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Old 05-09-2011, 09:02 AM   #1
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Teaching LGBT History In Public Schools

By LISA LEFF 04/18/11 12:41 PM ET AP

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- California conservatives were outraged in 1966 when the state Board of Education adopted a new junior high school history textbook. The book's inclusive treatment of the civil rights movement and influential black Americans would indoctrinate students, undermine religious values and politicize the curriculum, they said.

Forty-five years later, gay rights advocates say similar arguments are being advanced to defeat a bill that would make the state the first to require the teaching of gay history in public schools. The California Senate approved the landmark measure last week, but it needs to clear the Democrat-controlled Assembly and Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

Yet the debate about what children should learn about sexual orientation mirrors earlier disputes over whether groups such as 20th Century German immigrants, women, Muslims and Jews would have a place for their heroes and heartbreaks in the history books.

"It's fine to imagine we would have these expert educators deciding what history education should look like, but that's counter-historical in and of itself," said New York University history and education professor Jonathan Zimmerman, who teaches a course in how culture wars play out in schools. "It's citizens groups who want to see themselves in the curriculum and see the curriculum as a rich, symbolic battlefield, which it is."

The legislation now under consideration in California would add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to the lengthy list of social and ethnic groups that schools must include in social studies lessons.

It also would require as soon as the 2013-2014 school year the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other teaching materials that cover the contributions and roles of sexual minorities.

The measure further would prohibit the adoption of any materials that "reflect adversely" on gays or particular religions. School districts would have flexibility in deciding what to include in the lessons and at what grades students would receive them.

Supporters contend that requiring instruction about gays in history would correct an obvious gap in the state's existing social studies framework and curb anti-gay stereotypes that make gay youth vulnerable to bullying and suicide.

California law already requires schools to teach about women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor. The Legislature over the years also has prescribed specific lessons about the Irish potato famine and the Holocaust, among other topics.

"We are conspicuous in our absence. This corrects that," said the bill's openly gay author, Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, of San Francisco. "Should we delete the inclusion of all the groups that are currently in the statute? Why is that OK, not LGBT? That is discriminatory."

Opponents counter that such instruction would further burden an already crowded curriculum and expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable.

Some churches and conservative family groups have encouraged their members to lobby against Leno's bill by saying that it would indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality.

During a hearing before the Senate Education Committee, Robert Evans, pastor of Christ Church in Pleasanton, Calif., questioned how schools would reconcile a twin mandate to use textbooks free of bias toward gay people while fairly representing religions that do not embrace homosexuality.

"How would one responsibly teach concerning a religion that holds a less than favorable view of homosexuality without such instruction, per se, reflecting adversely on that religion?" Evans asked.

Republican Sen. Doug La Malfa, of Butte, appealed to colleagues to defeat the measure, saying it promotes a selective approach to reduce school bullying, although it affects more than gay children.

"This, to me, is the final frontier of advancing this (gay rights) agenda into schools," La Malfa said. "What are we going to take out of the curriculum to get this type of curriculum in? Are we going to take Winston Churchill out?"

Public schools never are far away from gay rights debates.

"And Tango Makes Three," a children's picture book about two male penguins raising an orphan penguin, last week again topped the American Library Association's annual list of most-challenged books.

During the successful campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California, gay marriage opponents' most successful message was warning that schoolchildren would be taught about same-sex couples if they could marry.

The groups fighting Leno's bill also lobbied hard five years ago against a similar measure that was amended to simply disallow textbooks portraying gay people in a negative light. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it as unnecessary.

When new history texts were created for California in the 1980s, a range of groups attacked the series, recalled Gary Nash, director of the UCLA National Center for History in the Schools, who oversaw the effort.

While evangelicals complained the texts did not depict the Founding Fathers as devout Christians, gay rights activists pushed to have Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, John Maynard Keynes and Eleanor Roosevelt acknowledged as one of their own, Nash said.

He thinks California students should be exposed to gay history but not before 11th grade, when they study the social movements of the mid-to-late 20th century.

NYU's Zimmerman has a different concern. He agrees with Leno that adding a gay lens to history could enrich childrens' understanding of the world.

"I am 100 percent for adding gay and lesbian history. It's something everybody should know," he said. "But if you took it seriously, what it would force you to do is to ask really hard questions about how sexuality works in this country, who benefits and who is marginalized. That tells you a whole lot more about history than that Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman were gay."

For all the heat curriculum debates generate, it's not always clear that the changes trickle down to students, especially with teachers under pressure to improve test scores in reading and math, said Henry Der, a former California deputy state schools superintendent.

"As much as we respect a leader like Harvey Milk or Cesar Chavez, ... teachers aren't getting to teaching about the contributions of these individuals," Der said. "It really all comes down to what happens in the classroom and what principals and teachers deem to be important given the amount of time they have."
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Old 05-09-2011, 10:28 AM   #2
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Old 05-09-2011, 12:16 PM   #3
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The difficulty with going back into history is that there is much dispute about what constituted homosexuality a hundred or two hundred years ago -- not to mention the fact that many would not consider themselves gay back then (at least by our current modern understanding), making such discussions speculative at best about who in fact was gay.

