Building Bridges

This weekend Seattle celebrates gay pride. Like many cities in this country, the weekend in June is chosen to commemorate the Stonewall Riots which were a series of protests and demonstrations against a police raid that took place on June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. It is considered by many to be the catalyst that began the gay rights movement in the U.S.

Whenever a minority group is marginalized because of laws, it takes several brave souls to step forward and make their voice heard. I think about Susan B. Anthony and others in the women’s suffrage movement who never got to live to see the day women got to vote, or Martin Luther King Jr. who didn’t get a chance to witness Barack Obama’s inauguration. With any of these movements, it also takes the building of allies and learning that we are all better because of our differences. Men supported the suffrage movement, for example. My first reaction a few weeks ago to the news that Elton John had performed at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding was to be incredulous, but if finding common ground moves us all forward, then kudos to both of them.

What does this mean for educators? It means that we cannot be bystanders to name calling, bullying, or taunting for whatever reason. When kids single other kids out for being different, teachers need to stop and use that opportunity as a ‘teachable moment’, singling out the behavior. It means teaching kids to care enough to recognize whether they or their peers are treated fairly. Also, multicultural education and social/emotional education needs to be woven into our curricula. Of course, what this looks like for a 2nd grader will look very different to what it might look like for a 9th grader.

There are many organizations with rich resources to help educators and families. Here are a few:

Teaching Tolerance (a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center)

GLSEN (The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) – the group behind Gay Straight Alliances in high schools (by the way, this was a straight person’s idea)

Amercian Civil Liberties Union

Rethinking Schools

PFLAG (Parents, Families, Friends, or Lesbians and Gays)

Personally, I’d like to thank those in 1969 who stood up and began to speak out. My life may have been very different without them. I would also like to thank all my straight allies as well, without whom progress towards equality would be much slower. There are many other groups all over this country and the world who have it much worse. Let’s teach all our kids to build alliances. Happy Pride!

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3 thoughts on “Building Bridges

  1. Very well-written! In not too many years, children in U.S. schools will be reading about the unequal treatment of so many minority groups, gays and lesbians included, and just scratch their heads in utter amazement.

    “Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” (PFLAG) is a national organization with excellent educational resources for teachers and community groups who are interested in learning more on this subject.

  2. I completely agree with the author. I believe that students and teachers should be able to interact in a way that not only teaches the kids their 123s and ABCs but also how to be good and loving people. This post reminded me of the Minnesota school district that was sued for having a neutrality policy that didn’t allow teachers to take a stand on homosexuality because “the school was not the place for such topics”, they believed it was a topic for the family. These kids don’t interact with their peers at their homes, they do it at school, and that’s where they should be taught to be fair to all.

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