CA bill would add LGBT people and people with disabilities to social studies syllabi

Yesterday, the California state senate passed a bill that would require public schools to add LGBT people and people with disabilities to the list of groups whose contributions to American society are recognized in social studies curricula.

The New York Times reports that,

… starting in the 2013-14 school year, [the bill] would prohibit districts and the California Board of Education from using textbooks or other instructional materials that reflect adversely on gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
If the bill becomes law, California would be the first state to require the teaching of LGBT history.

Democratic Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco, a supporter of the bill, said that the change to curricula could change the culture in schools to make homophobic bullying less acceptable. “We are second-class citizens and children are listening. When they see their teachers don’t step up to the plate when their classmate is being harassed literally to death, they are listening and they get the message that there is something wrong with those people.”

To the surprise of absolutely no one, this has upset a lot of people. Those who oppose the bill are making a “think of the parents!” case, saying that “”such instruction would expose students to a subject that some parents find objectionable.” As New York Magazine notes, this “frankly sounds like precisely why the bill should be signed into law: So we don’t raise a generation of ignorant jerks.”

Republican Senator Doug la Malfa opposed the bill for a different reason: “I’m deeply troubled kids would have to contemplate at a very, very early age, when many of us are teaching abstinence … what is sexuality,” he said. Which just goes to show you that abstinence education isn’t just about teaching kids to abstain from expressing their sexuality – it’s about keeping them ignorant by not teaching them “what is sexuality” at all.

The bill now heads to the state assembly, then hopefully on to Governor Jerry Brown for signature.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • scottishtanningsecrets

    Great news!! Any word on who would be considered as important figures in the curriculum? I would have been so helpful to have some differently abled role models as a kid. Here’s hoping Charlotte Cushman and Harvey Milk are in there too.

    • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

      I hope this bill will pass! This will make many children feel not just included but like they matter, when I was a girl the issue was that the history of women and minorities weren’t really covered and I hate to think what would’ve happened if I didn’t go to the library to educate myself. It make a child feel important to see that many minorities, women, LGBT, and the disabled contributed to history and see that they too matter. That’s why this is important people, learning of certain historical figures can validate a child’s self esteem

    • Jenny Barnes

      Joan of Arc?

  • Pat

    What a complete waste of time. The state is a basket case — the budget is $26 billion in the red. The education system is falling apart. Around $10 billion a year is spent providing services for an enormous — like, bigger than the population of most states — illegal immigrant population. There is already a large, powerful and very active gay presence in California politics. But, because it allows them to score political points without having to make any hard decisions or spend any money, in the name of “justice” or “fairness” or “equality” something ridiculous like this gets all kinds of attention and effort, when the state’s very survival is at stake.

  • Aditi

    I like how the UK is planning to incorporate LGBT perspectives into various subjects:

    Of course, this is something that’s already prevalent in certain European countries. An introductory German textbook of mine, for instance, uses gay men as an example of a relationship in the chapter where the vocabulary for relationships is introduced. Wouldn’t have been the case, say, twenty years ago. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to *represent* LGBT people in teaching–just some thought. And some things are *worth* spending (not “wasting”, contra Pat) that extra time on. I don’t see how something that could help whole generations not grow up bigoted is “ridiculous”.

    [“I’m deeply troubled kids would have to contemplate at a very, very early age, when many of us are teaching abstinence … what is sexuality"--really?! Kids already *know* what sexuality is. It's just that the *only* kind of sexuality a lot of kids are aware of is heterosexuality and this is one way to change that!]