Listening to public radio today in the car my daughter and I heard a story about a famous civil rights activist.
She looked at me, “why haven’t their been any gay rights activists?”
“There have been gay rights activists. Lots of them.”
A look of betrayal crossed her face. “Why don’t we learn about them in school?”
“I think it isn’t allowed in the curriculum. Do you want to learn about gay and lesbian history?”
“Yes! And that school isn’t going to know what hit them. I demand that we learn this,” her small body tense with anger and determination.
“I can teach you about gay history but, . . . I really think teaching it in the schools is not allowed. In fact when you have sex education they aren’t going to tell you about anything gay either.”
“What!? I don’t want to be less educated than everyone else!”
I assured her that I had never intended to leave her sex education to the public schools and besides in our community sex education is abstinence only, so she can rest assured plenty of the straight kids will be far more uneducated than I’d ever let her be.
I think that last little snarkiness directed at the public school sex education curriculum went over her head.
Nevertheless, she was buzzing with righteous anger. She has a sense of justice. She has learned about the fights for civil rights in her Social Studies classes. She knows about slavery and women’s suffrage in the 19th century, the fight for gender equality and the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. She knows that there was a time when we didn’t teach about those fights for justice in the schools.
Teaching that history in the public schools is part of our continued progress toward equality and justice.
It’s a sad moment when you have to tell your fifth grader that in 2011 the school refuses to teach her history and her sexuality.