While officials in Florida actively campaign to suppress and ignore LGBT history in schools, Washington, D.C. is headed in the opposite direction.
The nation’s capital recently revised its social studies standards to make curriculum anti-racist and LGBTQ-inclusive. The new standards take effect at the start of the 2024-2025 school year.
“I’m really excited about what we’ve been able to move forward and I think D.C. now has the most progressive social studies standards in the country,” said Allister Chang, who represents Ward 2 on the D.C. State Board of Education.
Students in D.C. public schools will learn about key moments in the American gay rights movement, such as the Stonewall uprising and how different genders played a part in work and social roles for ancient people in Egypt, Kush, Mesopotamia and Olmec.
Other areas of study will touch on the scapegoating of homosexuals during the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy and how that bias and prejudice caused World War II.
Chang said the board used a very transparent process to implement the changes – seeking out and receiving public input.
“What I find so beautiful is this is responsive to what students and families were asking for,” said Chang. “Through a lot of public comments and feedback from a variety of stakeholders, families, educators, students, it was clear that they wanted to see more LGBTQ voices tied in throughout.”
D.C. had not revised its social studies standards since 2006, making it one of the oldest systems in the country without an update. Chang said the board used a “windows and mirrors” approach to learning.
“Mirrors being that analogy to being able to see yourself reflected in the curriculum and windows to being able to look out and see how others may live their lives differently or see the world or experience the world differently,” Chang said. “It was something that was the foundational framework of this revision.”
An example of this framework is how students in kindergarten through second grade are asked to identify different kinds of families and caregivers within a community. The new standards acknowledge single-parent, blended, grandparent-headed, conditionally separated, foster, LGBTQ+ and multiracial families and explain the importance of demonstrating respect for all people.
In response to the controversy coming out of Florida, much of the focus on educational standards has centered around when it is appropriate to introduce LGBTQ topics. In D.C., Chang said, parents have already answered that question.
“Most of the children I know, including in Pre-K, already do see the world through the way their parents understand identities and are educating them around identities,” Chang said. “It’s already there by the time they are in school.”