At Oakland's Redwood Heights Elementary school, a cute and seemingly harmless lesson on gender diversity has provoked the religious right in to action. The hour-long lesson, part of a requirement that all state schools take on the subjects of gender identity and sexual orientation, used examples from nature to illustrate to fourth and fifth graders that things can be more complicated than just boys versus girls. Unfortunately that's what the Pacific Justice Institute, defenders of your religious freedom to deny what you saw on the National Geographic Channel, have latched on to.
According to Katy Murphy, education reporter for the Contra Costa Times, school administrators invited parents to attend teacher training along with representatives from Gender Spectrum, the nonprofit that created the lesson plan. Although those training sessions happened several weeks ago, the Pacific Justice Institute waited until late last week to send out their incendiary press release, "Oakland Elementary School Teaches Pupils That There Are More Than Two Genders".
Naturally, Fox News and USA Today latched on to the headline and showed up to sit in on yesterday's lesson about the many wonders of the animal kingdom. Although those articles haven't been published yet, the Chronicle explains those reporters learned about tricky gender issues through examples like: a gender-changing clownfish, all-female geckos and "boy snakes that act 'girly.' "
The lesson wasn't something parents could choose to opt their children out of, but school district officials told the Chron only a few kept their kids home from school yesterday. At the end of the day, the lawyers at the Pacific Justice Institute seem to be the only ones acting childish about this:
"People can feel like girls," [Gender Spectrum teacher Joel] Baum said. "They can feel like boys. They can feel like both, and they can feel like neither."
At the end of the lesson, fourth-grader Desmond Pare thought that was no big deal.