At a recent South Pasadena Unified school board meeting, a small group of parents voiced concern over LGBTQ curriculum taught in the district’s elementary schools. Their worries ranged from opinion to assumption:
|The worry||The reality|
|Material is age-inappropriate.||Teams of social studies teachers select the material and plan the curriculum together — the same teachers who have been teaching that grade all along and are familiar with child development and curriculum standards.|
|Parents were not advised of materials used.||Parents always have access to the curriculum and can ask the teacher at any time about homework or books or assignments that seem inappropriate to them.|
|LGBTQ curriculum confuses children.||LGBTQ curriculum clarifies questions children may have by presenting them with neutral, accurate facts about historical/contemporary figures so children can understand difference.|
|LGBTQ curriculum causes children to question their own gender identity and/or sexual orientation.||Subject matter is not contagious, or we would all be mathematicians after a decade of exposure to it.|
|Instead of preventing suicidal ideation, it implants those thoughts.||Parental rejection and ostracization/bullying focused on sexual orientation are what create feelings of despair and pain in LBGTQ youth.|
|Transgender identity is something children will grow out of.||Transgendered people often encounter such shame and vilification that they spend much more time trying to deny themselves than embracing themselves. Being left handed is something people were pressured to “grow out of” too, before we realized the pressure was pointless.|
|Ideas about gender identity may cause children to change their views (“men are aggressors”).||Children already have a lot of views from their own experiences and observations.|
|Parents should be able to opt out of the material if it’s going to be taught in elementary school.||Parents already have that right under CA Ed Code 60615.|
Many of the parents mentioned in the article seemed to have been Asian American Pacific Islander. As AAPI parents in the community who are comfortable with LGBTQ curriculum taught in the schools, as state law mandates, we wholeheartedly support an educational philosophy for our district that is inclusive, not to mention accurate.
In 2011, California lawmakers passed the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. As part of California Ed Code, the law provides for social studies classes to include people with disabilities and LGBTQ people and their contributions to American life. Providing some fact-based and neutral information about people one might see or encounter in the world helps children understand that difference is not inherently scary. It’s simply different.
All of our children are growing up around other children who, unlike in earlier, repressive generations, are openly out as LBGTQ. Whether all parents are comfortable with this reality or not, it is reality. All our kids are meeting, befriending, studying alongside children of all backgrounds and identities. Trying to force the curriculum back into the proverbial closet won’t change that. Instead, enforcing ignorance in our own schools only adds to a climate of misinformation and bigotry. Asian Pacific Islanders, of all groups, should understand the peril of allowing fear, paranoia and narrowness dictate the futures of ourselves and our children.
Fearful parents aren’t protecting their kids. They’re protecting themselves from social change they’re not comfortable with. When and how they work through that discomfort is up to them but they don’t have the right to impose their fears on our schools. What’s more, at some point, children leave home. They have their own thoughts. They choose friends and then partners according to their needs. This is true when children are Asian American Pacific islander or are some other race/ethnicity.
We have a choice to grow love or grow hate. Like the Free Hugs moms and dads who go to Pride parades and offer unconditional love and hugs to LBGTQ adults who were disowned, abused, denigrated, denied affection, or kicked out of the house as kids because they loved or lived differently, we choose love and acceptance and healing.
We are already immersed in a world where every kind of racial, religious, class, cultural, sexual orientation, or linguistic difference surrounds us. This isn’t something to be worried about — this is our reality and our amazing strength, resilience, and beauty as a people and a culture.
AAPI South Pasadena parents and youth: Cynthia Liu, Harry Lin, Oliver Wang, Sharon Mizota, Helen Mendoza, Elizabeth Anne Bagasao, Jayden Tran, Ryder LiuLin, Leslie Ito, Steven Wong, Sheila Rossi, Karen Yung, Brandon Yung, Karin Mak, Neel Garlapati, Martin Hsia, Vivian Lew, Eric Joe, Emily Joe, Travis Joe, Jeanie Joe
Other South Pasadena LGBTQ supporters: Martin Albormoz, Ed Donnelly, Pamela Privett, Saida Staudenmaier, Evan Dicker, Vicki Vlasnik, Stefani Williams, Dino Pierone, Maisha Daniel-Jamerson, Dublin Galyean, Debra Beadle, David Beadle, Hope Perello, Christina Vaughan, Margo Newman, Matt Carless, Andrea Carless, Michelle Trafficante, Laura Kieffer, Jackie Diamond, The McCurdys, Stephanie Foley, Tanya Parker, Mindy J Blum (PhD), Pamela Postrel, John Srebalus, Monica Guzowski, Christopher Kramsch, Myla Kramsch, Marni Mosiman
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