April 18, 2006

Education—The Enemy of Prejudice

There is a proposal being considered by the California state legislature that would require public school textbooks to include gay and lesbian history.

"This is simply adding the LGBT community to the groups that the state has said must be included in the curriculum," Geoffrey Kors, executive director of Equality California, which backs the bill, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "There's nothing special or different.”

Of course, not everyone agrees. Again quoting from the Chronicle report:

"This is about pushing a blatant sexual agenda -- including sex changes that involve cutting off body parts -- upon impressionable schoolchildren as young as kindergarten," said Randy Thomasson, who heads the Campaign for Children and Families.

Thomasson said teaching about racial differences is not like teaching about sexual orientation because, he believes, people can change their sexual orientation. He said the bill "will require the positive portrayal of these lifestyles, with the goal of forcing students to accept them and even consider themselves eligible to engage in them."

To their credit, the Chronicle has come out in support of this legislation in a recent editorial. While stating that this law would be largely symbolic, the Chronicle opined:

“…..symbolism can be important when confronting an entrenched curriculum that may -- even unintentionally -- be perpetuating myths or negative stereotypes about a particular minority group. Kuehl's bill is not about political correctness. It is about completeness and accuracy.”

This reminds me of a situation I experienced while attending elementary school just a few miles outside of Washington, DC in the late 1960’s. Living in Prince Georges County, Maryland, I was exposed to one of the first curriculums that included what at the time was referred to as “Black History.” We were taught about the civil rights protests, the works of Martin Luther King, and what prejudice was really about.

As I learned more about the struggles of blacks in our nation and the important contributions of black scientists, artists, and leaders I had not previously heard of, I looked at my black classmates differently, with more understanding and acceptance of our differences.

The religious right cringes at the thought of that happening with attitudes toward the GLBT community. They don’t want their kids taught about positive contributions of gays and lesbians and the injustice many of them have endured over the years. If children learn these things, it will be harder for their parents to teach condemnation and discrimination.

The kids might be inclined to treat GLBT people like members in good standing of the human race.

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