California shouldn‘t brainwash students
By Dan Walters
California is one of the globe's most complex and diverse societies. And it's fair to expect that as schools teach history, it should include that complexity and diversity.
It's simply a matter of accuracy, just as we would expect accuracy in instruction about mathematics, science or any other academic subject.
It would be outrageous for the Legislature to dictate how schools teach math or science, substituting politics-tinged judgment for that of professional educators and subject experts.
It's equally outrageous for the Legislature to dictate, in great specificity, how schools present California history ― not only decreeing what events should be stressed but also how they are portrayed.
Brainwashing children with politically correct versions of history is something that occurs in oppressive dictatorships.
That's how kids in Cuba and China are instructed. That's not how they should be taught in California, yet that's what the Legislature increasingly decrees.
State law already dictates that children must be taught about men and women, American Indians, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, people with disabilities and others.
Moreover, it bans anything in textbooks or classrooms that "reflects adversely upon persons (sic) because of their race, sex, color, creed, handicap, national origin or ancestry."
Scarcely a legislative session passes without at least one more ethnic group demanding inclusion in the mandated subject list.
The latest effort is Senate Bill 993 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, which would require social science instruction on the "braceros," a long-expired federal program that brought workers into the country, mostly from Mexico, during and after World War II to offset farm labor shortages.
De Leon's measure cleared its first committee hurdle this week, the same day that a bill by Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, to eliminate all social science instruction mandates was killed in committee.
Enough is enough.
How many more societal subgroups will demand special treatment in the state's history instruction?
How many more will the Legislature include?
In a state as diverse as California, there's a bottomless well of ethnic and cultural groups that could seek inclusion not only on the instruction list but in the liturgy of those that must be portrayed only in the most positive terms.
We don't need to brainwash our kids. We need to give them well-rounded, accurate instruction that prepares them for life beyond childhood ― and our poor academic test scores indicate that we're neglecting that important task while filling their minds with feel-good pap.
Dan Walters is a columnist for Sacramento Bee.