The board room at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District was choked with people wanting to comment about curriculum updates. A proposed elective class for 11th and 12th graders focusing on LGBTQ literature brought detractors and supporters.
Every chair was filled, even the extra ones put out by a security guard, and folks were standing along the back of the room and crowding the door. The curriculum updates, including new electives in English and History weren’t even on the school board’s agenda.
But because Tuesday was the deadline for comment to the District’s Curriculum Committee, Board of Education President Wendy Dominique allowed nearly two hours of testimony on this year’s changes to Social Studies and Language Arts classes.
“Please be respectful of one another when you come to make your testimony.”
And mostly, they were. Not everyone understood that the proposed English class on LGBT Literature is an elective, but for some, like Lance Roberts and Gail McBride, that did not matter.
“I was quite saddened to see the school district was pushing an agenda of bringing pornography into the classroom.”
“This is a controversial, personal, sexual nature, and we do not believe it has a place in the school.”
Many commented that homosexual, transgender and intersex students need to see themselves reflected in literature and history. Here are Zakia Mitchell and Violet Hollowell.
“What do students stand to gain by deprivation of knowledge? Neglecting to teach children about the world around them, does not aid them when the time comes for navigating it.”
“Sometimes when I talk about transgender issues, people say they don’t understand. They mean that they can’t accept a universe in which transgender people exist. Because if we exist, then life is cruel, nature is random, morality is ambiguous, and God makes the sun rise and the rain fall on the just and unjust alike."
Melanie Hadaway, the Executive Director of Teaching & Learning for the district, explained all 11th and 12th graders must take an American Literature class, which includes African and Native American works and one other literature elective. Already in the curriculum are electives for British and Holocaust literature and a World Literature Survey.
The committee’s draft sets up new classes for LGBTQ, but also Women’s Literature, Asian American and Latin American works – or not:
“The question we were seeking feedback on was do we want separate courses, or more of an umbrella course. The proposed title was Social Themes in Literature, which would encompass several electives.”
But that seemed too much for commenter Blake Burley.
“It’s obvious that we can’t have Muslim literature, and KKK literature and Antifa literature and Jewish literature and white, male, European literature. We have to draw the line somewhere.”
The curriculum committee will review the comments and present either a third draft or a final version to the Board of Education later this spring. The board will hold a public hearing before debating final approval.