Bill O'Reilly in the Spin Zone

Bill O'Reilly, host of the O'Reilly Factor show on Fox Network, describes his show as the "no spin zone." Guests on the show don't get much slack to slant their cause or issue in the most favorable light. Most of the time, Mr. O'Reilly confronts them in mid sentence. However, way back in February, Mr. O'Reilly had Kevin Jennings of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Educators Network (GLSEN) on his show. Mr. Jennings was touting his organization's high school curriculum on gay marriage. Not only did Mr. Jennings engage in spin, he did so under the watching eyes of the one who presides over the no-spin zone, Mr. O'Reilly himself.

Let's set the stage: Here is a portion of Mr. Jennings description of the same sex marriage curriculum: "our curriculum is designed to give them (students) a fair and balanced set of resources concerning gay marriage, everything from position papers provided by the Catholic Church to position papers by the people who argue..." At this point, Mr. O'Reilly cut him off and asked: "So you give them both sides in this?" To which Mr. Jennings replied, "Absolutely."

And that was pretty much Mr. O'Reilly's challenge to Mr. Jennings. Mr. O'Reilly must not have read the curriculum because it does anything but give both sides. As I found out when read it, a reference to the official position of the Catholic Church is the only dissenting resource about same-sex marriage in the entire curriculum. In short, the curriculum is spin.

Geared to high school students, I found instances where the curriculum suggested direct advocacy of same sex marriage with students who disclose a moral objection to it. For instance, the curriculum urges teachers to "help students to move past preoccupations with the "rightness" or "wrongness" of same-sex coupling or homosexuality in general. Place the debate over marriage within the context of human rights, thereby expanding the dialogue beyond the realm of morality" (p. 6). Today's lesson: morality doesn't matter.

The curriculum did not present both sides of the issue. No Internet resources are offered that take an opposing view of same sex marriage, whereas 8 are listed for organizations that actively work for same sex marriage. Students are urged in one lesson to consult the website of the Freedom to Marry Coalition, a pro-same sex marriage website to follow the events in Massachusetts. No corresponding source of news or commentary is offered from the other side of the issue. These examples of bias form the tip of the iceberg. In no way does this curriculum encourage an examination of both sides. A better title for this document would be "How to Advocate for Same Sex Marriage in the Schools: A Teacher's Guide."

So what is the point of exposing this issue? As same sex marriage becomes more of a possibility, then the likelihood of school children being "educated" by means of such "two-sided" material is great. However, if this curriculum is implemented, schools will be saying in essence that moral views of behavior are irrelevant in matters of public debate and policy. Students will also be told that there is only one fair position concerning same sex marriage and that those who oppose it are like the bigots who once opposed civil rights and interracial marriage. Is such indoctrination the proper role of education?

Another way of asking this question is: Shouldn't schools be in the no-spin zone?