Reform and Reaffirm Diversity

protestThis article was first published in the PPTA News – Feb/Mar 2016

In Social Sciences in 2016, many classrooms will be using the 30th anniversary of the Homosexual Law reform as a context to investigate civil rights. The isn’t the only learning area where this topic could arise, and the recent publication ‘Sexual Cultures in Aotearoa New Zealand Education’ (reviewed in the last PPTA News) contains many suggestions as to how this might occur.

The contributors to this publication point out that the New Zealand Curriculum’s contains the principles of “diversity” and “inclusion”. Being aware of diverse sexualities, sex and genders and being inclusive is essential to meeting this part of the curriculum.

A chapter on transgender diversity contained a set of recommendations is a helpful starting point for ensuring your practice is sexuality, sex and gender inclusive. The following bullets points are adapted from these recommendations:

  1. Assume there is at least one queer or sexuality diverse person and one trans or gender-diverse person in every class you teach.
  2. Don’t assume you’ll know who that person is.
  3. React to homophobic, or transphobic language to ensure a positive environment. Language sometimes heard in the classroom involves using “gay” as a pejorative, or “tranny” as an insult.
  4. Use gender neutral language. For example avoid addressing groups of people as “you girls” or “you boys” when there are people in that group whose gender identities have not been disclosed to you.
  5. Engage with resources that already exist and the recommendations that they make. The updated Sexuality Education Guidelines and the Inside Out video resources, both published last year and highlighted in previous issues of the PPTA News, are up to date resources that can support Professional Development in this area.
  6. It’s okay to make mistakes. Please keep trying.

In another chapter, Susan Sandretto writes about the way we address popular cultural texts in the classroom. These might be formal texts chosen for critical study in subjects like English or Media Studies, or they might be texts that are discussed in any classroom as part of a general conversation or relationship building with students.

Sandretto shows how teachers can help students question assumptions that are frequently taken for granted in these popular texts. Through an analysis of an episode of The Simpsons, and advertisement for Calvin Klein and an issue of the School Journal, she shows how critical questions can help uncover how heterosexuality is often expected.

“Teachers and students who develop their skills of text analysis can explicitly address the relationships between language and power as they make visible the ways that hetereosexuality is frequently normalised in the texts of popular culture”.

Asking critical questions can help to break the dominant narrative of gender and sexuality and be more inclusive of all identities in the classroom.

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