Seven: In California, the Right Age to Begin Learning about LGBT History

Same-sex marriage supporters outside the California Supreme Court in 2013. (Robert Galbraith/Reuters)
New guidelines aim to help seven-year-olds ‘locate themselves and their families in history.’

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported that the California State Board of Education voted unanimously to include study of the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans in history and social-science classes. This LGBT-focused content will be taught in elementary, middle, and high-school grades.

Teachers will give students, beginning in second grade, information about diverse family structures, including families with LGBT parents, to help students “locate themselves and their own families in history and learn about the lives and historical struggles of their peers,” according to the text of the framework.

In grade four, as students study the history of California, they will consider the history of LGBT individuals in their state and learn about the emergence of the nation’s first gay-rights organizations in the Fifties. The framework provides the following example of LGBT history:

In the 1970s, California gay rights groups fought for the right of gay men and women to teach, and, in the 2000s, for their right to get married, culminating in the 2013 and 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decisions Hollingsworth v. Perry and Obergefell v. Hodges.

Fourth-grade students will also learn about Harvey Milk — “a New Yorker who was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 as California’s first openly gay public official” — in the context of immigrants who come to California from across the country and the world.

Eighth-graders will learn about the role of gender in history, including the role it played in “constructing the enslaved as in need of civilization and thereby rationalizing slavery.” Additionally, eighth-grade students will study the way in which movement toward the Western frontier allowed for significant alterations in gender norms. Southwestern women, the framework says, “felt trapped or limited by their gender in a place and time so dominated by men.” Students will also learn that boarding schools removed Native American children from their families and imposed “Christianity, U.S. gender binaries, and social roles.”

Students will learn that boarding schools imposed ‘Christianity, U.S. gender binaries, and social roles.’

In high school, students will learn “how different social movements for people of color, women, and LGBT communities have mutually informed each other.” Eleventh-graders, in particular, are slated to conduct a more drawn-out study of LGBT individuals and their place in societal evolution. Among the issues to be covered in this context are “LGBT-oriented subcultures,” homosexuals serving in the military, “the pioneering role of gay politicians,” and the first sex-reassignment surgery. One section of the eleventh-grade course will focus on the emergence of the LGBT movement in the United States. According to the curriculum, students will consider a timeline of events such as:

‐In the 1960s, LGBT activists, often transgender, began to confront police during raids of gay bars and cafes in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and, most famously, in 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

‐From 1969 onward, organizations such as the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance began to define and encourage “coming out” as a personal and political act.

‐By the 1970s, 17 states had repealed laws criminalizing sodomy, and 36 cities had passed laws banning anti-gay discrimination.

#related#The course will also consider several Supreme Court decisions affecting LGBT people, including a decision that upheld the exclusion and deportation of gay and lesbian immigrants (Boutilier v. Immigration and Naturalization Service), the 1986 decision that upheld state sodomy laws (Bowers v. Hardwick), the 2003 decision overturning sodomy laws (Lawrence v. Texas), and the 2013 and 2015 decisions on same-sex marriage (United States. v. Windsor, Hollingsworth v. Perry, and Obergefell v. Hodges).

Twelfth-graders will focus on the LGBT community again in the context of Supreme Court cases that affected LGBT individuals.

Though these additions to California curricula were undisputed in the vote by the state board of education, the changes will probably become more controversial as they play out in the classroom.

Most Popular


Men Literally Died for That Flag, You Idiots

The American flag’s place in our culture is beginning to look less unassailable. The symbol itself is under attack, as we’ve seen with Nike dumping a shoe design featuring an early American flag, Megan Rapinoe defending her national-anthem protests (she says she will never sing the song again), and ... Read More

The Plot against Kavanaugh

Justice on Trial, by Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino (Regnery,  256 pp., $28.99) The nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court was the political event of 2018, though not for the reasons anyone expected. All High Court confirmations these days are fraught with emotion and tumult ... Read More
Politics & Policy

He Just Can’t Help Himself

By Saturday, the long-simmering fight between Nancy Pelosi and her allies on one side and the “squad” associated with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the other had risen to an angrier and more destructive level at the Netroots Nation conference. Representative Ayanna Pressley, an African-American Massachusetts ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Ilhan Omar Is Completely Assimilated

Beto O’Rourke, the losing Texas Senate candidate who bootstrapped his way into becoming a losing presidential candidate, had a message for refugees who had come to America: Your new country is a hellhole. The former congressman told a roundtable of refugees and immigrants in Nashville, Tenn., last week: ... Read More
White House

On Gratitude and Immigration

Like both Rich and David, I consider it flatly inappropriate for the president of the United States to be telling Americans -- rhetorically or otherwise -- to “go back where you came from.” In consequence, you will find no defense of the president from me, either. What Trump tweeted over the weekend was ... Read More

We All Wanted to Love the Women’s Soccer Team

For the first time in my life, I did not root for an American team. Whatever the sport, I have always rooted American. And if those who called in to my radio show were representative of my audience, many millions of Americans made the same sad choice. It takes a lot for people like me not to root for an ... Read More

The ‘Squad’ Gives a Gift to Donald Trump

On Sunday, Donald Trump gave the Democrats a gift -- comments that indicate he thinks native-born congresswomen he detests should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors. On Monday, the four congresswomen handed Trump a gift in return, managing to respond to the president’s insults in some of the most ... Read More