Students in California classrooms are poised to be among the first in the nation to learn about the contributions of gay Americans. The social studies curriculum will soon be updated and will include information about popular LGBT leaders and events.
On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 48 into law that will require the diverse lessons to be taught in public schools. The bill was approved by the California State Legislature and mostly members of its Democratic-majority. State Sen. Jerry Brown (D-San Francisco) was the bill’s sponsor.
Now that the law has passed, the state of California will develop guidelines for teachers to choose which figures in gay history they want to include in their curriculum. Supporters say that the changes will allow students to see the world in more realistic terms, as was the case with ethnic and women’s studies. In the age of the Internet and media saturation, positive images of LGBT figures are more mainstream than in generations past. Lawmakers feel this is a good opportunity to bring parity to the classroom.
Examples of notable figures in gay history would include the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representative Harvey Milk, who was gunned down along with San Francisco’s mayor George Moscone in November 1978. Milk, an openly-gay politician, became an icon in the city’s history and for gay rights. He would go on to posthumously receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999 for his groundbreaking work in San Francisco’s gay community.
However, not everyone sees the need for school children to now have an LGBT-inclusive education.
The move by Gov. Brown and the California General Assembly to include gay history has ruffled feathers of some conservative and religious activists. They feel that the classroom is not a place for references to homosexuality. The detractors do not want young children to familiarize themselves with lifestyle choices at young ages.
California is a politically liberal state, though the divide on gay issues tends to be more even. The San Francisco area has long been known for its gay-friendly environment and progressive stance on LGBT issues. In 2008, the state became the sixth to marry same-sex couples, per the order of the California Supreme Court. After five months, Proposition 8 was passed that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Same-sex marriages at that point were halted.
Back in the classroom, the students are set to make history and ultimately decide whether or not the curriculum works for them.