When we discuss literacy and culture, we often bring up the idea that students need to feel that their lives and experiences are reflected in the content they are asked to read. I think this is especially crucial to teachers of Social Studies and Language Arts as the social condition of groups and individuals in societies is at the core of what these disciplines explore. Though educators have increasingly made concerted efforts to include the voices of some ethnic minority groups, the rapidly expanding ethnic and cultural composition of our nation’s population calls for a deeper analysis on the extent to which content reflects diverse social groups as well as a more conscious effort to expand the types of voices we feature in our instruction. In particular, I have been thinking of how the voices and experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals and communities may become a central part of the history and literature we teach and conversely, how the relative silencing of these voices in education at large works to damage the experiences of many students in classrooms.
I minored in Womens’ and Gender Studies during my undergraduate education, and from this experience I gained not only a wealth of knowledge which I felt had been kept from me during high school, but also, a sense of passion and personal connection with my academic pursuits which I had never realized prior to entering college. Because Queer and Gay and Lesbian studies are mostly academically based on Women’s Studies and Feminist academics, the connections and explorations which these field encouraged me to realize changed the way I view society and my place in it concretely. I have spoken with many of my peers who also feel this way about their academic pursuits in college in diverse fields and I think this has much to do with the feeling that comes when one feels that their identity is a crucial component of what they are studying and that their personal experiences have culture relevance. I do not know why this is so much harder to achieve in the grade school levels yet, I do not think that it has to be.
For instance, when we (however briefly) teach about the social movements of the mid to late twentieth century (Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Movement, Black Power, etc.) why do we leave out ACT UP New York City, the social activist group made up of primarily Gays and Lesbians of many ethnicities who are largely responsible for forcing the federal government to acknowledge the AIDS crisis? Leaving out this and other groups does a disservice to the historical narrative and erases world altering events from memory due to the political treatment of LGBT groups and individuals. With the way society is progressing in terms of how LBGT individuals are received and treated at large, I feel that our generation of teachers must be the one that abandons the qualms of past generations and embraces the diversity of groups and individuals whose stories enrich out content and our lives.
I found this video of the CU Boulder School of Education and I thought it may help generate some thoughts for those reading this who have not considered LBGT inclusion in curriculum or perhaps for those who do not feel they understand this matter because of a lack of information. While you do not need to watch the video to understand the questions I am attempting to generate with this post, it may be beneficial to expanding one’s thinking on the topic.
Thanks for reading!