By Brittany Hutson
Over forty years ago, African Americans demanded public school districts and other educational institutions to reform their curriculum in order to reflect the experiences and histories of folks other than white men. Those opposed to the curriculum change argued that inclusion of the civil rights movement and notable black figures would challenge religious values and politicize the curriculum. Nevertheless, in the years that followed, other ethnic groups and women would follow suit and push schools to revise their curriculum to be more reflective of United States history.
These battles over what and whom should be included in public school curricula are far from over; e.g., Texas State Board of Education approves revising textbooks to eliminate the civil rights movement, and Mississippi becomes the first state to implement a civil rights curriculum for grades K through 12. But it appears that public school curricula may undergo an entirely new makeover with the recent news that the state of California is close to becoming the first state to require the teaching of gay history.
According to the Associated Press, the California Senate approved the landmark measure a week ago, but it still needs to get a seal of approval from the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. If the legislation is a success, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be added to the lengthy list of social and ethnic groups that schools must include in social studies lessons. As early as the 2013-2014 school year, the California Board of Education and local school districts would be required to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that would cover the contributions of LGBTs throughout history.
Those who are opposed to the curriculum change, including some churches and conservative groups, believe that homosexuality is being forced upon students. Some also add that how a child learns about homosexuality should be determined in the home by the parents.
Yet advocates believe that the instruction about gays in history would fill “an obvious gap in the state’s existing social studies framework and curb anti-gay stereotypes,” reports the AP.
“Teaching LGBT history in schools would offer all students a valuable lesson in the respect of all human beings and would help to break down stereotypes, bias and bigotry, which is learned at home, at school and in religious environments,” said Douglas Sadownick, Ph.D., founder and director of Antioch University LGBT specialization in clinical psychology.
“California has an amazing opportunity to set the bar high in an area we have previously been challenged—education,” said Michael Kyle, a member of the board of directors for the Gay-Straight Alliance Network. “It is imperative that the youth of today (our leaders of tomorrow) learn a comprehensive version of history.”
This comprehensive view of history would put emphasis on people who are considered leaders throughout history—and that just so happen to be gay, like Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes.
Former teacher Pablo Solomon, though not completely against the idea of incorporating LGBT history, believes implementing such a change in curriculum should be rethought and redirected to a different set of students. “Frankly, it shouldn’t be taught until college,” he said. “The gay and lesbian lifestyles are complex and not really comprehensible by children and even most teens. Many intelligent adults have trouble understanding some of what goes on.”
Solomon added, “while I think it is appropriate to teach tolerance, going as far as doing gay history is just too over the top early in the game.”