LGBT in the curriculum

Niv Zonis just finished his studies in education and criticizes the system for ignoring subjects such as dealing with LGBT kids and LGBTphobia in schools as part of teachers and educators’ training.

NivZonisFeatured-1Last week I attended the last class of my teaching certificate studies, long studies full of courses on different educational approaches, history of education, sociology of education, and more. Among other things, we also learned about different types of students that we may meet in classrooms – we learned about students from different socio-economic backgrounds, from different cultural backgrounds, students with learning difficulties and many other types. I am sure, however, that we didn’t learn about many other groups of students (and people) that exist, like LGBT people. That was not in the curriculum.

Like everywhere, we, as teachers, will encounter LGBT students in classes, whether in or out of the closet, or those who have LGBT people in their families, as well as many children who have never encountered members of that community in their lives. Obviously, kids in the closet or outside of the closet have a different school experience than children who are not, and a teacher has a part in shaping that experience.

Our students will be able to experience the class and the school as an accepting place, liberating, tolerant and safe, not the complete opposite – a school as a place of loneliness, of being different, of non-acceptance, even a place where various types of violence occur. After all, whoever steps a foot into a regular school knows that the most common curses are “homo” and “transvestite.”

I am convinced that there’s no question about our desire that the school should be a first positive experience, but for that to happen we, the teachers, need to be trained and given tools to create such a framework. Just as I know how to deal with discipline problems and have learned how best to teach heterogeneous classes and children with learning difficulties, I need to learn how to deal with students outside the closet or not, or with LGBTphobia in school. I may be gay myself, and knowing more about this stuff, but fellow students have not necessarily experienced it firsthand, nor were they interested in their free time in special case studies, like a teenage girl’s feelings of attraction to other girls. They also need to get these tools.

This thing is not just missing from the program of education studies, but also studies in other subjects like various therapeutic professions. A social worker should know the world of LGBT people in order to give them the most appropriate response. The same is true for a psychologist who provides significant treatment, and for that he must understand the world from which his patients are coming. Of course, doctors also need to know who stands before them, what their patients’ needs are and what their daily reality looks like in order to give them the appropriate medical answer. There are many more examples, unfortunately, and to my knowledge there is no training for the professionals that I mentioned.

In my opinion, there is a significant need for LGBT studies in all of those important occupations involving people, so that we can relate to our “audience”, whether they are students or patients, in a proper manner. To my great joy, Hoshen and the gay fraternity have begun a fascinating cooperation to try to make such studies part of the academy and various trainings. I am sure that if this project succeeds, we can reduce the suicide rates, increase the confidence of members of the community in various systems, and improve the society in which we live.