Special pleading or valuable knowledge about America's history? Or is that a false choice? Can we acknowledge that legal and cultural conflicts about how to treat gay and lesbian citizens are an important and teachable part of modern American history while still maybe rolling our eyes a little bit at the lobbying to force it into public schools?
On the one hand, public schools are struggling to teach the kinds of things students really need to make their way in the world. On the other hand, these issues are still heavily influencing the platforms for both the Democratic and Republican parties. To not teach about the history of current political movements that have shown lasting presence is itself a form of pandering to a particular mindset.
California has decided it's going to incorporate gay and lesbian issues into history and sociology education. Legislators already passed a law to mandate more inclusion in education all the way back in 2012. Now they're figuring out how. Ah, the speed of public education. The Los Angeles Times notes:
LGBT content will be included in some elementary, middle and high school grades. In fourth grade, for example, students would learn about "the emergence of the nation's first gay rights organizations in the 1950s," the framework states, as well as struggles in California from the 1970s to the present day to affirm the right of gay people to teach and to get married.
Equality California, an LGBT advocacy group, issued a statement praising the move, saying the new framework more accurately represents figures important to the LGBT movement.
The new guidelines, the group added, now better captures "essential moments in the struggle for equality, and the evolution of communities and identities." Equality California said a more inclusive curriculum will make LGBT students more comfortable in school.
That at the end from Equality California is where the feeling of special pleading comes in. The goal should be for students of all types to understand history and how it got them to where they are now. That it makes students "more comfortable" shouldn't be a goal of the education process. It's a positive outcome—a side effect. In fact, I would argue that truly accurate teaching of gay political history should at some points cause the opposite. It was not "comfortable" living through some of this stuff.
As an unintentionally amusing footnote, the L.A. Times notes that the new framework for adding more subjects to education includes "financial literacy," in a state school system that is hungrily devouring taxpayer dollars in order to pay for massively growing pension debts. On the fall ballot in November will be a vote to extend a temporary tax increase that was supposed to have fixed state budget issues.