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CULTURAL DIVERSITY: MANAGING SAME-SEX ORIENTATION IN THE CLASSROOM
by Henny Burke
- 3

Part 3
AND HERE COMES ANOTHER PROPOSAL


These texts should be published in ELT coursebooks and other ELT resource books etc. It shouldn't be a case of the teachers finding their own texts and coming up with their own tasks. I think that is very difficult and can open a can of worms. I think it could be asking for trouble. I'm talking about teaching in Spain. RIGHT NOW. At this moment. Now some people love course books and some people hate them but sometimes they are useful in unexpected ways. Regarding lesbian and gay identity they could be useful. They give an official seal of approval to things. It's the power of the printed word and all that. Same sex orientation is in need of that seal of approval. It needs to be there. And it needs to be treated with respect. And it needs to stop being invisible. Refusing to have gays or lesbians in coursebooks is to render them invisible and this invisibility is a form of discrimination that is unacceptable in a fundamental tool that is used in education i.e. a course book. Now Scott may say I'm living in cloud cuckoo land, but I don't think I am. When I became an English teacher back in 1984, I never dreamed that 16 years on I would have to stand up one day in a TESOL conference and say: Where are the lesbians and gays in the ELT coursebooks? I thought I might stand up and say one day: "Hey I've got a great idea on how to handle listening texts!" but not "Where are the lesbians and gays?" Because I just assumed that by the year 2000 they'd be there. So why aren't there any gays or lesbians in the course books? Well, I suspect it's related to something that happened in 1987. In 1987, Dame Jill Knight, the British Conservative Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston, introduced a clause into the Local Government Bill. The new clause had nothing to do with the rest of the Bill, which was about compulsory tendering and similar issues. The clause was inserted at the committee stage of the Bill on 7th December, debated in Committee on 8th. December, and went before the full House of Commons on 15th. December, just before the Christmas recess. Section 28 of the Local Government Act came into force on 24th May, 1988. The key parts of the text are those that say local authorities shall not:

a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality;

b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. Now this has had an enormous effect on education in Britain. And I suspect it has affected the ELT publishers in Britain also. It shouldn't have done but it has. Tony Blair's New Labour promised they would scrap this piece of legislation but it hasn't happened yet and the path is not a smooth one. And supposing we imagine a worst-case scenario. Supposing the law is not repealed and the publishers in Britain don't feel able to publish material that "promotes" homosexuality. Well let's get them to produce the coursebooks outside of Britain, which they are often doing now anyway. Produce books in Spain for the Spanish market. The Amsterdam Treaty is the legislative body of the European Union. Article 13 of this treaty clearly states that discrimination against homosexuals is a form of sexual discrimination and is contrary to the principles of equal opportunities and equal rights, which the European Union defends. Now despite the fact that all 15 members of the Union signed the Treaty, only 7 countries have so far adopted this ruling in their national constitutions. These 7 countries are Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Holland, Sweden - and wait for it - Spain. Article 14 of the Spanish Constitution clearly states: "Spaniards are equal in law, and cannot be discriminated against in terms of race, sex, religion, opinion or any other social or personal condition."So if the publishers in Britain feel that they are hampered by British law. Then get them to publish their materials in Spain. Not only is it not illegal to do this, but manuals are currently being produced in Spain showing how to handle sexual orientation in education. And these manuals are backed by government institutions - Defensor del Menor. (wave manual about) So that is what I am proposing:

USE TEXTS AND HAVE THEM PUBLISHED IN THE COURSE BOOKS

So now I have said what I think, but what do other teachers think? In order to find out I devised a questionnaire in November 1999 and gave it out to teachers. This is the questionnaire: QUESTIONNAIRE 1) Has this issue ever come up in one of your ELT classes?
2) If you answered yes to no. 1, could you state in what context, in which country and how?
3) Do you think this issue should come up in the ELT classroom? Why? Why not?
4) Do you know of any ELT material that deals with this issue?
5) Have you ever designed any material dealing with this issue? In total, 55 teachers filled in the questionnaire and here are the results:

RESULTS OF THE QUESTIONNAIRE

55
YES
NO
Q 1
32
23
Q 2
see below for answers
Q 3
50
DON'T KNOW
3
  
3
Q 4
1
54
Q 5
10
45


QUESTION 2
Spain discussion/role play lesbian mothers ss' initiative/article gay night life/topic of conversation/debate on arranged marriage triggered it off/teenager declared himself gay in class/teenagers insulting each other/conversation/discussion famous gays coming out supposing your child were gay/debates any couple should have right to adopt children/uk qnnre/discussion/teenagers being silly when talking about a famous person/explaining to ss that adjs gay & queer have different meanings/left right qnnaire /famous people or story of film nb.lesbians hardly ever/film in class AS GOOD AS IT GETS nb.sensitive, artistic cliché feel pity etc.?/Green paper (UK legislation 5 "non traditional families including gay couple with children)/ss derogatory comments - T. expresses disapproval & changes subject./ film,medical English fertility artificial insemination/T. prefers it to be st initiated/to corr ss' belief that t. not gay/role play gay dating agency classroom management blunder/newspaper article on gays adopting/vocab

Nb: I've found Business English Pairwork 1 Steve Flinders & Simon Sweeney Penguin p. 159 Recruitment Candidate: Declared openly at the interview that he is homosexual: does not have established relationship with one partner. Navigator 2 Jane Denton, Ellen Green, Miguel Olivera Tejedor Burlington Books. In Unit 6 Sex, Drugs. and Traditional Values? Use a survey carried out by MTV in November 1996 to find out what young Europeans love, hate and hope for page 74 focuses specifically on the results of the survey regarding homosexuality, gay couples adopting etc. Qn 5 - only 10 teachers had developed their own material, but 50 thought it should be there. What's this saying? I think it's saying teachers want it in the coursebooks. AND NOW I WOULD LIKE TO STOP TALKING AND HAND OVER TO YOU, AND DISCUSS SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT HAVE BEEN RAISED. (DISCUSSION)

REFERENCES

"Window-Dressing vs. Cross-Dressing in the EFL-sub-culture" Scott Thornbury Folio 5/2 Autumn 1999

"Sexual Identities in ESL: Queer Theory and Classroom Inquiry" Cynthia Nelson TESOL QUARTERLY Vol. 33 no.3 Autumn 1999

www.theory.org.uk Resources: Queer Theory critics Tim Edwards et al. (references to Judith Butler etc.)

Biodata

Henny Burke is Co-Director of Studies at the British Language Centre, Madrid. Spain. She works as a teacher and a teacher trainer on inservice programmes, RSA/UCLES CTEFLA/CELTA and DTEFLA/DELTA courses. She has completed the Aston University MSc. course in Teaching English & is currently involved in coursebook writing for Cambridge University Press. Henny

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