About two weeks ago, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin introduced a bill that would require schools to notify parents and guardians before introducing classes related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Parents would also be able to pull their kids out of the curriculum.
I think it’s important to start off by saying I cannot presume to understand all the problems and discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faces every day. With that being said, I grew up in Santa Monica, California. I was fortunate enough to have received an education at Windward — a progressive high school. I have always been very grateful for my education, with one of many reasons being that my school made a very conscious effort to diversify our curriculum. One example of such efforts would be my AP English Language class in my junior year. The class was focused on intersectionality and was split into different units throughout the year including race, gender, sexuality, religion and ethnicity.
We uncovered many important issues and read a myriad of books that helped us understand people similar and different from us. Being a white cis-gendered heterosexual woman, I did not always understand the problems people faced outside of my little bubble. Like any class, I came across opinions I did and did not agree with. But every single perspective and story allowed me to think differently and more deeply about the society we live in.
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English classes at my school always included Socratic discussion, so I was privileged with the ability to talk to my peers about how they’ve experienced their identities. In addition, I was able to talk about my experience of being a woman, a Jew and a daughter of two immigrants from South Africa. Though many of my peers had overlapping identities, we all had different experiences with them.
This Wisconsin bill is completely outrageous, and its impact would be devastating. As someone who has experienced the type of education the bill wants to require parental consent for, I can affirm learning about and from people who are different from myself has done nothing but enhance my ability to connect with other people. This is a skill I have taken with me to university and will use moving forward.
Additionally, a lack of education about those who may be different causes us to “other” people. This problem is one of many that caused the Holocaust and many tragic attacks against those in the LGBTQ+ community, people of color and those who practice religions underrepresented in the United States.
According to Rep. Robert Wittke, the bill is supposed to be a mechanism for those that disagree due to potential conflicting religious beliefs.
“This is merely just a way to give parents a choice,” Wittke said in a WPR article.
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While this argument may seem rational, what isn’t considered is schools may be a place for students to finally feel represented and learn about themselves. Even those who belong to families agreeing with religious notions against people belonging to the LGBTQ+ community may be struggling with their identity and do not have a place at home to express their thoughts and emotions.
The recent rise in attacks against the LGBTQ+ community are unprecedented and the high rates of depression and suicide within the community are gut-wrenching. The way to stop these attacks and help those struggling with identity acceptance and love starts in the educational system. We need to learn and understand we are not so different from one another.
I believe guardians of the students in the public school system have a right to know what the school is teaching their children because education is so important. But if consent is needed for classes that want to focus on the LGBTQ+ community in any way, then consent should be needed for all classes.
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Though I do not agree with students requiring consent for any class, if schools wanted to implement that policy then it can’t be either or, otherwise it becomes an issue of enabling homophobia.
My father has always told me to keep my eyes and ears open, ask questions and learn as much as you can from as many people as you can.
Parents hesitant about these classes designed for inclusivity should be open to adopting a similar perspective. If we start encouraging open-mindedness, students will learn more freely and positively, and may one day become the great thinkers our society desperately needs.
Jessica Lewin ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying journalism.