Prior to the 1980s, the federal government did not require or fund sex education (Connell & Elliott, 2009). With the rise of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies, the Department of Education mandated abstinence only programs for all public schools. While intended to reduce the consequences of heterosexual activity, the unintended consequence was the systematic development and reinforcement of heteronormativity. Sex and pleasure became elements limited to marriage between a man and a woman, while anything outside of this context was presented as abnormal, unhealthy, and immoral (Connell & Elliott, 2009; Lodge, 2007; Pinar, 2009). Within this context, subsequent generations following after the era of Woodstock, the Vietnam War, and the Sexual Revolution, learned very clearly, although incorrectly, that AIDS is a gay disease (Goldstein et al., 2007).
Children of the Rainbow
In the early 1990s, as the AIDS epidemic grew among both heterosexual and non-heterosexual communities, the Superintendent of New York City Schools approved a ground-breaking multicultural education policy that included sexual orientation as part of curriculum development (L. Johnson, 2003). Although developed with the input of community-school stakeholders, this controversial pedagogy called “Children of the Rainbow” met with intense reactions and was eventually discontinued at the urging of Conservative community members (L. Johnson, 2003; M. R. Nelson, 2001; Pinar, 2009). Since then, not one U.S. school district has successfully implemented a system-wide queer pedagogy (L. Johnson, 2003).
Sex Education Elsewhere
Outside of the U.S., there have been few attempts at integrating LGBTQ studies. In parts of Canada and England, queer-inclusive educational mandates have been created and dismantled (DePalma & Atkinson, 2009; DePalma & Jennett, 2010; Walton, 2005).
While in practice, research proved that teachers, students, and community members benefited from:
(a) legal protection to instruct LGBTQ studies,
(b) availability of resources for instruction and staff development, and
(c) opportunity to have on-going discussions with stakeholders regarding issues that would arise as a result of implementing a queer pedagogy (DePalma & Atkinson, 2009). Teachers benefited from using an online forum limited to their professional peers within their school and other schools using similar curriculum. Through the forum, teachers could ask or say anything they wanted without fear of punishment or judgment. As a result, peer-feedback created a healthy and safe environment to process not only classroom concerns, but also personal concerns. Plus, the added support bolstered teacher confidence to present a very sensitive topic in the classroom.
Connell, C., & Elliott, S. (2009). Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Learning Inequality through Sexuality Education. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 4(2), 83-102. doi:10.1080/15546120903001332
DePalma, R., & Atkinson, E. (2009). “No Outsiders ”: moving beyond a discourse of tolerance to challenge heteronormativity in primary schools. British Educational Research Journal, 35(6), 837-855. doi:10.1080/01411920802688705
DePalma, R., & Jennett, M. (2010). Homophobia, transphobia and culture: deconstructing heteronormativity in English primary schools. Intercultural Education, 21(1), 15-26. doi:10.1080/14675980903491858
Goldstein, T., Russell, V., & Daley, A. (2007). Safe, Positive and Queering Moments in Teaching Education and Schooling: A conceptual framework. Teaching Education, 18(3), 183-199. doi:10.1080/10476210701533035
Johnson, L. (2003). Multicultural Policy as Social Activism: redefining who “counts” in multicultural education. Race Ethnicity and Education, 6(2), 107-121. doi:10.1080/1361332032000076436
Lodge, A. (2007). Equality and Power in Schools (Kindle.). Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Equality-Power-Schools-ebook/dp/B000OI0H24
Nelson, M. R. (2001). NO POT OF GOLD AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 16(3), 206-227.
Pinar, W. F. (2009). Queer Theory in Education (Studies in Curriculum Theory Series) (Kindle.). LEA. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Theory-Education-Studies-Curriculum-ebook/dp/B0020BUXGS
Walton, G. (2005). The Hidden Curriculum in Schools: Implications for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth. Alternate Routes, 21, 18-39. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.