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June 30, 2015 2

The Time Is Now: Bringing LGBT Topics into the Classroom

Wikicommons/InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA

Wikicommons/InSapphoWeTrust from Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia, USA

Over the past few years, our coun­try has made enor­mous strides on mar­riage equal­ity and as of June 26, 2015, mar­riage equal­ity is the law of the land in all 50 states. On that day, the Supreme Court of the United States held that that the 14th Amend­ment requires a state to license a mar­riage between two peo­ple of the same sex and to rec­og­nize mar­riages law­fully per­formed in other juris­dic­tions. Sixty-one per­cent of Amer­i­cans sup­port mar­riage equality.

Has our coun­try reached the tip­ping point?  Are we ready to bring LGBT top­ics into our cur­ricu­lum and classrooms?

Con­sider the num­bers. Accord­ing to the 2010 Cen­sus, there are approx­i­mately 594,000 same-sex cou­ple house­holds liv­ing in the U.S. and more than 125,000 of those house­holds include nearly 220,000 chil­dren under age 18.  Fur­ther, there are as many as 6 mil­lion Amer­i­can chil­dren and adults who have an LGBT par­ent. With the Supreme Court rul­ing, all U.S. res­i­dents live in a state with mar­riage equality.

In addi­tion to the chil­dren of same-sex cou­ples attend­ing our schools, there are stu­dents who them­selves iden­tify as les­bian, gay, trans­gen­der and bisex­ual and/or who don’t con­form to tra­di­tional gen­der norms. Many of these stu­dents suf­fer teas­ing, bul­ly­ing, harass­ment, vio­lence and inter­nal­ized oppres­sion that can lead to risky behav­ior and even sui­cide. Almost half of all ele­men­tary stu­dents say they hear com­ments like “that’s so gay” or “you’re so gay” from other kids at school and 75% of LGBT mid­dle and high school stu­dents report being ver­bally harassed because of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. The good news is that these stu­dents also report bet­ter school expe­ri­ences when pro-active sup­ports and resources are in place.

There are gay and les­bian edu­ca­tors in our schools but many don’t feel safe to be “out” to their stu­dents and the school com­mu­nity. LGBT teach­ers do not have the same priv­i­lege that het­ero­sex­ual teach­ers have to talk about their partners/spouses and other core aspects of their lives and the school cli­mate can be down­right hos­tile towards them. There have been recent cases of teach­ers get­ting fired because of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion. Some states have laws that pro­hibit dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity but most do not. Fed­eral leg­is­la­tion (ENDA) has been pro­posed to address this prob­lem but it has stalled in Con­gress. Even teach­ers in states with legal pro­tec­tions aren’t nec­es­sar­ily com­fort­able com­ing out because admin­is­tra­tors can find ways to fire them.

For chil­dren and teenagers, just know­ing a gay teacher can be a pow­er­ful expe­ri­ence; it gives them the oppor­tu­nity to know, admire and care about some­one who is LGBT.

Given that our schools are pop­u­lated with chil­dren of same-sex fam­ily house­holds, LGBT stu­dents and gay and les­bian teach­ers, it is time to bring this topic into our nation’s schools and class­rooms in a com­pre­hen­sive way.  It is an oppor­tu­nity to expand young people’s con­cepts of fam­ily, dis­cuss mar­riage equal­ity, infuse the cur­ricu­lum with LGBT peo­ple and their his­tory and accom­plish­ments and address bias-based bul­ly­ing for kids who iden­tify as LGBT or are per­ceived as such.

For young chil­dren, fam­ily is cen­tral to the cur­ricu­lum; there­fore, dis­cussing same-sex house­hold fam­i­lies should be inte­gral to the con­ver­sa­tion. This “nor­mal­izes” instead of mar­gin­al­izes chil­dren in same-sex house­holds.  Chil­dren in those fam­i­lies need to feel com­fort­able talk­ing about their own fam­i­lies and when those fam­i­lies are not rep­re­sented in class­rooms, teach­ers can share their sto­ries through children’s books and discussions.

As chil­dren move into upper ele­men­tary and mid­dle school, teach­ers can incor­po­rate con­ver­sa­tions about gen­der, gen­der norms, kinds of fam­i­lies and LGBT peo­ple and iden­tity. Stu­dents can be taught about mar­riage equal­ity and the road to the Supreme Court ruling.

Bul­ly­ing, espe­cially identity-based bul­ly­ing for LGBT or gen­der non-conforming stu­dents, should be dis­cussed not only when an inci­dent occurs but reg­u­larly. Children’s lit­er­a­ture con­tin­ues to be a pos­i­tive way to under­stand and empathize with LGBT peo­ple and families.

In the mid­dle and high school years as stu­dents emerge into ado­les­cence, the con­ver­sa­tions about iden­tity can con­tinue and sto­ries of LGBT peo­ple can be explored and infused into the every­day teach­ing and learn­ing. Read­ing young adult books with LGBT char­ac­ters and inte­grat­ing the accom­plish­ments of LGBT peo­ple into social stud­ies are encour­aged. Dur­ing the teen years, bul­ly­ing around sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion can be bru­tal and teach­ers should max­i­mize oppor­tu­ni­ties to dis­cuss it directly.

