I'm not a "union wonk." I have never wonked in my life! My personal feelings about political platforms (anti-this, pro-that) stay at home when I'm teaching. The most my students know about me? I am a church-going Christian and yes, I wish fewer people acted like morons and more people used common sense.
Maybe that's what's missing from both political platforms. The fourth leg to hold them upright. Common sense. Is that why students see adults screwing up their future? Because common sense keeps sliding off the platform?
Take common sense out of the equation, and you get Kern High School District trustee Ken Mettler's proposal to discourage schools from having Harvey Milk Day celebrations on May 22, and presumably substituting a proposed Ronald Reagan Day. Perhaps his fear of California cramming the gay agenda down children's throats, to paraphrase trustee Chad Vegas, might be his motivation. One never knows.
What we do know is this: Mettler's proposal is moronic. Notice, I didn't say he is a moron, or an idiot. Don't put words in my mouth. No one with his level of social influence and political power can be an idiot. So I won't say he's an idiot. But this proposal? No common sense there.
So let's help Mettler discover common sense.
I'm sure his desire to do away with Milk Day and celebrate Reagan has nothing to do with his run for state Assembly. Attaching himself to Reagan while denouncing gays is for the school children's benefit, right? Right. And I'm sure this isn't a meaningless publicity stunt in an election year in order to get his name in the paper.
Well, there is something that's not meaningless: your children. They should matter to you, because they don't seem to matter to Mettler. He says it's the parents he stands up for. Really? OK, let's see.
We teach your kids to draw inferences about a text. One inference that can be drawn from Mettler's proposal is that Bakersfield is hostile towards gay students and treats them unequally in favor of those who celebrate Reagan.
Reagan. A man under whom rises in unemployment, inflation, homelessness and AIDS discrimination were all seen at unprecedented levels. As California's governor, he oversaw the largest tax increase in state history. As president, he just about doubled the size of the federal government. Is that the kind of conservative you're going to be, Assemblyman Mettler?
In other words, Mettler's proposal says to your kids that celebrating equality is wrong. And you are not equal. But celebrating a president who expanded government and raised taxes, that's a good thing. And he believes "the parents of Kern County" agree with him. I'm a parent in Kern County, and I don't.
Are you willing to look your child in the eye and tell him he doesn't matter? That his friends don't count? That this town is hostile towards them? Yeah, maybe you are. But I'm not. And trust me, they all have gay friends or know gay students.
Well, that's the inference kids are drawing from this proposal. If Mettler were saying this to me, that's fine. The Whitney Weddells of the world can cope just fine. But saying it to a teenager, still questioning where they fit in, and how they fit in? No common sense. Do kids have the coping skills to deal with that kind of overt separatism, which is now added on top of all the other challenges they have in school? Good luck with that.
OK, let me make my own proposal. How about we use a little common sense? How about we tell our students they do matter, they are important and that we celebrate who they are? That they too can be fiscally conservative? How about just being nice to them?
I've heard it said that being a gay teenager in Bakersfield today is about as difficult as being a black woman in Georgia in 1913. I wish that weren't true. I can wish. Can't I?
David Lollar is an English teacher at East Bakersfield High School.