Last Thursday, California’s state board of education became the first state to approve LGBTQ history textbooks for kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms. The board not only approved 10 different texts that will help teach U.S. and California LGBTQ history, but they also rejected two textbooks for not covering LGBTQ history.
This is all thanks to the 2011 Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. The act, written by state Senator Mark Leno, requires schools to teach the accomplishments of queer people, Native Americans and people with disabilities. In July 2016, the state board unanimously approved a framework to implement the provisions of the FAIR Education Act. And now, it’s all happening.
California is the only state so far to pass a law to teach kids about LGBTQ history. Some states still have “no promo homo” laws, banning educators from talking about LGBTQ issues.
Renata Moreira of Our Family Coalition, an LGBTQ organization in San Francisco, said:
California tends to be the first state to pass a lot of progressive laws and — mainly because of our diversity — a lot of inclusive laws. I think in other states folks are still looking to California to see how the inclusion is going to be rolled out. So there’s some hesitancy and frankly lack of leadership in other states to see that people with disabilities and LGBT people are included in history.
California LGBTQ history is central to understanding modern society
The fight for LGBTQ inclusion in the history taught to children has been a long one. Last year, James Michael Nichols wrote:
Almost 50 years after the famous Stonewall riots in New York City, public school children still often go through school without ever once learning about the riots, let alone names like Sylvia Rivera, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Christine Jorgensen and Bayard Rustin.
So why, half a century into this highly visible fight for rights and survival, have LGBT people not been given a place in textbooks alongside the histories of other marginalized groups?
That’s a good question, indeed. With luck, California LGBTQ history will lead the way and future children will know not only about these icons, but present-day heroes like Danica Roem.
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