By Raewyn Kraybill
Schools across America are lacking in their history curriculum, failing to teach about all parts of history, especially the more controversial ones. LGBTQ events are often overlooked and ignored, and textbooks used in schools do not cover these topics. Even Manheim Township, despite having an LGBTQ inclusive health curriculum and a GSA, falls short in LGBTQ history. The American Pageant textbook used for the AP United States History course does not mention anything about LGBTQ topics until the 1960s. This is harmful because it contributes to ideas that LGBTQ issues are a new thing and not a natural part of human history. While the LGBTQ movement became more mainstream around this time, it is still important to include it earlier and throughout all of history for several reasons.
For one, it provides a biased view of history when not all events are included. As time progresses, history curriculum has become better at including the women’s rights movement and the civil right movement in an unbiased way, beginning to include more often overlooked history. However, the same effort has not been directed at teaching LGBTQ history along with the basic history curriculum. This creates uninformed students and does not properly educate students about all aspects of history. Mainstream history should include important LGBTQ events and figures, including the Stonewall Riots, and even earlier events such as the Lavender Scare, which took place as part of the Red Scare and targeted LGBTQ under the assumption that they were communists. This was a significant event and caused many LGBTQ people to be fired or prosecuted if they were even suspected of being LGBTQ, and occurred during a time period learned about in American history courses. Yet this isn’t mentioned in the American Pageant textbook.These events were prominent in the eras students learn about, yet they aren’t mentioned in Township’s history curriculum.
This leads to other problems that arise with a more ignorant and uninformed student body. The environment fostered by a student body uninformed about LGBTQ issues creates an unsafe school for LGBTQ kids. According to a survey that studies the school climate for LGBTQ students, “Compared to students in schools without an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, LGBTQ students in schools with an LGBTQ- inclusive curriculum… Were less likely to feel unsafe because of their sexual orientation (41.8% vs. 63.3%) and gender expression (34.6% vs. 47.0%), ” (NSCS).
To make students feel safer, Manheim Township must take action now to include LGBTQ history in the history curriculum. However, it should not create an LGBTQ history elective, and not have a LGBTQ history day. A separate elective or day would separate LGBTQ history from mainstream history, when it should be taught to all students. The district must make history classes LGBTQ inclusive to inform students and help them feel safer. New, more inclusive textbooks or supplementary material could achieve this. It should be woven into the lessons, because they are as integral to history as any other figures or events.
Not only do students need to be taught LGBTQ history, some want to be taught it. While others might not, no one wants to learn about all parts of history, but it is important to understand all parts of history and all people. LGBTQ students want to feel seen instead of erased and overlooked. Allied students want their friends to feel safe. They want to understand their classmates’ identities. Manheim Township must do better with LGBTQ history, for all of its students.