A bill that passed California's state Senate on Thursday mandates that high-school history textbooks mention gay and lesbian pioneers, just as other state laws have required that key native American and African-American figures be included in texts. If Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill into law — he has not yet taken a position — California will become the first state to take this step. And since the textbooks produced for California's huge market are sold across the nation, smaller states would likely follow California's lead, willingly or not. Does LGBT history belong in public schools?
Yes, it's about time: "Most textbooks don't include any information about LGBT historical figures or the LGBT civil rights movement, which has great significance to both California and U.S. history," said Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno, who sponsored the bill, in a press release. "We can't tell our youth that it's OK to be yourself and expect them to treat their peers with dignity and respect" if we squelch this history.
"California Senate passes landmark LGBT education bill"
Actually, the timing couldn't be worse: "This is all absurd," says a group of conservative organizations who oppose the bill, in a letter quoted by the Los Angeles Times. California's public schools are in the midst of their worst financial crisis ever, and it makes little sense to make schools pay for revised textbooks when education budgets can't even meet basic needs.
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This bill's critics are bigots: Beyond the financial concerns, says Mike Vilensky at New York, some opponents of the bill think homosexuality should be off-limits altogether, since it might offend certain students' sensibilities. All the more reason why California should make this bill a reality — "so we don't raise a generation of ignorant jerks."
"California state senate passes bill requiring teaching of gay history in public schools"
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