In 2011 Cal­i­for­nia passed a law requir­ing edu­ca­tors to teach gay and les­bian his­tory. On the other side, eight states cur­rently have “no promo homo” laws which for­bid teach­ers from dis­cussing LGBT peo­ple and issues in a pos­i­tive light and some pro­hibit dis­cussing the topic at all. Because schools are cen­tral to any com­mu­nity, address­ing LGBT top­ics will make our schools safer and more inclu­sive and will begin to curb the mar­gin­al­iza­tion of LGBT peo­ple for the present and for future generations.

 

 

 

 

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January 31, 2014 1

Derrick Coleman: Creating Conversation About Differences

The Super Bowl is arguably one of the biggest days in Amer­i­can sports, and with good rea­son. In addi­tion to being a com­pe­ti­tion of the best two foot­ball teams in the most pop­u­lar sport in Amer­ica, this year it is also the kind of cel­e­bra­tion not often asso­ci­ated with pro­fes­sional sports.

Der­rick Cole­man, a run­ning back for the Seat­tle Sea­hawks, is the only legally deaf ath­lete in pro­fes­sional foot­ball his­tory to play offense. In early Jan­u­ary 2014, Cole­man served as the inspi­ra­tion for a major brand’s com­mer­cial where he talks about the impact his hear­ing impair­ment has had on his life. The video went viral and in less than a week, and had 5.5 mil­lion views.

Coleman’s per­sonal story pro­vides an excel­lent teach­ing oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss dis­abil­i­ties and the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing the rights and dig­nity of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties in our com­mu­ni­ties and around the world. As the U.S. Sen­ate debates whether to rat­ify an inter­na­tional treaty on dis­abil­ity rights , Derrick’s story pro­vides an oppor­tu­nity to put a human face on the impact that treaty can have on people’s lives.

Edu­ca­tion can be for­mal and infor­mal. We have cre­ated a new class­room les­son for teach­ers, but adults can cre­ate a les­son in their own liv­ing rooms dur­ing the Super Bowl. Here are a few ques­tions to the get the con­ver­sa­tion going with your friends and family.

  • Do you know what a dis­abil­ity is?
  • What’s unique about Der­rick Coleman?
  • What do you think it’s like to feel you are dif­fer­ent from every­one else?
  • What are some ways you could help oth­ers who are treated unfairly because they are different?

It’s not nec­es­sary to have all the answers.  The very act of cre­at­ing a con­ver­sa­tion about dif­fer­ence is a healthy and pro­duc­tive way to raise aware­ness that being dif­fer­ent is ok, and is in fact some­thing to celebrate.

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April 17, 2013 1

Bringing Holocaust Education to Alaska

Echoes and Reflec­tions staff trav­eled to a remote area of Alaska to deliver the program’s first pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment pro­gram in the state. The Echoes and Reflec­tions pro­gram has now offered pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment in 47 US states and Dis­trict of Colum­bia. The pro­gram has pro­vided edu­ca­tional resources on the Holo­caust to over 18,000 edu­ca­tors and com­mu­nity members.

Deb­o­rah Batiste, Project Direc­tor for Echoes and Reflec­tions, trav­eled from her office in Mary­land to Kodiak, Alaska to con­duct an in-person train­ing pro­gram that would be broad­cast by video-conference to other remote loca­tions so that addi­tional edu­ca­tors could take advan­tage of this pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment opportunity.

Nine­teen local edu­ca­tors attended the train­ing pro­gram in per­son and an addi­tional six edu­ca­tors par­tic­i­pated vir­tu­ally from addi­tional loca­tions at vil­lage schools on Kodiak Island.

Dur­ing the April 15th pro­gram, Deb­o­rah Batiste mod­eled active and col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing as par­tic­i­pants in Kodiak and those edu­ca­tors in remote loca­tions explored Les­son 4: The Ghet­tos from the Echoes and Reflec­tions Teacher’s Resource Guide and learned how to incor­po­rate visual his­tory tes­ti­mony from Holo­caust sur­vivors, res­cuers, and lib­er­a­tors into their teaching.

LeeAnn Schmelzen­bach, lit­er­a­ture teacher at Kodiak High School reflected on the program.

“I know the cost and dif­fi­culty for train­ers to come to our schools, but I also know the intense ben­e­fits such train­ings pro­vide for our teach­ers and, in turn, our stu­dents. This par­tic­u­lar train­ing was so help­ful. The resources that you were able to place in our hands are going to help me change the way I teach my stu­dents, and it will help me pro­vide more per­spec­tives for my stu­dents to view the Holocaust.”

 

A leader in Holo­caust edu­ca­tion, Echoes and Reflec­tions pro­vides com­pre­hen­sive pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment for mid­dle and high school edu­ca­tors and mul­ti­me­dia resources suit­able for history/social stud­ies, English/language arts, fine arts, social sci­ences, reli­gion, and other con­tent areas. The com­bined resources and exper­tise of three world lead­ers in education―the Anti-Defamation League, USC Shoah Foun­da­tion, and Yad Vashem―have resulted in a robust edu­ca­tional pro­gram to help US sec­ondary edu­ca­tors deliver accu­rate and authen­tic Holo­caust edu­ca­tion to today’s students.

To learn more about Echoes and Reflec­tions and upcom­ing pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, visit www.echoesandreflections.org

Some pro­grams are avail­able via video-conferencing. To learn more about these pro­grams, con­tact: echoes@adl.org.

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