The Fairbanks North Star School District is undaunted in its effort to weave LGBTQ books, materials and themes into high school courses.
Despite months of community feedback and public testimony, the Fairbanks Curriculum Advisory Committee voted March 5 to approve the third draft of a new high school social studies curriculum that exposes 10th and 11th grade students to classes pushing LGBTQ political and social agendas. Final adoption, however, must come from the school board.
U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS EXPERIENCE
The social studies class is part of the “U.S. Civil Rights Experience” course which allows students to study the “historical civil rights experience” of those identifying as LGBTQ. Students are asked to identify the “roots of stereotypes and biases.” Additional options include learning about the experiences of Latinos, African Americans, women and other groups. Students can take the class in lieu of a more traditional U.S. history course while still fulfilling graduation requirements.
The changes are part of a larger update to social studies curriculum across all grade levels, as well as high school language arts. The process has taken several months.
Ultimately, however, the LGBTQ content will remained in place.
Melanie Hadaway, the school district’s executive director of teaching and learning, ran the March 5 Curriculum Committee meeting. She told the members that one of the biggest issues of contention surrounding curriculum changes came from those concerned about the new LGBTQ emphasis.
Hadaway said the curriculum writers had seen and “considered” these concerns. Ultimately, however, the controversial content will remained in place. Although she did not have hard data, she said that about 75% of feedback was in favor of the LGBTQ themes.
The Curriculum Committee voted unanimously to approve the changes for social studies. Hadaway will give a report to the school board on March 17 where there will also be opportunity for public testimony. Hadaway expects the board will take action to approve or deny the recommended changes at its April 7 meeting.
Overall, Hadaway said she was “very excited” about the updated social studies curriculum as it moves away from a unified content standards format and more towards a skills-based approach that allows students more flexibility to study different themes and topics.
She said the new curriculum also addresses concerns from teachers who say “there is just too much content” to cover in a year. “So, really the intent with this curriculum is – let’s take a step back and say what’s really important to learn,” Hadaway said.
GAY LITERATURE CLASS
Changes to high school language arts is another highly controversial issue that the Curriculum Committee faced this winter. Again, despite community reservations to the contrary, the district’s curriculum writers persisted in adding an LGBTQ literature to high school.
The book list includes novels, plays and poetry that explore sexual violence, rape, lust, divorce, masturbation and pornography.
Rather than having an explicit LGBTQ literature class, the writers changed course and added a “Social Themes in Literature” offering, which includes books by gay authors exploring same-sex attraction.
The book list, which is now posted for public review and comment, includes novels, plays and poetry that explore sexual violence, rape, lust, divorce, masturbation and pornography. A few of the books touch on religious themes, but mostly in a negative light.
Once submitted to the school board, it must approve all the required books on the list. Those that are merely “recommended” reading are not up for public review and do not need school board approval, Hadaway said.
While Hadaway expressed hope of finishing the curriculum update in April, she admitted that it may take longer.
“If we get significant feedback (on high school language arts) we will slow down,” she said. “I don’t want people to think that we are just rushing it through without giving consideration to the comments that we receive.”
BOOKS UNDER CONSIDERATION
The following is a sample of books under consideration for high school literature.
- Handmaid’s Tale: Depicts a hierarchical model of social and religious fanaticism that severely limits women’s rights, including reproductive rights.
- Poisonwood Bible: Depicts a religiously controlling missionary who uses faith to oppress others.
- The Roundhouse: Contains themes of sexual violence, rape and lust.
- Poet X: Includes scenes of heavy petting without clothes on, a girl being groped, a gay character, promiscuous adults and a girl who masturbates.
- Mexican White boy: Contains references to prostitution, masturbation, sexual fantasies and teen sex.
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: Describes a boy’s gay fantasies and references masturbation.
- Enchanted Air: Mentions girls who have sex and a mother’s old-fashioned advice about dating.
The entire book list is here.
HIGHLIGHTING ABORTION ACTIVIST
In addition to the high school civil rights class, another class called “Recent U.S. History” is being proposed for 9th and 10th graders.
The one-semester class reviews the foundations of democracy before focusing on the people, cultures, issues, and events that shaped the United States from the Reconstruction era to the 1930s. The course objective states that the goal is to “identify the economic, social, and political reasons the 1920s was a time of clashing cultures, and explain the reasons given by the Ku Klux Klan and religious groups in opposition to the social changes that were occurring.” It also looks to highlight key civil rights leaders including Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger.
- The next school board meeting is March 17 at 6 p.m. Click here for details.
- Click here to review and comment on the most recent draft of the social studies and high school literature updates.
- Click here to contact members of the Fairbanks School Board.