Leslie Robinson

Gay History Lands in the Lesson Plan

Filed By Leslie Robinson | July 18, 2011 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement
Tags: California, gay history, LGBT history, public schools, social studies

News item: California is the first state to require public schools to include the contributions of LGBT people in social studies curricula.

We take you to the classroom of Mr. Mitchell a couple of years from now, as he adds the new material to his AP American history class.

history-books.jpgMr. Mitchell: I assume you all read the chapter on civil rights movements last night.

Jeff: Mr. Mitchell?

Mr. Mitchell: Yes?

Jeff: I have a note from my dad. He didn't want me to read the chapter because of the gay parts.

Mr. Mitchell: Do you still want to go to Yale?

Jeff: Yes.

Mr. Mitchell: Read the chapter. Did anyone else have trouble?

Sarah: Well, not trouble exactly, but the picture of gays picketing confused me. The women wore dresses. My aunt's a lesbian, and she hasn't worn a dress since her First Communion.

Mr. Mitchell: Why do you think homosexuals who protested during the period before Stonewall dressed conservatively?

Ben: Because they didn't have a sense of style yet.

Mr. Mitchell: Try again.

Skye: Because they didn't want to offend anybody. People were already wary of them.

Mr. Mitchell: You got it.

Ben: If they were so concerned with what people thought, why did they go to bars run by organized crime? Like Stonewall?

Mr. Mitchell: Why do you think?

Skye: The mob had better music.

Sarah: The bars were the only places they could be themselves.

Jeff: Why are we learning about bars? We're underage.

Miguel: We covered speakeasies. They were important during Prohibition.

Jeff: I think, if we're going to talk about bars, we should learn something useful. How to make a Manhattan. That's useful.

Mr. Mitchell: I can see we need more structure to this discussion. You all read about the March on Washington in 1963, when Martin Luther King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. But what you didn't read - because the new textbook isn't ready yet, and don't get me started - was that the organizer of the march was a black gay man, Bayard Rustin.

Jeff: Now you're just making things up. If that were true, we'd all know it. It would be a famous fact.

Mr. Mitchell: Ah, Jeff, you've brought us to a critical point. It is true. But why haven't we known it?

Ben: Martians wiped our brains.

Skye: Homosexuality was something you just didn't talk about.

Mr. Mitchell: It was a taboo subject. Gays and lesbians hid that part of themselves, or history hid it for them.

Jeff: I hope we're going to talk about all the bad stuff gays did too. They destroyed Rome and started World War II. That's in my dad's note also.

Mr. Mitchell: No wonder it's three pages. Okay everybody, in my high school history class we studied white men only. What would be the problem with that?

Jeff: Nothing.

Sarah: It makes it sound like everyone else just stood around and didn't do anything.

Miguel: It leaves out the history of everyone else.

Jeff: Can I go see the nurse?

Mr. Mitchell: Why?

Skye: His head hurts from being pried open.

Mr. Mitchell: Let's address the homework question before you depart. For Monday pick one of the names on the board - Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk and Gloria Steinem - and write two pages about their roles in their respective movements. Don't be so depressed, Jeff. In a couple of weeks you get to write about Ronald Reagan.

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Won't be long until there's a ballot initiative to remove gay history from schools. Expect it as soon as the Mormons can organize it.

Actually, I believe that's already been put into action.