The importance of LGBT history in schools

By Grace Marra

This August, the decision of the state of Illinois to join California, New Jersey, and Colorado in mandating the inclusion of LGBT history in public school curriculums, starting in 2020, has sparked much debate. 

Some who oppose this new legislation argue that the time in history classes devoted to the historical contributions of LBGT figures will detract from other topics, leaving children less educated. Others, such as Legislator Darren Bailey, object that the new curriculum is “indoctrination, not history,” because lessons focused on LGBT figures must be taught by the eighth grade.

What these dissidents fail to realize is that this new legislation is neither a superficial addition to curriculums in order to appear more inclusive nor a form of propaganda meant to influence childrens’ opinions; rather, it is merely a resolution to no longer ignore the pieces of history which LGBT individuals played key parts in.

The new law commands that public schools “include a study of the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State,” as well as that textbooks cannot include any content which is discriminatory towards any genders or sexual orientations — a perfectly reasonable goal. 

Not only is the inclusion of LGBT history important for a complete understanding of history as a whole, but it is also crucial for LGBT students to have an inclusive and non-discriminatory school environment. While four states now have laws requiring the teaching of LGBT history, six states actually have anti-LGBT curriculum laws. Such laws “expressly forbid teachers from discussing gay and transgender issues, including sexual health and HIV/AIDS awareness, in a positive light — if at all. Some laws even require that teachers actively portray LGBT people in a negative or inaccurate way.” These policies isolate and stigmatize LGBT students, adding to the already challenging experience LGBT youths face.

No piece of history should be excluded from the record due to outdated taboos nor should any form of discrimination have a place in schools. This much is just good sense. The ostracization of young lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students must also be eliminated from schools, and normalizing the disscussion of LGBT issues in schools is an important step in that direction.

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