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Bank Street Releases Occasional Paper Series #37

Posted by Bank Street on April 03, 2017

The new Bank Street Occasional Paper Series #37Queering Education: Pedagogy, Curriculum, Policy—launched today to provide educators with a closer look at issues surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) lives in educational settings.

This issue builds from the idea that while much progress has been made over the last few decades, the greater inclusion and engagement of LGBTQ identities in schools is dependent on work still to come. Through eight powerful essays, this series seeks to refresh, reinvigorate, and refocus the conversation around queerness in education and points the way to a more equitable and inclusive future.

Occasional Paper Series #37 guest editor Darla Linville, Assistant Professor of Educational Foundations at Augusta University, offers additional insight and perspective on the topic of queer theory in education and what she hopes readers will take away from this issue of the Occasional Paper Series.

Q: What can educators and parents do to be better advocates for LGBTQ bodies within their local schools and school districts?

A: I think educators and parents who do not identify as queer or LGBT can educate themselves about heteronormativity, gender normativity, and the privileges that accrue with those systems (heterosexism and cissexism). Reading about, talking to friends about, and trying to imagine living a different experience than one’s own can be a way for those who are privileged to begin to question their privileges, and to also then begin to question the structural powers that uphold those privileges. If we can advocate for LGBTQ youth in schools in a way that doesn’t treat non-heterosexuality or gender non-conformity as special cases, and without asking LGBTQ youth to be "just like everyone else," and begin to advocate for dismantling the pervasive gender and sexuality norms in schools, we might get to some new places. Right now, so much of parent advocacy and educator advocacy is tinged with internalized shame about how abnormal and immoral sexuality and gender expression are, and there is often shame to even talk about them. One way to start this conversation might be to bring in outside experts to provide professional development for district personnel and parents. Getting to a place where adults have moved past their own shame would be a great advance.

Another thing adults can do is let kids lead. What do the students want? What do students say would be great to achieve and what would make this school so much more tolerable? Follow the lead of the students, take seriously the ideas of the students, and don’t dismiss their dreams as impossible. Make plans to achieve the goals that they set—even if you have to do it step by step.

Q: The theme of Occasional Paper Series #37 was conceived in the summer of 2015 after the Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriages must be recognized at the federal level. Now fast forward to today's current political landscape and the administration's campaign to strip away the rights of transgender students. Do you think this change in our nations' atmosphere will impact the reader's experience and, if so, how?

A: Yes, I think teachers and other adult advocates who have relied on the law, court cases, and Office of Civil Rights guidance as ways to spur their districts, administrators, or communities to action will feel that this leverage is not as useful as it has been. When the political momentum for protecting groups of people who historically have been legally discriminated against, harassed, and rendered invisible is reversed, confidence that we have gained in the courts and in legislation is destroyed. Even without decisions against trans or queer kids in schools, the Supreme Court's refusal to hear cases (such as the Gavin Grimm case that claimed that trans students are protected by Title IX) protects the status quo. This allows for discriminatory action against trans and queer kids, and drowns out their cries for protection within institutions that require their presence.

Q: At its core, queer theory strips away traditional norms and demands that students be seen as individuals with complex identities. This approach allows us to create meaningful relationships with one another and helps create a more inclusive space for LGBTQ students to develop and learn. Does this approach impact broader school communities as well? What, if any, benefits does this approach offer for all students and educators—queer and non-queer alike?

A: I would say that queer theory does ask us to look for unanticipated connections and directions and to avoid the usual pathways. In schools in particular, it would encourage us to de-track students, mixing them more in various kinds of classes—those considered academic and those considered vocational—and allowing students to follow their own interests and move from “track” to “track.” It might also suggest that we refuse binary categories such as academic and vocational and view all learning as valuable learning. If we follow this line of thinking, students could specialize themselves and also explore connections among ideas, interests, and disciplines. In similar ways to those mentioned previously, where we would give up organizing students using gender as a sorting property, queer theory would encourage us to not sort students according to a single set of abilities, such as literacy and math skills, and would allow for rearranging and reshuffling of groups throughout the years of schooling. Queering schools might create a place for students to be more fluid in all of their identities.

Q: What do you hope the reader takes away from Queering Education: Pedagogy, Curriculum, Policy?

A: Inspiration, challenge, joy—I want readers to feel astounded by the resources presented in these essays, the absolute multitude of ideas that can encourage them to make small changes in their own classrooms. There are many students looking for a place in school to express their gender or speak about their sexuality as a way of being completely present with all of their complexity in the most important social space in their lives. I hope readers read these essays and think, "I can do that."

Read full issue:

tagged: darla linville, occasional paper series