It would seem easier -- and, perhaps, more relevant to discussions of history -- to discuss those prominent activists like Harvey Milk who clearly advanced the cause.
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Old 05-09-2011, 01:20 PM   #4
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It's not clear from the article what sort of curriculum changes they're envisioning--covering the gay rights movement? making a point of noting in teaching other periods which figures are known or presumed to have been homosexual? what?

The gay rights movement should absolutely be covered, it's an important part of late-20th-century social history, by any measure.
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Old 05-09-2011, 04:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
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The difficulty with going back into history is that there is much dispute about what constituted homosexuality a hundred or two hundred years ago

It would seem easier -- and, perhaps, more relevant to discussions of history -- to discuss those prominent activists like Harvey Milk who clearly advanced the cause.
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The gay rights movement should absolutely be covered, it's an important part of late-20th-century social history, by any measure.

generally agreed.

i would imagine that Lincoln's likely homosexuality is probably a step too complex for most mainstream American history classes and is probably a subject more suitable for college not because of the subject matter but because it's dealing with highly contested history, and highly contested terms, and an understanding of how one could be gay before there was a "gay" to begin with requires a contextualization of information that's a few steps beyond high school.

figures like Harvey Milk are a no brainer, as well as the voluminous amounts of literature and art produced by the LGBT community, but what do we say about, say, Alexander the Great?

anyway, seems what's most appropriate for high schoolers might be the discussion of homosexual subtext in literature classes -- or music classes, where they could listen to Boy, for example -- and the gay right's movement. as a teenager of the 1990s i don't remember any discussion, at all, of the gay rights movement. it seemed we only ever got to Vietnam and then it was time for finals.

also, those worried about the "acceptance" of homosexuality simply by learning about it's existence should take heart: learning about the Civil Rights movement certainly hasn't eradicated racism.
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Old 05-21-2011, 09:19 AM   #6
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Um..I think they already know that. So can they say some people are straight?

(AP)NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill passed Friday by the Tennessee Senate would forbid public school teachers and students in grades kindergarten through eight from discussing the fact that some people are gay.

Opponents deride the measure as the "don't say gay bill." They say it's unfair to the children of gay parents and could lead to more bullying. Supporters say it is intended to give teachers clear guidance for dealing with younger children on a potentially explosive topic.

The bill isn't likely to be taken up by the House before lawmakers adjourn this spring, but the sponsor there has said he would push it forward in 2012 when the General Assembly comes back for the second year of the session.

Passage would make Tennessee the first state to enact such legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In 2003, Washington defeated a proposal similar to Tennessee's, as did California in 2005 and 2006. A Louisiana law forbids the use of sexually explicit materials depicting homosexuality in sex education classes.

Under the proposal, any instruction or materials at a public elementary or middle school would be limited to age-appropriate lessons about the science of human reproduction.

The legislation was amended from the original version, which said no elementary or middle schools will "provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality." Republican Senate sponsor Stacey Campfield of Knoxville said some of his colleagues were uncomfortable with that language.

"There's more than one way to skin a cat," Campfield said after the vote. "I got what I wanted."

He said the language is appropriate because "homosexuals don't naturally reproduce," and he said it's necessary because the state's curriculum is unclear on what can be taught.

However, a critic said the new wording could create other problems.

Sen. Roy Herron, D- Dresden, said it "may inadvertently prevent the teaching of ethics, morality and abstinence."

Stephen Smith, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Education, also said he's unaware of homosexuality being taught anywhere in the state. He said there is nothing in the state's curriculum standards that allows students to be taught about homosexuality.
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Old 05-21-2011, 12:23 PM   #7
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A Louisiana law forbids the use of sexually explicit materials depicting homosexuality in sex education classes.
Well thank god they passed that law, because everybody knows the only way to learn about homosexuality is to peruse copies of Hot Twink Ass magazine in class.
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Old 05-21-2011, 03:55 PM   #8
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it's amazing how invested people are in making sure that everyone thinks that homosexuality = butt sex.

as if lesbians don't have sex.

or that gay people do more than just bugger each other. or that just having sex with a someone of the same gender makes you gay, or might turn you gay.

good lord, are these people the sum total of their sex lives? no? because neither am i.
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Old 05-21-2011, 04:00 PM   #9
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it's amazing how invested people are in making sure that everyone thinks that homosexuality = butt sex.

as if lesbians don't have sex.
I wish I could edit my post to add another magazine title:

"...copies of Hot Twink Ass or Busy Beavers."
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Old 05-21-2011, 04:35 PM   #10
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the term for lesbian sex i've always enjoyed is "Bumpin' Donuts."
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Old 05-21-2011, 04:39 PM   #11
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Please tell me there's a porno out there titled "Time to Go Bump the Donuts."
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