During last week's school board meeting, time was reduced and I was unable to share my full remarks to Brooke Ashjian. I hope these may find their way to him and to those who share his beliefs. ~Jol
American hero Helen Keller said,“The highest result of education is tolerance.” Her quote, though universal in nature, seems particularly appropriate in light of recent public comments made by Board president Ashjian.
With 3 toxic sentences, this man has demonstrated without a doubt his unfitness to sit on this board, let alone preside over it.
- First, referring to sex ed he said: “My biggest fear in teaching this ...you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that “
- He also uttered this line: “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian ”
- And finally, his distaste for comprehensive sex education that includes learning about abortion was summarized thusly: “There’s certainly a lot of psychological effects that come from abortion that people need to be aware of. Your life is a lot easier by not doing it. Look at these poor girls who get raped and have to have an abortion. If that’s the way they’ve got to go, God bless them. But think of all the repercussions that come later in life, mental and psychological.”
On Monday Interim superintendent Bob Nelson released a statement on behalf of FUSD that appeared to repudiate his colleague’s statements. “Fresno Unified firmly believes that students and staff perform best in an environment where tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness are practiced and valued,” Mr. Nelson said.
This statement is in perfect alignment with the California education code , which cites the following aims of the California Healthy Youth Act:
“To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender, sexual orientation, relationships, marriage, and family.
To promote understanding of sexuality as a normal part of human development.
To ensure pupils receive integrated, comprehensive, accurate, and unbiased sexual health and HIV prevention instruction and provide educators with clear tools and guidance to accomplish that end, and To provide pupils with the knowledge and skills necessary to have healthy, positive, and safe relationships and behaviors.”
Indeed, we have learned from the disastrous results of suppressing such information and keeping our young people in the dark that knowledge is power and healthy acceptance of the self is a human necessity.
Knowledge allows us human beings to assess risk in an informed way and to make judicious decisions that keep us from harm’s way.
Likewise, healthy attitudes allow us to develop the self-esteem that allows us to thrive in the world, to believe in ourselves, and to respect and care for ourselves, which is a prerequisite of respecting and caring for others.
When, as a society, we fail to arm our kids with the scientific knowledge that they need in order to navigate the perils of this world, we set them up for failure in life. Ignorance leads to bad life choices. Education, which is meant to dispel ignorance, allows us to make the best possible choices.
When we, as a society, fail to instill a positive self image in our children, we set them up for a lifetime of low self-esteem, which leads to every type of antisocial behavior.
In the words of another beloved American icon and survivor of societal discrimination, Ru Paul, “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to share a bit of my personal experience. I grew up in Fresno and have recently returned here after 25 years away.
For years my attitude regarding Fresno was that it was a cultural wasteland that seemed to take delight in smashing anybody who was in any way different from quote-unquote “normal”. I’d hoped things might have changed, that Fresno might have come into step with the rest of the country in its acceptance of the LGBT community, but Mr. Ashjian’s comments the other day came as a disillusioning slap in the face and a reminder that the climate of hate is still burning our city’s most vulnerable people.
In order to become who I am today--a proud member of the LGBTQ etc. community--I had to leave this town, finish my education elsewhere, and live in the world, where I could bear witness to the lives of all sorts of
people and walk in their proverbial shoes. I would hope that no kid growing up here in this day and age should ever have to feel that way, or be made to feel inferior because of their sexuality or gender or any other distinguishing trait that sets them apart from the “norm.” But Mr. Ashjian’s hurtful comments show me we still have a long way to go.
Let me tell you how I know Mr. Ashjian is wrong in his assumption that keeping kids ignorant adds value to an individual’s life or to our society.
Despite 13 years of private Catholic schooling, during which I absorbed more judeo-Christian philosophies than a nun could shake a ruler at; and
despite attending church on a weekly basis with my family from infancy to adulthood; despite receiving all of the church’s sacraments and my own family’s teachings on right and wrong; despite growing up without the Internet or the hundreds of channels of cable television kids today have; despite coming of age during the first horrific appearance of AIDS on the world stage; despite the images of gay men wasting and dying hideous and horrible deaths, and despite the myriad ‘80s televangelists, and teachers, and priests explaining this new plague as God’s judgment on the “gay lifestyle”, despite the Reagan administration’s official silence about the epidemic and unofficial laughter over it; despite my being a high-ranking Boy Scout and even an altar boy, despite having no friends or acquaintances who were gay or trans or queer in any way, my very nature, all by itself, was swaying me to “go that way” that Mr. Ashjian is so afraid of.Read more: Remarks for Brooke Ashjian