A queer teacher who grew up in Wheaton (or, as she said they affectionately call it there, “the 9th circle of hell”) talked about the distance of Wheaton College faculty and administrators from the lives of the school’s students and grads; a Chicago public school teacher described how changes in employment structures and the ongoing weakening of the Chicago Teacher’s Union contract have made queer teachers even more vulnerable; an administrator reminded us that we have to press the state and professional organizations to change, because they shape what happens in our public schools—if they ignore sexual orientation and gender identity, you can bet most schools will, too. After hearing why people came to the forum and what they wanted to talk about, we broke into small groups and talked about these and other questions:
Private Practices, Public Educators
What are the consequences when a private agency (NCATE) sets standards for public education?
Should private colleges with discriminatory “covenants” be supported (accredited) by the state to produce teachers for public schools?
Why are non-normative sexual and gender identities considered “private” and not worth public protections?
What is the responsibility of the education profession--teachers, teacher educators, professional organizations, administrators—to challenge discriminatory practices, even when these are embedded in private institutions?
If “multiculturalism” can’t be or at least, isn’t consistently used to include sexual and gender identity in schools, what frameworks can be?
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?
How is resistance to challenging and changing these policies connected to other movements for justice and equity for all, including LGBTQ, people?
What are the consequences of the distinction Wheaton makes between “acts” and “beliefs”—“love the sinner, hate the sin”?
Youth, Schools, Teachers
How do discriminatory policies—like Wheaton’s— contribute to the dehumanization of LGBTQ bodies in schools?
What effect could knowing their teachers believe they are condemned have on LGBT youth—would this knowledge be damaging emotionally, academically, or in other ways?
The forum ended with plans—we are only just starting this project, so join us. You can hear the large-group parts of our discussion online:
I mourn Matthew Shepard’s actual death, caused by the unimpeachably civil ‘we hate the sin, not the sinner’ hypocrisy of the religious right, much more than I mourn the lost chance to be civil with someone who does not consider me fully a citizen, nor fully human.
Tony Kushner, 1998