Teacher and Parent Reactions to LGBTQ Issues and History in K-12 Curriculum

What do you think of the new law that requires contributions of the lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, queer and disabled communities to be mentioned in history books.

A slew of teachers and some parents have made vocal their opinions concerning a new state law that requires districts statewide to incorporate the contributions of the gay community and the disabled into history curriculums following an last week.

The law, which applies to classes from kindergarten through high school and will go into effect Jan. 1. does not require new textbooks be reprinted to meet the requirement for several years; and how the requirement is implemented will be up to individual school districts and classrooms.

Superintendent Robert Haley has said the district is aware of the law and is awaiting direction from the state on how and when to implement it.

"We believe in a balanced approach to all of our teaching," he offered. "Everybody has something to contribute in society."

SB 48, authored by Senator Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in July. Dubbed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful Education Act, the new law "amends the education code to include social sciences instruction on the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." The law would also prevent any discriminatory instruction or materials from being used by the State Board of Education. 

"I think it is a wonderful, and necessary, idea!" said Laura Martin Taylor in a Facebook group where we asked teachers, parents and community members what they thought. "Any group that is left out of societies history doesn't allow a "rounded out" perspective and essentially eliminates imporant historical information! Also, kids who are LGBTQ, or who are being raised in familes with members who are LGBTQ, deserve to know those important pieces of history! They need role models too!"

"As an openly gay man/teacher I have been including LGBTQ people in my conversations with classes at the elementry level since I started teaching 13 years ago," said Mark Galipeau, a teacher at John Reed Elementary in Rohnert Park.

"We, as teachers, must take the lead," Galipeau added. "Yet it is still a hard transition for some. Every school should have a face to connect and stand forth to help others be able to have these discussions."

"Any honest inquiry into our past as a still very young nation, should include the struggles of all groups to achieve the equality promised in our constitution," said Debra Amaral, another commenter.

Diann Johnson posited the question:

"Isn't teaching based in ... I don't know ... teaching? Isn't all of it valuable? Many parts of our history involve gays and lesbians. Teach it. Why shy away from it?"

Sandy Murphey August 17, 2011 at 01:32 PM
As an adult, I've discovered many important people have been left out of the history that I studied as a child. I'm glad for programs such as the History Channel, where I've been able to learn facts that were deliberately left out. This comes back to "power and control" over the masses. When things are left out of factual information, it's because of "fear" of the consequences of people knowing the truth. Consider what the fears might be in this case. I'm sure it will become obvious as we read the "reactions" of fearful parents and teachers.
Jacques August 17, 2011 at 02:29 PM
We as grandparents wonder why it matters why a person's sexual choices matter when it comes to historical significance? If Bob and Phil raised famous Anne, then simply mention that relevance in the article if appropriate. The focus should be on the historical accomplishment, not the sexual orientation. In my opinion, the mere mention of the word "queer" in your article is derogatory and will automatically raise negative comments.
Angie August 17, 2011 at 03:01 PM
I don't see how being LGBTQ has to do with anything in history or science except in its specific movements and law changes. If they've made an historical contribution NOT due to their sexual orientation, then teach about what they've done in history. After all, in learning about other history-making individuals,I don't recall ever hearing details about how they were specifically heterosexual. Sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with contributions made in history UNLESS it changed laws and/or was specifically because of their sexual preferences. If we're going to point out the LGBTQ's, then heterosexuals should also be pointed out to keep the balance. . . if that is, in fact, what the point is: balance. LGBTQ parents most likely (or should have) already educated their children on it and if we're going to be teaching about history, then include mentioning they are hetero's - but why would it be necessary to even do that? Why is it important to learn about Thomas Jefferson and then also learn about what a womanizer he was? What does that have to do with anything? Same goes for the other side of that fence. Aside from the LGBTQ movement, which they should definitely learn about, why would it be important to learn about Teddy R and then learn how he liked to dress in woman's clothes? Or how Hitler had a male lover? They didn't make history because of their sexual orientation. How that helps a history lesson - I just don't get it.
Gerard August 17, 2011 at 03:14 PM
History or "his story" should be exactley that an account of what has occured in our journey as human biengs, it should not have any slants, omissions or twists other than that......of course I am laughing and was just reminded of the re-writing of the bible at the first council of Trent to keep it in line with church dogma........
Angela Hart August 17, 2011 at 04:24 PM
@Jacques, it is teaching LGBTQ history/politics/movement as a civil rights issue that is being undertaken by the state. The curriculum will reflect contributions to society by the LGBTQ community. That is not to say that the schools are teaching sexual identity. Also, addressing your question about using the word queer, it is a widely-accepted term to include those in in the gay community who do not solely identify with one gender or sexual identity.
anthony wharmby August 17, 2011 at 05:30 PM
The use of sexual identiy in historical contexts to some might seem as if a class might go along the lines of : "this is king Z. he was gay. so he went to war with country F" This is not what will occur. It is a well known fact that the human element that exists within historical studies does greatly affect the outcome. Elizabeth I of england's stream of lovers resulted in ministers being replaced, policies being changed and people being executed partly because of the influence of those lovers. By being aware of a persons sexual orientations; gay straight lesbian etc, it allows us as historians to better understand the psychological drive behind the events of history. Causes of events are often due to multiply and varying reasons, this new law simply means we are taught one more tiny possible reason, is that such a crime? Or does it not make us far better historians?
Paul Lawson August 17, 2011 at 06:20 PM
I love history. It is our story, as told by us. History books can be written and edited by beliefs and opinions. We are kidding ourselves if honestly believe the story taught by our teachers is the same, cookie cutter version in every classroom across the state, or this country. Each educator relays history in their own way, as it should be. However, often the truth is clouded by political view or "the semi truths the government wants us to know" -- In my opinion! ( ie. The Lincoln assaination, was it really "just some actor"? Or a larger plot?) Or the publisher of the history text in use. History is history, and history is made by actions and decisions. If those decisions were made BECAUSE of the sexual orientations of that figure, then mention it. If it is not relevant, then why mention it? Our country was forged on the sexual prowess of brave female spies who traded their values for British secrets that ultimately changed the course of American history. Is that detail mentioned in history books? Not often! Bottom line for me is if the action of the historical figure were a result of their sexual orientation, then mention it. Otherwise... how is it relevant?
anthony wharmby August 17, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Who is to say what is relevant!? Teach children to make there own decisions and give them all available information so that they can come to the full rounded conclusion. If you begin withholding information because you do not think it relevant then that in itself is controlling and manipulating history be it for political reasons or otherwise


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