.

The Advocates of Faith and Freedom don't put their real reasoning into the complaint at all, but it is available on their website.

Senate Bill 777 and Assembly Bill 14 are radical threats to religious liberty. They attempt to eliminate your right to exercise your faith in everyday life by telling you that all forms of discrimination are illegal.
Yes, what they really want to argue is that discrimination based on gender identity or orientation is a religious right. Never mind that the bills apply specifically to educators in performing their government duties, something some of the religious refuse to wrap their heads around. This complaint isn't about privacy at all: it's about preserving the right to vilify homosexuals or prevent the status of being homosexual from being "normalized". The religious have been fighting -- and losing -- this battle for years.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Crypticlife,

Have you gotten no comments on this yet or are you just eliminating all who oppose?


10:33 AM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

I've gotten no comments. I do not censor for opposition.

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Crypticlife,

By your own description (Atheist) you reveal your own discriminatory bias and foundation of thought process. I would also hazard to guess that you are not a parent. Every sound minded parent has built within them paternal instinct to protect their own flesh and blood and there is likely no stronger force in the bonds of relationship. This bond of love, parental love, I sincerely hope is not foreign to you. However, I fear that it is otherwise you would be able to reason and empathize with those of us who seek to raise up children to become healthy and productive individuals. I am at a loss why so many like you so easily degrade mothers and fathers for their desire to unconditionally love, nurture and protect their children.

Perhaps this bond of love is foreign to you. When I say 'love' I refer to unconditional love, what parental love is at it’s best (unfortunately easier said than demonstrated). This is love that is self-sacrificing, not self-centered, not self-ish. Now, am I always unconditionally loving to my children? No, it is a struggle sometimes, but all I do and work towards is for them, to lay a foundation of solid ethical and moral fiber.

Getting to the law your 'blog' about. The law you refer to (SB777) has no place in our education system. Education (children's education) is for the development of the fundamentals of reading, writing and arithmetic, NOT a platform for contentious cultural issues. Education does not exist to develope a child's moral and ethical fiber! That is the parental responsibility and obligation. If the person (he and/or she) is not willing to accept this responsibility, they should strongly consider not having children in the first place. Refusing or deflecting this responsibility (say to public education) is self-ishness. Purely and simply, selfishness is the opposite of love.

Without wax,

Sean T

2:15 PM  
Blogger CrypticLife said...

Thank you, Sean;

"By your own description (Atheist) you reveal your own discriminatory bias and foundation of thought process."

Nothing about atheism requires positive views towards homosexuality. You'd likely be quite surprised at what a description of "atheist" does not reveal. I'm also a bit perplexed by your characterization of my post as "degrad[ing]" to mothers and fathers. Can you explain at all how I've done this?

"I would also hazard to guess that you are not a parent."

Wow, I'm surprised you would hazard that guess. A fair number of my posts are about my kids. I agree with you on protecting children. But, what exactly are you protecting them from? If it's from someone of the opposite gender from being in the bathroom with them, you'll agree that's a cultural norm -- that it could differ in other cultures, correct?

My biggest problem with this isn't opposition to the law itself. As I mention, it is a cultural change, and some laws are somewhat arbitrary enforcement of culture. These things should be decided by the legislature, and the correct opposition should be political opposition, not litigative opposition.

I'm not sure where you see that this law creates a platform in public schools. At best, it prohibits teachers expressing a specifically anti-x-sexual viewpoint (technically, prohibits anti-homo and anti-heterosexual views). I don't really think a lot of teachers are discussing those types of things all that often anyway, but without this law they could.

I agree with you that moral and ethical education is largely the parent's responsibility. I think there will unavoidably be some of that in schools incidentally anyway (teachers need to enforce teachings such as prohibitions against stealing, bullying, and lying, for example). This law doesn't require teachers to preach equivalence; it requires they not preach bias.

Thank you very much for the comment.

8:27 AM  

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