The inconvenient truth about NJ’s LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum (Opinion)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli is back at it again. Pledging to try to repeal New Jersey's LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum initiative if elected the next governor of New Jersey.
There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what that actually means for our state's public school curriculum. That it's some sort of "indoctrination."
In what can only be the result of a bad game of telephone, people started getting the idea that the change in the curriculum was LGBTQ-oriented, as opposed to what it really is ... and focus on the last word here ... LGBTQ-inclusive.
While part of the updated curriculum does contain a sharper focus on LGBTQ subjects when it applies to the overall lesson — more on that in a second — its main goal is to create a more inclusive environment for a classroom of children of all shapes and sizes spanning all the spectrums you can think of.
This is because your kids have classmates who are gay, transgender, intersex, you name it. And the kids are way cooler about all of it than a lot of their parents are. Or at worst, apathetic.
Lindsey Daly, a Morristown middle school social studies teacher who took part in the curriculum pilot program says, “The initiative can at times be as simple as changing a math word problem to have two men as a couple every once in a while."
Daly says the curriculum "helps change teachers' small habits like saying 'OK everybody,’ instead of 'OK, boys and girls.'"
Now when it comes down to what the kids are actually learning, there's no huge spectacle. There's no Learn About Gay People Day. Though that would be cool.
The New Jersey Department of Education gives a pretty cut-and-dry explanation.
N.J.S.A. 18A:35-4.35-36 requires boards of education to include instruction on the political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in appropriate places in the middle school and high school curriculum. The law also requires boards of education to adopt inclusive instructional materials that portray the cultural and economic diversity of society including the political, economic, and social contributions of person with disabilities and LGBT people, where appropriate.
These changes are going to mostly impact lessons in Social Studies, History, or English class, when teaching about historical figures and notable writers. But as Lindsay Daly points out, "We're not changing history. We're just teaching more."
Discussing the achievements and challenges of those throughout history who identify as LGBTQ helps students understand perspectives other than their own.
The fear-mongering by Jack Ciatterelli has been a problem for a while. In July, Ciattarelli warned they're teaching sodomy to 6th graders.
Ciattarelli technically might not be totally wrong in this instance, but at best he's taking things way out of context.
He is likely referring to health class, which has been teaching about all forms of sex, including anal sex, since I was in middle school. I learned about it in middle school and high school health class. And that was in the early and mid '00s. That means public schools have been teaching this since before Jack Ciatterelli had gray hair.
I asked Lindsay Daly a question you'd likely save for a first date: How often are you talking about anal sex throughout the day?
Aside from possibly health class, Daly says, "It doesn't ever come up in any other subject because none of the curriculum is about sex."
You would think that if anal sex was somehow shoehorned into English class, or whatever the Republican candidate thinks is going on, at least one outraged student, parent, or teacher, would have posted proof to social media by now.
Schools should spend even more time focusing on LGBTQ-oriented subject matters in health class, if we're being honest. Kids at that age have many questions they don't know the answers to, and definitely don't want to ask their parents. What better time than health class, when you could always cut the tension with a knife as it is? May as well get all the awkward questions out of the way at once.
Increased education on certain subject matters like this can only help teach kids that we aren't all that different from each other.
This curriculum is aimed to not only normalize LGBTQ people, but also embrace and celebrate their contributors to the world we live in.
We just want to be included.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 producer, writer, and host Joe Votruba. Any opinions expressed are his own.