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The decision by the nation's largest teachers union to abandon a proposal to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues in the national curriculum is a slap in the face to the ideals of equality fought for since the days of Brown v. Board of Education. At its national convention in Los Angeles, the National Education Association was pressured by the anti-homosexuality sentiments of many Americans, represented by the 600 protesters present, into abandoning the proposal for a task force to address this issue. This is simply not enough.

By choosing a weak alternative, the NEA is acknowledging and giving credibility to protesters' belief that addressing homosexuality in schools is wrong. Particularly problematic is the way deferring to a task force confirms the fear of some opponents that discussing homosexuality in the classroom may be a way of "promoting" it on campuses.

LGBT people have already been denied rights other members of society enjoy, such as the right to marry or openly serve in the military. Just because a large segment of the population is averse to homosexuality, as they once were to racial integration and women in the workplace, does not justify ignoring concerns of the LGBT community.

The LGBT curriculum is primarily aimed at serving the needs of members of its own community and educating the public as a whole – not seeking to undermine those who are heterosexual, although people of all sexual orientations would benefit from this education.

Education should be about more than basic academic skills. One of the most important aspects of being an educated person is learning to be part of the community. If a person cannot interact with others, he or she is at a serious social disadvantage. The LGBT curriculum would provide a very important civic lesson: tolerance.

It is difficult to be a child or teenager these days, especially with the peer and academic pressure that is characteristic of schools. But it is even more difficult to belong to the LGBT community, because aside from dealing with ordinary school-day conflicts, students must also tackle the extraordinarily confusing subject of their identities.

And why wouldn't they be confused? Millions of Americans think homosexuality is wrong. This is why homosexuals have become the target of hate crimes and are prone to discrimination at every age. In schools, this discrimination is so prevalent that it is second nature. It is in this environment where these issues must be addressed. Where else is calling someone "gay" or a "fag" commonplace but in schools, where students don't know how damaging those words can be?

A successful incorporation of educational resources about, and for, the LGBT community at all levels of the American educational system has not occurred. And even though some, like the NEA's task force, are making efforts to correct this, the seriousness with which they are taken has so far been inadequate.

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