Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Teaching About The Laramie Project Will Get You Fired In Oklahoma

image When we send our children to school, it is with the assumption that they will receive an education.  Clearly homophobic fundies have decided that  intolerance and hatred should be be promoted.  Intentionally not mentioning certain segments of a society affirms the normalization of dominant groups through erasure.

From USA Today

The episode began in January, when Debra Taylor showed students at Grandfield High School The Laramie Project, a 2002 film based on the play of the same name, about the murder of Matthew Shepard. The students soon decided to film selected scenes themselves for an in-class project.

Taylor, 50, knew the project was controversial with strong language, but got her principal's permission. A few weeks into it, the principal told her to stop production. After students protested, she held a 20-minute ceremony in a nearby park in which students wrote their thoughts and rolled them into helium balloons, then released them.

The next day, Taylor says, Superintendent Ed Turlington canceled the class. After she complained to a school board member, Turlington put her on paid leave and recommended that she be fired. The school board approved her resignation Friday.

Taylor says she was let go for complaining to the board member, but others say it was a result of the play's subject: homophobia. "They don't want something like this addressed in our community," says senior Matt Ebner, one of Taylor's former students.

Well of course we cannot talk about the fact that murdering a young man because he was gay is wrong; kids might actually get the idea that homophobia is a crime against humanity. We certainly cannot have children internalizing the concept that all people regardless of their sexuality are equal.  Imagine how terribly imbalanced the world would be if we all even from a moment succumbed to the idea that privileging one body over another was inherently prejudicial.

I suppose we are to believe that it was just coincidence that after this subject matter was raised that she was fired.  The school board made no reference to her job performance or even openly stated a reason why she was terminated.  They only rebutted the argument that it was because she decided to educate her students about violence directed at the GLBT community.

Teachers like Debra Taylor are the ones we need to be celebrating.  In so many homes children are not taught about social justice.   Modern families are often more concerned about hoping in the mini van to attend the next soccer game than teaching their children to recognize the various ways in which they are privileged.  Schools often serve as the only hope that children will be taught to think critically. 

The education system is a reflection of our bigotry and biases.  We claim that privilege is a naturalized phenomenon and yet every opportunity that we get, we indoctrinate children into internalizing a hierarchy of bodies.  If we have to teach children to hate or show bias clearly this is not natural.  If we have to strive to justify our undeserved privilege perhaps it should simply not exist.  We have raised generation after generation of automatons in the name of privilege and by so doing we have dumbed down our society.  At what point will we decide that education should be about honesty and integrity?  At what point will we realize that by not teaching the young to value all bodies we are sentencing some to a lifetime (if they are allowed to live) of pain and harassment?

H/T Feministing


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