January 16, 2018

New feature of LGBTQ community in textbooks is vital for young students

By Isabelle Chiu

Executive Sports Editor

After passing the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful, or FAIR, Education Act in 2012, California became the first state to mandate the teaching of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (LGBTQ) history in social studies classes, and on Nov. 14, state officials voted to approve the first revised K-8 textbooks in accordance with the FAIR Education Act which will be important for young students to become educated on sexual orientations other than their own.

The California Education Code is updated every year to include the role and contributions of members of underrepresented racial, ethnic and cultural groups to the economic, political and social developments in California and the United States through history lessons, according to Our Family Coalition, an organization working toward the implementation of the FAIR Education Act. The FAIR Education Act amends the Ed Code by requiring California schools to include the historical contributions of members of the LGBTQ community, as well as people with disabilities, in the curriculum.

The updated educational guidelines also prescribe that schools do not adopt learning materials with discriminatory bias or negative stereotypes based on gender, sexual orientation or disability, according to the FAIR education act. By mentioning LGBTQ people’s accomplishments, it will teach children to be more tolerant and accepting of different people at a young age, which will in turn allow students to become open minded and learn at a young age that being who they are is important and valued by society.

The new textbooks will not only integrate LGBTQ historical accomplishments, such as Harvey Milk’s contributions to advance gay rights into existing units, but will also specifically mention if historical figures, such as poets Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, were LGBTQ or speculated by historians to be LGBTQ. This will not only offer a broader understanding of historical figures, but also allow LGBTQ students to feel more validated in their identities because they see themselves represented in history books.

Additionally, according to a study done by the California Safe Schools Coalition, including LGBTQ information in classes creates a safer environment for LGBTQ students. Implementing LGBTQ ideas into statewide textbooks, especially for young students, will engrain into students, that being supportive of their community is importa.

There is no state-mandated curriculum of these topics, but instead, the state issued guidelines and lessons that are then approved at a local level, where school districts and school board members will decide what’s appropriate for each classroom. For MBUSD, the implementation is still far away, and it has not yet been discussed in formal terms. By implementing LGBTQ students in textbooks, it shows that our society is accepting of their community.

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