Thursday, June 23, 2016

Unger: For overcoming homophobia, California's FAIR Education Act is a model - San Jose Mercury News

Unger: For overcoming homophobia, California's FAIR Education Act is a model - San Jose Mercury News:
Unger: For overcoming homophobia, California's FAIR Education Act is a model
In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre announced, "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Nelson Mandela, who knew a thing or two about violence, proposed a different solution to breaking the cycle of violence: "Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world."

The state of California is pioneering the kind of transformative education endorsed by Nelson Mandela. It's a model that other states should follow to help put an end to homophobic violence.

In 2011 California passed into law the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act, which includes the requirement that the contributions of LGBTQ persons to the development of California and the United States be included in California's public school curriculum in ways appropriate to grade level.

I have been teaching a course called "Lesbians and Gays in U.S. History" at Santa Clara University since 2002. I have witnessed the power of that history, as students (those who identify as straight as well as those who occupy various places all along the LGBTQ spectrum) tell me repeatedly, "This course changed my life."

History is an empowering tool, but even with the FAIR Education Act, nationwide LBGTQ History is taught almost exclusively within colleges and universities, and as an elective rather than as a requirement.

Would things have turned out differently had the Orlando shooter been educated in a school system that required that he learn about the meaningful contributions LGBTQ people have made to this country? Perhaps not. But perhaps learning that those contributions make up a vital component of a more complete understanding of American political, economic, social, legal, military and religious history would have exposed him to the reality that LGBTQ people are not outsiders to be hated, but part of the very fabric of this nation.

Public school children are taught about important leaders in African American history (such as Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr.), and trail blazers for women (including Susan B. Anthony and Gloria Steinem). But if they are never exposed to Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny, Harvey Milk or the other major figures in the fight for gay rights, it should not be surprising that LGBTQ people will continue to be marginalized and not taken seriously at best, vilified and terrorized at worst.

LBGTQ people need to be recognized for their many contributions, in groups and as individuals, to this country's history. All who study them will be enriched by knowledge of writers James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Tennessee Williams and Rita Mae Brown, astronaut Sally Ride, athletes Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Greg Louganis, business executive Tim Cook, political leaders Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, and many more creative and Unger: For overcoming homophobia, California's FAIR Education Act is a model - San Jose Mercury News:

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