The California Assembly on Tuesday passed a bill that would make California the only state in the nation to require LGBT-inclusive social studies lessons.
The Assembly passed the bill in a 49-25 vote.
There were impassioned speeches all round, some based in recognition of the fact that excluding LGBTs from history is inaccurate and is itself evidence of the stigmatization that teachers are now working hard to combat, and opposition comments that were, well, less concerned with facts and more about scaremongering and anti-gay rhetoric.
“This bill will require California schools to present a more accurate and nuanced view of American history in our social science curriculum by recognizing the accomplishments of groups that are not often recognized,” said Assembly Speaker John Perez, the first openly gay speaker of the California Assembly.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from Twin Peaks, said he was offended as a Christian that the bill was being used to promote a “homosexual agenda” in public schools.
“I think it’s one thing to say that we should be tolerant,” Donnelly said. “It is something else altogether to say that my children are going to be taught that this lifestyle is good.”
“Our founding fathers are turning over in their graves,” Donnelly said.
The legislation, introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), will mandate that California’s Board of Education and local school districts adopt textbooks mentioning the contributions made by LGBT persons and key events in LGBT history such as detailing notable figures like Alan Turing and Harvey Milk, the discrimination they faced and their considerable contributions to society, as well as key events like the Stonewall Riots.
It is hoped that as a result of this LGBT or questioning children will feel a resonance with these figures and recognize that they, like everyone else, are vital to our shared history and current development. It is also hoped that this inclusion will decrease the “otherness” surrounding LGBTs due to their current exclusion, and that anti-LGBT bullying may, in this way, also be tackled.
With the California Senate having already passed the bill in a 23-14 vote earlier in the year, the legislation now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown (D). He has given no indication as to whether he would sign the legislation into law.
There is, however, precedent for specific minority inclusion in the California school curriculum, despite what critics might say about this bill being part of the “homosexual agenda.”
California law already requires specific lessons about the history of women and women’s rights, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and other groups. The Legislature has also specifically intervened to prescribe lessons on such issues as the Holocaust. Opposition on the grounds that this is an unprecedented interference in the classroom would, therefore, be incorrect.
If Gov. Brown signs the law, a draft framework will need to be drawn up and approved, meaning it is likely to be 2013-2014 before changes in the classroom will be seen.
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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to jglsongs.
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