Conservative cultural commentator and self-proclaimed “cultural crusader on politics and pop culture” Michael Medved graduated from Yale University and Yale law school. So why is he peddling easy-to-disprove lies about California’s LGBT history bill?
In an article he wrote for The Daily Beast entitled, “Gay Education Malpractice,” he says, “California kids may be learning more about the first gay vice president and other obscure figures under a new law that requires an emphasis on gay accomplishments,” and adds “it’s PC run amok.”
Mmmhmm… let’s dismantle some of his disingenuous “arguments”:
First, he spends most of his argument insinuating that kids will now have entire lessons on William Rufus Devane King, the rumored lover of president James Buchanan, focusing on their rumored affair rather than their political contributions. He also thinks that teachers will spend time speculating on whether Abraham Lincoln was actually gay.
Medved obviously has no idea how public school education actually works. History educators and textbook editors will develop the curriculum and these professional do not deal in speculation, rumor, and conjecture—no current history classes do. The purpose of LGBT history is not to “out” old historical figures but to acknowledge the openly, self-identified queer figures who made significant contributions to culture. He is either too ignorant to learn more about the curriculum’s development or too saturated in his own hysteria to actually care.
Second, he also says that Harvey Milk, who “served less than 11 months in his only public position” will be given as much weight as Martin Luther King and that teachers might show kids the “graphic, R-rated gay sex scenes” in Gus Van Sant’s Milk as part of their instruction.
That’s bullshit for two reasons: One, all historical figures are given their relative weight. King served as a pivotal civil rights leader who performed on the national state and did progressive work across the nation too. Milk worked more locally. Though Milk is important, to imply that he will receive as much textbook space as King is ridiculous. Public school classes serve as a jumping off point to these figures and multiple social issues, not exhaustive in-depth classes centered solely on propagating a single point of view.
Two, Medved buys into the right-wing talking point that these lessons will “invade the bedrooms” of historical figures. We don’t discuss sex lives when teaching heterosexual historical figures, so why would we go into Milk or anyone else’s sex life? It’s an absurd, alarmist claim without any proof or merit meant to scare parents into the idea that we’re pushing a sexual agenda to indoctrinate kids into gay sex. He knows that… and it’s a despicable rhetorical move on his part. Any intelligent teacher would only view the parts of Milk that deal directly with Milk’s political legacy. Any public school teacher stupid enough to view any film’s explicit sexual content should be reprimanded and fired, no matter the class.
Lastly, he also asks if these LGBT lessons will include “figures from our past whose life and works reflect poorly on the gay community” asking “should [Roy Cohn] be excluded from class because his witch-hunting ways do nothing to promote gay pride?”
No, not at all. We cover “straight” historical grifters and slaughterers like William Harding, Genghis Khan, and Josef Stalin. So why not Roy Cohn? In fact, we’ve already suggested that Cohn be included in such classes to the extent he is even significant enough to be included.
As a Yale graduate and writer, Medved knows that these shitty arguments hold no water and only serve as red meat to his conservative readers. Actual gay history classes would include the chemical castration inflicted on World War II codebreaker Alan Turing by the very country he saved. They would acknowledge the openly queer cultural greats like Wilde, Tchaikovsky, and Woolf without obsessing over their sex lives. These lessons would make sure students know that LGBT people have existed throughout history, that their contributions are already a part of public educational instruction, and that they have been historically oppressed purely for their sexual identity—the same way any competent educator would cover the oppression of any other persecuted minority.
The sad thing is that Medved is a conservative writer whose radio show is broadcast on 200 stations coast-to-coast with a weekly audience of more than 4.75 million people. So lots of people will lap up his biased, facile drivel as if it’s authoritative proof based on facts rather than fear. As such a popular media figure he knows the responsibility to dispense accurate, sound information to his readership… but he doesn’t take that responsibility seriously in this case.
No wonder film critic David Denby in The New Republic called Medved’s Hollywood vs. America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values “the stupidest book about popular culture that I have read to the end.”
And did we mention that Medved also finds fat women repulsive?