The social construction of homophobia and heterosexism in the Newfoundland education system

Shortall, Ann (1998) The social construction of homophobia and heterosexism in the Newfoundland education system. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The purpose of this research was to investigate gay and lesbian students' and teachers’ experiences of homophobia and heterosexism in the classrooms and curricula of St. John's and Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. Interviews were conducted with lesbian and gay teachers and students. I investigated three aspects of lesbian and gay issues in the Newfoundland high school education system: i) experiences of lesbian and gay students and teachers; ii) the substance of what gay and lesbian students and teachers have learned and/or taught about homosexuality in courses; and iii) possible curriculum changes which would help decrease homophobia and/or heterosexism in our school system. Five themes emerged: i) the process of coming out; ii) experiences of homophobia and heterosexism; iii) knowledge and attitudes of gay and lesbian students regarding their sexual orientation; iv) information about gay and lesbian issues learned and/or taught in school; and v) ways in which lesbian and gay issues could be integrated into the curriculum. -- Through the investigation of the experiences gay and lesbian students and teachers have encountered in the education system, the themes of coming out and experiences of homophobia and heterosexism emerged. I found that while gay and lesbian students are out to many at school, teachers are out to only a select few colleagues. Examples of overt physical or verbal harassment were experienced by only two participants. Only one teacher felt that homophobia was a problem at her school, while all the students relayed stories of anti-gay jokes and comments, which are often ignored by their teachers. -- I also investigated what students have learned and teachers have taught regarding knowledge of and attitudes towards lesbian and gay issues, and classes where homosexuality has been discussed. The students in this study were generally very knowledgeable about homosexuality, and accepting of their sexual orientation. However, very little positive information has been learned in school. Similarly, the teachers I interviewed have initiated little discussion about gay and lesbian issues. However, the topic arises out of students' interest during class discussions or through their writing. -- A major theme which emerged from the data was the need of both teachers and students to address gay and lesbian issues in the curriculum. They both suggested ways in which the lives of gays and lesbians could be integrated into the curricula of literature, social studies, science, art, mathematics, family studies, and religious education. -- Teachers and students also suggested several other desired changes to the education system. Some of these include gay and lesbian support groups in their schools, anti-homophobia workshops for students, teachers and guidance counsellors, pamphlets, posters, and library resources to increase lesbian and gay visibility, a mandatory university course for guidance counsellors on gay and lesbian youth, and job protection for gay and lesbian teachers. -- Teachers are interested in protection from being fired, a school board policy on anti-gay violence, and greater visibility of lesbians and gays through the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association. -- I believe a handbook for the teachers of this province on gay and lesbian issues would help alleviate some of the homophobia and heterosexism in our education system.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/802
Item ID: 802
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 119-129
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Gender Studies
Date: 1998
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Homophobia--Newfoundland and Labrador; Homosexuality and education--Newfoundland and Labrador; Gay teachers--Newfoundland and Labrador; Gay students--Newfoundland and Labrador

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