Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 14
Effort Seeks to Make LGBT History More Than an 'Add On'
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
part by having teachers from coast
to coast and many different grades
engage with a rich array of historical resources.
There is a rock-and-a-hard-place
element of their work: LGBT issues
remain sandwiched between a culture war on one side and the tendency to treat them as an "add on"
in the manner of women's history or
black history on the other. But ultimately, Fowler and Morgenstern
argue, gay history is a misnomer. It's
simply history, and that is the best
argument of all for teaching it.
"The argument is really that this
is not a value judgment. It is objective," Morgenstern said. "It is part of
our collective, shared historical narrative, whether or not that makes
one uncomfortable. It needs to be
included and explored."
affirming a constitutional right for
gay men and lesbians to wed.
But when it comes to their place
in that most American of American
issues remain fiercely contested. Just
last month, the Fresno, Calif., school
board president created controversy
by saying that students are "moldable" and implying that the state's
sex education curriculum might encourage them to become gay.
HUE's approach marks a subtle
turning point in the debate about
LGBT students in schools. Most
K-12 policy on gay, lesbian, bisexual,
and transgender students focuses
on safety and bullying-important
work that nevertheless contains a
subtext of victimization.
Fowler and Morgenstern agree
that discrimination remains a reality, but equally insidious are schools
that purportedly embrace LGBT
students and then fail to include
their history or experiences in the
curriculum. "Sometimes the perception is that everyone is all set, all
fine about LGBT students," Fowler
said. "But diversity clubs are not
enough. Gay-straight alliances are
not enough. It's still siloing LGBT
Nationally, LGBT inclusion in the
curriculum rivals climate change as
a topic that varies geographically in
how it's taught, if at all. California
alone requires schools to discuss
the contributions of LGBT Americans, while states such as Alabama,
South Carolina, and Texas limit
what teachers can say about LGBT
people. Nor is there an abundance
of scholarship on how to integrate
LGBT topics into K-12 education,
said Stacie Brensilver, a doctoral
student at New York University's
Steinhardt School of Education, who
is writing her dissertation on that
For the most part, teachers have
been largely left on their own to determine whether to discuss LGBT
issues in their lessons-and, potentially, to deal with any fallout from
parents and administrators.
Pushback is not uncommon even
in presumably progressive areas.
Educator Justin Smith detailed an
uncomfortable interaction with an
administrator at a previous teaching job in California's Bay Area
after parents objected to some news
Harvey Milk, the slain San
Francisco Board of
cropped up in an early
version of California's
was little else about LGBT
history, advocates say.
A New Approach
Perhaps no other civil rights advance has proceeded as swiftly as
LGBT rights, most recently in the
U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision
By Stephen Sawchuk
It's tough to be a pioneer, as the state of California is learning.
Signed into law in 2012, California's FAIR
Education Act requires all students to learn
about the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals, as well
as people with disabilities. Aside from making
California the only state to mandate LGBTinclusive teaching, it lends-at least theoretically-legal cover for teachers.
And yet in other ways, the Fair, Accurate,
Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act is
typical of education mandates in the Golden
State. It did not, as even proponents point
out, provide any funding for implementation.
Some districts have dawdled in training teachers. And aligned curricula are only now being
"I question how much is going to be implemented until we actually have the textbooks,"
said Olivia Higgins, an education consultant
who works with several Bay Area school districts. "Some districts are working on creating
lessons, and some individual teachers are, but
when you have a textbook, it will be taught
across the board in a way it can't be until we
have those resources."
A statewide picture of implementation is
hard to come by. Contacted for insights into
the law's implementation, three of the state's
county offices of education-those in Mendocino, San Bernardino, and Yuba-did not
return calls or emails; one referred a reporter
to individual districts. A spokeswoman for the
Elk Grove district, near Sacramento, said it is
currently focusing on science standards and
will turn to history next.
Officials at the Los Angeles school district,
California's largest, said it has asked teachers
to use curricula that better reflect student di-
versity for years, beginning with a 1984 health
education curriculum. Not all teachers are at
the same level of fluency with inclusive curricula across subjects, though, and the work
needs to be deepened and reinforced, said Judy
Chiasson, the program coordinator for the district's office of human relations, diversity, and
Last October, for LGBT history month, "we
sent materials through all the librarians;
the year before that, we sent stuff to all the
coaches. You just keep searching for opportunities," she said.
In her own work, Higgins has found that
some insight on how to approach topics and
serves as a roadmap for textbook publishers.
Materials in Flux?
An early draft referenced slain San Francisco board of supervisors official Harvey
Milk twice, the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015
gay-marriage decision, and little else, noted
Don Romesburg, an associate professor in the
women's- and gender-studies department at
Sonoma State University.
He and other historians wrote a report proposing revisions to the standards, each with a
Teachers want to have latitude to make this true to their
teaching and to the history, but districts don't always
know what that latitude should look like."
