In Fall 2018, The Boston Herald reports, Massachusetts schools will introduce an optional LGBTQ curriculum to its high schools.
The curriculum will include topics in history, English, and health and was developed by teachers and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth, an initiative founded in 1993 in response to concerns about LGBTQ youth suicides. The program now helps schools implement state laws that benefit LGBTQ students.
“If students don’t see themselves in the curriculum, they are not as likely to pay attention,” said commission director Corey Prachniak-Rincón to The Boston Herald. “It is a huge demand we hear from teachers. They recognize part of the reason why LGBTQ students feel excluded is they’re not reflected and that part of their identity is ignored.”
Lessons said to be released as early as this summer will cover the 1969 Stonewall riots and literature by LGBTQ authors such as Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, and Willa Cather. Nick Carraway’s love for Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby will also be taught through an LGBTQ lens.
Teachers are being trained on how to support LGBTQ students and make them feel comfortable, such as asking for gender pronouns while taking attendance and placing a “safe zone” sticker on the classroom door.
Kristin Comment, an English teacher at Belmont High School in Massachusetts, mentioned to The Herald that she already includes LGBTQ literature like Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway in her classes and tries not to make heterosexist assumptions. She “would like to see more discussion of LGBTQ issues in the curriculum.”
Briana Brickley, a professor in English, Gender Studies, African American Studies, and LGBTQ studies at UCLA, tells OutWrite that she is “really excited to see LGBTQ Studies beginning to filter down into high school curricula,” because “it invites us to think deeply about the production of knowledge: how history is written and taught, which books are selected under the rubric of ‘American’ (or ‘English’ or ‘World’) literature.”
To Brickley, a satisfactory high school LGBTQ curriculum “might mean not leaving out the presence and contributions of queer folks, but also making a conscious effort for inclusion, not just of LGBTQ people, but also African Americans, Latinx people, disabled people, indigenous people, and others regularly left out of or silenced in dominant accounts of history.”
As to when an LGBTQ curriculum should be implemented in educational settings, Brickley thinks that we should “start emphasizing critical thinking and problem-solving in secondary and even primary education.” She says that ideally “we’d have LGBTQ studies be included from the beginning rather than these more reactive models of un-learning or filling-in-the-gaps.”
As demonstrated by the horde of homophobic and transphobic public comments under this Boston Herald article, an LGBTQ curriculum introduced as early as possible into public education is very much needed.