Illinois and Massachusetts Poised To Include LGBT History In School Curriculums

LGBT history is finally being included in the classroom.

Massachusetts and Illinois may be poised to incorporate LGBT history into their school curriculums. These states have been included in pending and passed legislation to determine whether students will be learning about LGBT history in the classroom.

According to The Boston Herald, the curriculum for Massachusetts was developed by a team of teachers with the Massachusetts Safe School Program for LGBTQ Students and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. Expected to be released this summer, it will include lessons on the Stonewall Riots and writing from authors such as Langston Hughes and Willa Cather to integrate LGBT history into other curriculum topics. The study plans won’t be requirements, but they’ll be available as a resource to districts, said Jacqueline Reis, state education department spokeswoman.

The inclusion of LGBT history in the Massachusetts curriculum isn’t solely for representation. As Commission director Corey Prachniak-Rincon says, this will also benefit teachers as well: “If students don’t see themselves in the curriculum, they are not as likely to pay attention. 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.”

An Illinois has cleared the Education Committee in March. As Columbia Chronicle writes, the pending legislation would mean that Illinois public schools would have to integrate teaching on LGBT history in elementary and high school classrooms. The passing of this bill and the inclusion of Massachusetts’ LGBT history curriculum are significant for preserving queer history, but could also encourage more students to take up LGBT history as a course of study.

Albert Williams, associate professor for the Theatre Department and activist, spoke on the importance of the passing of this legislation: “It’s an important piece of legislation [because] the history of the LGBT population in America has never been represented well in the education system. The situation, condition and existence of LGBTQ people throughout world history has been stigmatized. That stigmatization re-enforces negative self-images and self-understandings.”

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