On Campus

California may add gay history to textbooks

Bill passed to require social studies lessons to cover LGBT community

Teachers in California may be required to teach gay history, after a bill was passed in the State Senate last week to add gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people to the list of social and ethnic groups that must be included in social studies lessons, reported the New York Times.

Though schools will have some flexibility in what they choose to teach, textbooks and teaching materials used by California school districts will be required to cover contributions by the LGBT community in California and the U.S. by 2013-2014. For example, teachers might include lessons on politicians such as Harvey Milk, the first openly gay city official in San Fransico’s history. The bill also requires that lesson materials used by schools do not “reflect adversely” on any religions.

Supporters of the bill say the change will help put a stop to bullying of students for being homosexual, by curbing negative stereotypes some students hold on to.

“It is very basic to me that people dislike and fear that with which we are less familiar,” Senator Mark Leno told the New York Times. Leno, who is a Democrat, sponsored the bill and is one of the first openly gay men to be elected to the State Senate.

However, the bill has come up against a considerable amount of opposition. Those against the bill have argued that educating children on same-sex relationships should be a decision for parents to make, not the state. Certain churches and conservative groups have also questioned how schools will reconcile educating students on contributions of the LGBT community while also teaching them about religions that don’t agree with 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?” Robert Evans, pastor of Christ Church in Pleasanton, California asked during a hearing before the Senate Education Committee, according to the Associated Press.

Women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, entrepreneurs, Asian Americans, European Americans, American Indians and labor are already on the list of social and ethnic groups California public schools are required to teach about.

Despite attracting some criticism, it’s predicted that the bill will pass through the largely Democratic Legislature and be approved by Gov. Jerry Brown. If written into law, California will be the first state in the U.S. that mandates for gay history to be taught in its schools.

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