Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Cole, March 16, 1995. Interview G-0157. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A woman explains her opposition to curriculum on multiculturalism and sex education in southern schools

Cole explains why she became involved in organized action involving the school board in the Chapel Hill/Carrboro school districts in the late 1980s. At that time, the schools were implementing curriculum aimed at multiculturalism, which included units on homosexuality. Later, what started as activism instigated by a group of loosely organized individuals (who generally shared religious views) became more cohesive when sex education programs were implemented in the early 1990s. According to Cole, students and parents were not given a choice as to whether or not they learned about issues of sexuality and sex education and some of the parents felt that the material covered was not age appropriate. In addition to describing her rationale for getting involved in school issues, Cole explains her views on homosexuality in general, which she states were derived from her religious convictions, her family values, and her background in microbiology.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Cole, March 16, 1995. Interview G-0157. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

so you decided to become involved in the schools -
LOUISE COLE:
No -
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
How did that come about?
LOUISE COLE:
How it came about was we got word actually through someone in our Church that they were instituting, or trying to initiate this multicultural plan which we had nothing against, but then at the last minute they were adding the sexual orientation, and the sexual orientation we also had nothing against as far as, you know, tolerance issue, but that it was not a tolerance document. It was to infuse multiculturalism and celebrate homosexuality and this is what we were against. Not that we had anything against any homosexuals because all six of our children have had homosexual teachers. In fact, Mr. Bruton, who's the English teacher which started all this fiasco with his - essentially they had a girl in his class, that, he wouldn't let her out of the homosexual part of the, you know - course work, and so her parents dropped her out of school. She went to Pittsboro, and we felt that, number one, that's taking away parental rights and choices, and number two, that if they wanted Mr. Bruton to teach this, that it's such a controversial subject that, let the parents and children choose it, not to force it down their throats. And I guess because of the controversy, that is the case now, that that's worded in the multicultural curriculum now. We were successful in getting three people from our group on the multicultural task force - there are 38 members of the task force, 18 of whom were homosexual or lesbian, so they definitely had a loaded stack there, but, you know, multiculturalism is not a problem. But infusing such a choice-oriented lifestyle - and the debate is still going whether it's genetic or whether it's, it's a lifestyle choice - but as a microbiologist and being brought up with people in my family who were alcoholics - and I had an uncle who was a homosexual - I know that genetically you can be predisposed to a particular syndrome or a particular disease, whether it's alcoholism, whether it's gambling, it's crime, whether it's sugar diabetes, or whatever - there's some things that you can't do anything about, like sugar diabetes. But there are things like alcoholism and gambling which are behaviors that you can be genetically and environmentally disposed to them, predisposed to them. But you still have your own choice. You can still choose. There are many children of alcoholic adults who grow up saying I am not going to do that. I'm not even going to take the first drink, because I don't want to end up like my father. There are other children of alcoholic adults who become like their father. Or their mother. Whatever the case may be. So, in my opinion it is a choice matter and homosexuality is a choice lifestyle, and that's why I felt that, since it is in my opinion a choice lifestyle, and it's so controversial, it should not be taught and infused and celebrated in a high school setting. And even the man, oh I think his name was - he was a pastor of a church, or he used to be, he's now going around the country preached against censorship - he even disagreed with Mr. Bruton in the conference and said that homosexuality and the books that Mr. Bruton were promoting were not age-appropriate for 16 and 17 year old youth - that that's not censorship, that's age-appropriateness. Censorship deals with people that have turned 18, they're in the college setting and they can choose what courses they take. Children in high school do not get, and - as the girl was essentially kicked out because she was forced to take something she didn't want to take - that's a high school setting where they are not given any choices. That's not the way to teach. You don't teach by force. You teach by example. You teach by memorization. But you don't teach by forcing.
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
So this, the Church alerted -"
LOUISE COLE:
No, not really, not the Church-
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
I'm just rying to figure out what got you -
LOUISE COLE:
No. We heard - well, we heard about it through another Church member of the Church. But the Church does not get involved, politically.
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
Okay. That's how you heard-
LOUISE COLE:
That's one thing that I do appreciate about the Mormon Church. There are other churches who do get involved politically but our Church - we have, probably most of us are Republican because of our lifestyle and because of our beliefs, but there are also a lot of Democrats in our Church too and our Church tells us to investigate, read, and learn the facts, not opinion, not, you know, what someone tells you. Learn the facts and vote your conscience. Don't take somebody's word for it. And so someone told us about it, so we started going to the [school] board meetings to find out what was going on. We got a copy of the multicultural plan -
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
Now, "we" is you and your husband.
LOUISE COLE:
My husband and I, yes. And then we found that there were a group of parents getting together at the, I think it was the Carrboro Baptist Church, I'm not sure which - again not members of their church but that some of their group were and they were allowed to use the church, you know, for meetings. And so we got started in having meetings and we got a person that was willing to run for the school board- Billy Bevill - and we helped him to run his campaign - many of us helped him, were on his campaign committee and then we just got involved that way. And then after the Multicultural Task Force met, and it took them about 9 months, I guess, to get, you know, everything ironed out, and it was passed, of course. But the more we went to school board meetings, and the more we checked into what was going on with the school system, we found that there were a lot more things, a lot worse problems than infusing this homosexual lifestyle into the community. Of course, you know, distributing condoms, - and again, from the information that we have gathering and the investigations that we have made, we have found, we have found that, um - [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
LOUISE COLE:
[continuing] Anyway, the more investigation that we've done from across the country is that, when sex education was instituted in the school system to try and cut down on the number of unwed mothers, etc, etc, etc, it has done nothing but the reverse. And this is all across the country. This is not just Chapel Hill. But the unwed mother rate has increased, so we're saying, you know, why are you concentrating on this, why is it necessary to pass out condoms in the high school. Why aren't you concentrating on the academics. But of course, the newspaper and the radio are saying that we're bad-mouthing the school board, and we weren't bad-mouthing the school board - although we did poke some fun, because we, at the end of the year, when we found out they had only passed out 6 condoms, and they had gotten something like 3000 condoms from the Orange County Health Department, and 1000 were taken into the school and the other 2000 were left in the trunk of Edwina Zagami, the nurse's, trunk of her car [laughs] . So obviously these were no longer any good. You know, the sheer idiocy of it, to us, was so funny that one of our members got a plastic banana and put a condom on it and sprayed it with gold paint and mounted it and gave the school board a Golden Condom award. They did not appreciate the humor in it, unfortunately. We were just trying to make a jestful, you know, gesture, about this whole thing. It's so ludicrous. But like I said, they did not appreciate it. We also presented them, I guess our two foibles, we also presented them with a Golden Waffle award, for the Lavonda Burnette issue [ref. is to African-American member who was pressured to resign on discovery of inconsistencies in her record]. The more we investigated the real serious crimes of the school board, if you will, have been instigating these outcome-based education programs without properly training the teachers, without the funding, without proper notification and support from parents.