Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Partisan debates over education could diminish LGBTQ, minority community representation in school curricula

Parents’ rights movement argue against covering LGBTQ issues, experiences in classroom
Amos Mayberry

The education system has long been the cause of political tension between both sides of the political aisle. The rhetoric surrounding LGBTQ issues has become particularly polarized in recent decades, as discussions surrounding bathroom policies, LGBTQ history and curriculum on gender and sexuality become increasingly necessary to address.

School is a crucial factor in the life progression of youth. Education helps develop important academic and critical thinking skills, but it also affects a child’s social development. For many, school is the first and most consistent opportunity to interact with peers and new adults. People learn from observing others, meaning these interactions and discussions held in school can be vital in shaping the perspectives of youth for the rest of their lives.

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Wisconsin is seeing significant pushback from conservative politicians and parents in response to . such curriculum initiatives. In fact, the Wisconsin GOP launched several attack ads on the subject in September, ahead of the midterm elections, attacking Evers for his involvement with the agency.

The “parents’ rights” movement has risen in popularity across the country with advocates in favor arguing for a parent’s right to decide what subjects are taught to their children. Curricula, textbooks and teachers in public schools have all been criticized by parents for the topics they discussed and the potential agenda they push.

Wisconsin is no exception to this trend — at the start of the year, parents across the state spoke at the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Education in favor of a package of K-12 reform bills which handed more power in public schools back to parents.

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Movements like these have the potential to do serious damage to academic discourse and beliefs around LGBTQ history, culture and experiences, particularly when the fear of promoting political agendas in the classroom leads to the complete rejection of any content which has any moral or partisan debate attached to it.

It is important to understand the difference between indoctrination and education. To indoctrinate implies the distinct instillation of personal perspectives or beliefs onto another in some forceful or coercive way. In a truly educational setting, there is no outside agenda regarding the subjects being taught. Curriculums are ubiquitous in their diversity, and every subject is taught with complete objectivity. It is then up to the students to decide their opinion on these issues and topics.

Exposing students to issues felt by the queer community is not inherently equivalent to partisan persuasion. While the topic has become politically polarized, simply being LGBTQ is not a political statement. On the contrary, by advocating for these issues to not be taught in a school setting, this content becomes politicized through its specific exclusion from course curriculum. 

The goal behind teaching students about LGBTQ and other marginalized communities is not to shame any individual political party that they or their parents may align with. Understanding the experiences of LGBTQ individuals should not be inextricably linked to one side of the political aisle.

School should always be a place of complete transparency, acceptance and objectivity. By learning about a diverse range of communities, lifestyles and histories, students can then form their own opinions from an educated and informed standpoint.

The danger of restricting what content is taught in public schools is that students will be unprepared to interact with these issues or communities or to understand their own sexual and gender identity. Regardless of how a student chooses to interpret the subjects they are taught, it is vital for youth to understand the contexts and issues surrounding these communities. In essence, the school system is the first and best place for children to learn about as many different people and perspectives as possible, so they can then make their own life choices and understand the life circumstances of others accordingly.

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There is also the potential for historical inaccuracies to arise when certain content is specifically excluded from curricula. Further, many have said this exclusion can exacerbate the mental health disparities already felt by LGBTQ youth who do not receive an education on their identity or who feel discouraged to talk about their experiences in an educational setting.

The restriction of school curricula content is not exclusive to LGBTQ rights and issues. Battles surrounding racial diversity and Critical Race Theory have taken place in classrooms for years.

Studies have shown the benefits felt by students who learned about a more diverse range of history and ideologies — with students in historically underrepresented communities reporting increased self-esteem when their ethnicities were included in educational discourse and all students reporting a greater appreciation for cultural differences in their classrooms. But despite these benefits, America’s education system remains excessively Eurocentric in its teachings.

Learning about a range of people and their histories is a benefit to those who identify with notoriously underrepresented communities but also to those who don’t. There is an argument to be made for a parent’s right to discuss their own moral or political values with their children. But, by continuing to ingrain ideas of separation and societal hierarchies in the classroom, it should come as no surprise that there will only continue to be increasing polarization on the most fundamental issues in our society.

There will always be the potential for politics to emerge in the education system. But, the solution is not to restrict content that has become partisan or controversial outside of the classroom. On the contrary, it is vital for youth to learn about every social group and history in an unbiased and nonjudgemental zone to ensure they can make informed choices about their own life and values. Curriculum and teaching transparency should certainly be expected by schools, but the fear of difficult conversations should not stop the education system from including content on every race, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Fiona Hatch ([email protected]) is a sophomore studying political science and international studies.

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