If you had a working TV in 2014 you will probably remember the “Safe Schools Coalition” program commencing, and all the controversy that came with it. The program— which focuses on reshaping schools into environments that are supportive and inclusive of LGBTI+ students and their experiences— was met with the predictable amount of backlash from the politically conservative members of the Australian public.
Particularly controversial elements of the program included allowing students to self-identify their gender and dress accordingly, teaching safe-sex practices for homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships, and the introduction of discussions of gender and sexual identity into classrooms at primary and secondary levels. The conservative Australians, particularly the Australian Christian Lobby, believe that this “radical program” is being used as a tool to introduce children to sexual themes and gender theory at too young an age.
It is the belief of many conservative Australian’s that the “Safe School Coalition” program, and broader LGBTI+ topics, do not belong in the classroom as they apply to a minority of Australians. According to the Australian Christian Lobby, the program acts as a form of “queer indoctrination” for those that it does not directly apply to (the majority of students) and therefore does not deserve to be in the classroom. They are wrong.
LGBTI+ topics not only deserve to be in the classroom but need to be in the classroom.
It is the role of schools to equip children for the future. With the future looking increasingly uncertain, a diverse range of solutions is necessary. A diversity of thought can only be fostered if we are willing to acknowledge and explore the diversity of human experience. We cannot equip our children with the kind of critical thinking they will require in the future if we are only willing to teach them a single dominant version of the human experience. Teaching a singular human experience seems especially counter-productive considering it is the current teaching which created the uncertain future that we now need to equip our children for.
This necessity for diversity extends beyond the “Safe School Coalition” program. The curriculum is being diversified— with more time being given to the culture of Indigenous Australia, non-Eurocentric history classes, Geography classes that are critical of colonialism, and more schools of scientific thought in science. Therefore LGBTI+ content deserves a place. LGBTI+ content naturally expands upon what is already being taught in classrooms.
Many classic English texts are made by LGBTI+ composers— Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde, James Baldwin, and Emily Dickinson. Modern texts are also increasingly focusing on LGBTI+ stories (just look at recent prestige films like Moonlight and Call Me By Your Name). Popular teen fiction is also engaging LGBTI+ stories more than their predecessors. The heteronormative stories of The Hunger Games and Twilight are giving way to more pro-LGBTI+ like I’ll Give You The Sun, The Raven Cycle, and Simon vs The Homosapien Agenda. The current generation of children aren’t just more willing to engage with LGBTI+ culture but are creating a demand for it.
LGBTI+ content fits into other classes also. Homosexuality is naturally occurring in every species of animal with no discernible cause. Surely this is something worth exploring in science classes? LGBTI+ culture has influenced modern history drastically as well. To best understand how our society has formed we cannot teach a single Christian Anglo-Saxon narrative. Minorities and counter-cultures are just as important to that narrative, and the LGBTI+ community has been a major player for years.
As diversity becomes more accepted culturally, we must match that acceptance with what is being taught. Australia voting yes to gay marriage and having the “Safe Schools Coalition” program is a good foundation upon which we can build a more diverse curriculum. Teaching diversity— cultural, ethnic, LGTBI+ and more— will encourage diverse thinking, and properly equip our children to tackle the problems of tomorrow with creativity and originality that we could never dream of.