MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s the 5th day of March, 2020. You’re listening to The World and Everything in It. We’re so glad you are! Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: advancing homosexuality in public schools.
Back in 2011, California became the first state to require public schools to teach about LGBT accomplishments. Last year, four states followed suit: Colorado, Oregon, Illinois, and New Jersey.
WORLD reporter Anna Johansen now on how that’s changing classroom lessons.
OLIVEIRA: Almost a full year before the law was signed by the governor, Garden State Equality knew that we wanted to be in this space, uh, working on inclusive curriculum.
ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Jon Oliveira is the communications director for Garden State Equality. That’s a group promoting LGBTQ values in New Jersey. The organization has been working in schools for almost a decade. Now, it’s developing a pilot curriculum set to go state-wide in the fall.
OLIVEIRA: As part of our initial phase of curriculum development, they designed 45 lesson plans, um, that are currently being piloted in 12 New Jersey schools. And that started in January of this year.
New Jersey’s law requires all public schools to teach students about the accomplishments of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. And it’s not just limited to history. The curriculum covers social studies, language, literature, health, performing arts, math, and science.
Shawn Hyland works with the Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey. He explains what the new lesson plans might look like.
HYLAND: So in math, like when it comes to data and statistics, they’ll do an entire, you know, day or two on LGBT surveys and polls and the data, you know, that that relates to the LGBT community.
At lower grade levels, lessons might include word problems involving a man and his husband.
HYLAND: So just trying to normalize the LGBT lifestyle even when it comes to the narrative and the questions that are asked in math class.
Laurie Higgins writes about cultural issues for the Illinois Family Institute. She says schools have been teaching about the contributions of homosexual people for years. But this type of legislation takes it a step farther.
HIGGINS: They want to teach kids, Hey, here’s these people who have made these significant contributions and they’re homosexual. Therefore homosexuality must be good.
And according to Higgins, that’s a whole different ball game.
HIGGINS: Their homosexuality has nothing to do with their contributions. Sally Ride’s homosexuality is irrelevant to her being a physicist or her being the first woman in space.
Jonathan Byham is a teacher in Illinois. He says we don’t always know for sure about a historical figure’s sexuality.
BYHAM: Oftentimes that was something that was not overtly talked about. I think that’s a very thorny historical question.
On top of the historical uncertainties, Shawn Hyland says it’s dangerous to talk about such complicated topics with young students, age 10 or 11—or even younger.
HYLAND: They talk about gender identity and gender transition and gender expression.
That’s confusing to young children.
HYLAND: And studies show that if one, uh, teen comes out as transgender, like 3.5 other teens within their peer group, they can become transgender as well. So it’s really a peer pressure type of group thought that goes on.
Advocates for this kind of curriculum say it reduces bullying by normalizing LGBTQ lifestyles.
Laurie Higgins says she is, of course, against bullying and harassment. But she also points out there are other ways to reduce it in schools.
HIGGINS: You don’t have to affirm an ideology in order to address bullying. Every school in this country has substantial anti-bullying policies and so they need to be enforced. The job of public schools is not to validate or affirm the sexual feelings and volitional acts of children or teens.
Each individual school district will decide how to implement the curriculum: What books to read, how to teach the content, how to train teachers on the new standards. And teachers may have some flexibility on how they present the material. Jonathan Byham says he doesn’t have a problem with teaching about the accomplishments of LGBTQ people. But he doesn’t feel comfortable promoting their lifestyles.
BYHAM: To me this is a struggle. And yeah, that’s, I don’t know if there’s a good solution to how to handle that, um, that would be acceptable to the powers that be and to my own my own beliefs and my own morality.
Byham hopes parents will go to their school boards and state representatives and express their views.
Shawn Hyland is working on a petition in New Jersey.
HYLAND: We want to amend that law to simply state that in any course or class that parents object to based upon their moral or religious views of human sexuality…they’ll have the ability to opt their child out of that class.
But he also wants families to remember that God has placed all of us here for a reason.
HYLAND: I wanna encourage Christians that it’s days like this…where we are found faithful to scripture that brings glory to God…And if we stay faithful to that truth…I believe that that the light will shine in darkness.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen.