Shawn Allen

If I learned one thing from this project, it is that the story of the Canadian LGBTQ+ community is rich, fascinating, and extremely complex. It is because of these reasons that I firmly believe more LGBTQ+ content should be taught in schools. Especially in middle school and high school, so many students are truly figuring out their identity, and teachers and schools should have the ability to nurture and encourage such a period of self-discovery. As a straight and white male, I had my fair share of literature and lessons that spoke to me. However, I want everybody to know that feeling, and this project made it apparent that this is not the case.

In terms of history, I discovered so many interesting tidbits of information. If I ever have the pleasure of teaching a history class, I would love to do a case study on High Park and how the murder of Kenneth Zeller impacted Ontario on a societal level. I would also highly consider teaching short stories from A Vigil For Joe Rose in any English classes I teach. However, one of the most interesting things I learned from this project is the existence of the Triangle Program in Toronto. After researching the institution, I found myself interested in the work they were doing both from a relationship and from a curriculum standpoint. In all honesty, I am now considering trying to do my second year CSL there, as I believe it would be an enlightening experience to work with those students and that faculty. I believe that I can only benefit from having a variety of diverse experiences so early in my career, and it would be a great opportunity to learn how to infuse LGBTQ+ content into my curriculum, as well as a good exercise in building a rapport with my students. Many of the students are likely used to adults turning their backs on them, and I can only imagine how rewarding it must feel to have a student open up to you and trust you.

In a perfect world, curriculum would cover a series of diverse voices, and allow for every student to feel represented. In some ways, this is already possible. At least in terms of the Ontario English curriculum, the language is extremely vague, leaving tons of room for educators to choose their own content. However, these choices can get muddled in politics and religious beliefs. For instance, if I were to make an educated guess, I would get far more pushback for teaching stories from A Vigil For Joe Rose in a Catholic board than I would in the public system. Despite the fact that both systems in Ontario are publicly funded, there are factors that appear to be hidden at first glance which can make incorporating LGBTQ+ content complicated. In doing research for this project, I found several instances of parents trying to take their children out of class for the day, because the teacher was going to be teaching LGBTQ+ inclusive content. Personally, I think this is unfair for the children, as it takes away their voice and their right to be removed from societal echo chambers. This is also a major reason why Doug Ford’s proposed sexual education curriculum reform is deeply flawed. Children and parents may not have the same beliefs or preferences. For example, a fourteen year old student has finally realized that they are gay. However, their parents are deeply religious and opposed to same-sex marriage. Perhaps the father is even the pastor for their local church. That student will not feel comfortable going to their parents with sexual education questions out of fear of being harassed or punished for their sexual orientation. Ideally, schools and teachers act as an impartial party that students can feel comfortable going to for information. However, with this sexual education reform, this no longer appears to be the case. My Associate Teacher told me that for many of these students, even if it does not look like it, the six or seven hours they are at school are the best part of their day. This is because it may be the only time of the day where they feel safe. I feel like that should be the case for every student, and this project has made it apparent that we still have a ways to go before that is truly the case.

I want to live in a world where schools can expose students to as many diverse voices as humanly possible. However, everything I have learned about the Canadian LGBTQ+ community tells me that this is not yet the case. Between politicians blocking proper sexual education, and religious school boards showing resisitance, I think it will be a long time before this idea becomes a reality. Instead, I think we need to focus on larger scale social change, and then the curriculum will eventually fall in line with that social change. While I learned a lot about the challenges of LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum, I also read so many stories about youth fighting for gay-straight alliances in their Catholic schools, and students such as Jeremy Dias who fought to make sure that every child and teenager felt like they had a place to be safe. While I am not confident about LGBTQ+ content being included in every curriculum anytime soon, I am confident that the youth of today will eventually make this happen. As a society, we are certainly in a much better position than we were when Pierre Elliot Trudeau first decriminalized homosexuality, but we cannot get complacent with that, and we have to keep fighting for change.

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"In addition to time, craft also demands a conscience — a sense that it matters how well things are done, made, written, or spoken. ​"

Jim Burke on teaching English (2010)