University of California, Davis
teachers embrace the law in concept but fear
that they don't have the time or space to include LGBT-inclusive curricula in alreadystuffed classes. Advanced Placement history
teachers especially balk because LGBT history isn't typically covered on AP U.S. History
exam, she said.
Advocacy for the law's implementation has
been most intense over the revision of the
state's history/social studies framework. While
not a curriculum, the framework provides
14 | EDUCATION WEEK | September 6, 2017 | www.edweek.org
historical rationale. And the state was receptive: About 60 percent of the suggestions were
included in the final framework, released last
"I do think that the framework really takes
up the challenges of what it means to teach
young people about the existence of gender
diversity, family diversity, and same-sex relationships in the past, and how understanding
them as part of the past helps us all prepare to
be citizens for the present and future," he said.
articles about LGBT students that
he used in an English class.
"It was genuinely a 'please don't
cause me more headaches' kind of
thing," said Smith, now the director of curriculum and instruction
at Forte Preparatory Academy, a
charter school in New York City.
"It's often nested in this idea that
this isn't that important and it just
ruffles feathers, so let's not worry
From a curriculum-development
perspective, most teachers themselves were never taught about inclusive history, nor do commercial
materials address it in a substantive way.
"They went by the textbook and
made the Powerpoint by the textbook, and there was barely anything
that touched on it," said Katie Ly, a
recent high school graduate of the
Alameda, Calif., district, about her
world and U.S. history teachers. "I
think our primary issue is a lot of
teachers are not informed about
LGBT history-or it's out of their
convenience to learn more."
It was that challenge that gave
birth to HUE in 2014. Fowler and
In the final framework, students in 2nd
grade learn about the diversity of families, including those headed by LGBT parents; about
Harvey Milk in 4th grade; and in 11th grade,
about the emergence of the gay-rights movement in the 1950s, and other topics.
History textbooks are another story. The
state is midway through an adoption of K-8
books. (High school adoption occurs next year.)
On a first review, at least two of the submitted series appeared to all but ignore the topic,
Romesburg said, though the publishers are
providing more information. He and other advocates will continue to review the series and
plan to press the state's Instructional Quality
Commission, which meets Sept. 27-28, to reject
those that don't adhere to the framework.
In the meantime, the California History-
Social Science Project-a state initiative connecting history scholars to K-12 teachers-is
helping to craft sample lesson plans, and its
experts are participating in state-organized
conferences to familiarize teachers with the
In general, the most effective tack for teachers is to find places where LGBT topics fit
naturally and enhance discussion of the lesson's overall theme, said Beth Slutsky, the social-science project's program coordinator and
a historian at the University of California,
Davis. For example, teaching about Cold War
culture should include the Lavender Scare-
the mass firing of LGBT federal employees
purportedly for security reasons.
Slutsky's trainings have been well attended. She said many teachers simply want
to learn how to infuse the topic thoughtfully
into their teaching.
What's less clear are districts' underlying
motives in sending staff members. Slutsky
suspects some districts send staff members
mainly to suss out what constitutes compliance with the law.
"They're looking at this from a very litigious
viewpoint," she said. "Teachers want to have
latitude to make this true to their teaching
and to the history, but districts don't always
know what that latitude should look like."
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - September 6, 2017
Education Week - September 6, 2017
Teachers Carve Out a Place in the Curriculum For LGBT History
Learning to Teach Via Virtual Reality
Rule Targets District Bias In Spec. Ed.
Hurricane Takes Heavy Toll on Schools
News in Brief
State Educational-Leadership Initiatives In Budget ‘Pickle’
New Tool Alerts Teachers When Students Give Up on Test
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Mobile Devices Put Education In Hands of Syrian Refugees
LGBT Curricula Spreads Slowly
Tweaking School Turnarounds
After Fierce Fight, Illinois Enacts Tax-Credit Scholarship Program
President’s Youngest Son Joins Back-to-School Crowd
Sarah M. Stitzlein: How to Define Public Schooling in the Age of Choice?
Q&A With Jack Schneider: What Makes a School Good? It’s More Than Test Scores
READERS REACT: Have SAT Accommodations Really Gone Too Far?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Chris Elmendorf & Darien Shanske: We Need Better Education Data
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Hurricane Takes Heavy Toll on Schools
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 2
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 3
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - News in Brief
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 5
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - State Educational-Leadership Initiatives In Budget ‘Pickle’
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - New Tool Alerts Teachers When Students Give Up on Test
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Mobile Devices Put Education In Hands of Syrian Refugees
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 9
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 10
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 11
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 12
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 13
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - LGBT Curricula Spreads Slowly
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 15
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - After Fierce Fight, Illinois Enacts Tax-Credit Scholarship Program
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - President’s Youngest Son Joins Back-to-School Crowd
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Sarah M. Stitzlein: How to Define Public Schooling in the Age of Choice?
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Q&A With Jack Schneider: What Makes a School Good? It’s More Than Test Scores
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Letters
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 21
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - 23
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - Chris Elmendorf & Darien Shanske: We Need Better Education Data
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW1
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW2
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW3
Education Week - September 6, 2017 - CW4