Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

California's New History Bill

A proposed new bill in California would require the inclusion of LGBT history in the social studies curriculum. As a history major, I think that this is a good step forward in making the study of history in elementary and secondary education more inclusive and reflective of reality rather than being a celebratory whitewashed version of the truth. However, not everyone is in favor of this bill.

What those in opposition are stating as reasons that this bill is negative is just ridiculous. The question of whether or not it is appropriate to teach this history to younger children is downright silly; we don't question whether it is appropriate to teach children about men like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or women like Rosa Parks, because there is no reason that it should be an issue. The sooner children learn that members of the queer community are significant in history and completely normal, the sooner we will reach a more tolerant and equal society.

The issue that Mr. Carlson raises in the video about focusing on historical figures' sex lives is also totally missing the point. Including someone who is gay in history books will not focus on what that person did sexually, but about the contributions to history that he or she made. Bayard Rustin, for instance, was arguably one of if not the most important figures in the African American fight for civil rights during the twentieth century who is commonly neglected when the topic is brought up. Somehow I think that impact he had is what the schools will focus on, not what he enjoyed in the bedroom.

Lastly, in stating that this whole bill is propaganda that does everyone a disservice by not teaching the whole truth Mr. Carlson is bringing up a much larger issue in that most U.S. history is taught as a celebratory vision of a much more controversial past. If he thinks that is such a major problem, he should be focusing on changing that, not attacking a bill that is the equivalent of getting one's foot in the door. Yes, there are undoubtedly gay history figures that did negative things, but that can't be brought up until queer history is accepted as a whole as part of the standard social studies curriculum. Given that much of the U.S. is still homophobic, it stands to reason that by focusing on negative contributions of the queer community little would be done to counteract those feelings of bigotry. Thus, by introducing this bill California has taken a bold and great step forward in what will hopefully become standard fare for social studies classes nationwide.

I can only hope that this bill would encourage serious education about the significance of queer men and women in history rather than what happens to so many marginalized groups, getting a day or two's weak focus that hardly ties it together with the larger history being taught. However, in spite of that I still applaud the makers of this bill for the contributions they are making to a more equitable social studies curriculum.

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