California will Teach Gay History to Children

Wyatt Buchanan
SFGate
July 15, 2011

Public schools in California will be required to teach students about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans starting Jan. 1 after Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a controversial bill to add the topic to the social sciences curriculum.

Textbooks now must include information on the role of LGBT Americans, as well as Americans with disabilities, though California’s budget crisis has delayed the purchasing of new books until at least 2015.

“History should be honest,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement. “This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.”

The governor called the legislation, SB48, introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, “historic.”

The law – the first of its kind in the nation – adds the two groups to an existing list of minority and other groups that are required to be part of the social sciences curriculum.

Safer schools

Gay rights supporters heralded Brown’s action as a major victory. They said the law will help make public schools a safer place for LGBT students as well as give those students, and their classmates, examples of accomplished and important LGBT people.

Throughout the debate on the measure, backers noted the recent spate of suicides among young LGBT people and said it would help to combat bullying that typically occurs beforehand.

Opponents, however, fiercely opposed the measure, citing religious objections to homosexuality and questioning whether such instruction is necessary. They expressed dismay with Brown’s signing of the bill.

“If children in other countries are learning math and science, and American children are learning about the private lives of historical figures, how will our students compete for jobs in the global economy?” said Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster (Los Angeles County), the vice chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education.

Beyond California

The provision on inclusion in textbooks could reach beyond California, too, as many book publishers tailor their texts to California’s standards because of the state’s large population. The bill does not prescribe how schools will teach the subject, and Leno said that decision will be made by local school officials and teachers.

“What the bill calls for is for the contributions of LGBT people to be included,” Leno said, adding, “We wrote it broadly for a reason. We would be subject to more criticism than we’ve already been getting if we were more dictatorial.”

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About Luis Miranda
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