Scholarly U.S. organizations for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) history applaud Colorado’s Board of Education for approving K-12 History-Social Studies Standards that, for the first time, include the contributions of LGBTQ people. At the November 10 meeting, the board approved final revisions to include African American, Latino, Asian American, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Indigenous, and LGBTQ people, as well as religious minorities, in history and civics lessons across all grade levels. This decision aligns the standards with HB 19-1192 (Inclusion of American Minorities in the Teaching of Civil Government), passed in 2019 by the Colorado Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jared Polis. The standards were the culmination of a yearlong process involving input from curriculum specialists and thousands of public comments. The Organization of American Historians’ Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians and Histories and the Committee on LGBT History (CLGBTH, an affiliate of the American Historical Association) commend the passage and implementation of the law, which makes Colorado a model for 21st-century K-12 history education.”
In the 1990s, the far right stoked a culture war claiming that LGBTQ educational inclusion was a so-called ‘gay agenda.’ Today, they claim it’s about ‘indoctrinating students.’ But teaching LGBTQ history is simply about providing accurate, quality lessons to K-12 classrooms. It’s helping educators show students the richness of our past and its link to the present,” says Eric Gonzaba, co-chair of CLGBTH. “LGBTQ history can and should be taught in accurate, age-appropriate ways, at all grade levels, for all historical eras.”
In approving the social studies standards, Colorado joins California, which passed the FAIR Education Act in 2011, an LGBTQ-inclusive History-Social Science Framework in 2016, and textbook alignments in 2018. In addition, Oregon in 2019 passed the Student Success Act and in 2021 produced an inclusive version of its Social Sciences Standards. Other states with LGBTQ-inclusive K-12 history education laws that have begun implementation without state standards alignments include New Jersey, Illinois, Nevada, and Connecticut.
“As scholars and educators, we are encouraged by the momentum building across the country for honest, accessible, and quality history education aligned with over four decades of scholarship in our field,” said Cookie Woolner, co-chair of the OAH Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians and Histories. “It is a stark contrast from the ten states now with ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and related laws, which stoke ahistorical ignorance, division, and fear.”
In the past two years, the OAH Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians and Histories and the CLGBTH have taken a stand against “Don’t Say Gay” and other anti-LGBTQ restrictive curriculum and teaching laws.
The OAH Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians and Histories and the CLGBTH recognize the importance of an accurate, inclusive history education for students and educators in a pluralistic democracy. Such history lessons align with the best practices of social studies, according to a National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) position statement (2019). In it, the NCSS “fully recognizes and supports the civic, ethical, and moral imperatives to advance a more historically accurate, complete, and empowering social studies curriculum that contextualizes LGBT+ history,” adding, “The social, cultural, and political implications of sidelining, omitting, and/or misrepresenting certain cultural groups are damaging and antithetical to a true democratic education.”
Our nation’s students, educators, school districts, and society are best served by laws, policies, and implementation that is inclusive, accurate, and aligned with scholarship.
Read the Statement as a PDF