The word “lesbian” is not in the textbook!?

Lesbian. We all know what the word means, but do we really have to keep this word out of high school history books? I understand why publishers of textbooks do not want their books to be “controversial.” Publishers need to sell their books. I get it! But at what point do we put all the cards on the table for high school students and let them learn relevant information? Let me explain – stay with me.

In addition to teaching World Religion, I teach one class of World History. Today I started the chapter on ancient Greece. The greatest female Greek poet is Sappho. She is considered by many to be the world’s first female poet. So great was she that her likeness appeared on ancient Greek coins. Plato called her “the tenth muse.” And her style of meter is commonly known today as the “Sapphic” meter. She was born on the Greek island of Lesbos around 610 B.C. And…she is not even mention in the school textbook (World History, Glencoe publishing, 2003). Gee, I wonder why? Read on.


In her poetry she celebrates her love of women. She celebrates the inner and outer beauty of women. Because she lived on the island of lesbos, and because of the content of her poetry, we now have the word “lesbian” and its contemporary meaning. Even Playboy magazine has picked up on her legacy(see below). Oh, but heaven forbid if we teach the origin of the word “lesbian” and the historical importance of Sappho to students in high school! Oh, my…I think I feel a rant coming on.


Here is my question: Are textbook publishers becoming more interested in selling books that “don’t rock the boat” than they are in printing good “thought-provoking” books that challenge kids to truly think? I have my answer, but I would like to hear yours.

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