Faculty members met in the Orange Grove Bistro on Oct. 30 to discuss how CSUN can eliminate heterosexual bias in curriculums and create a more inclusive learning environment.
The discussion, titled Gender Identity, the Law and Higher Education, focused on California laws protecting students from harassment based on gender identity and sexual orientation and what higher education might look like with complete compliance of these laws.
Dr. Greg Knotts who has an upcoming paper in the International Review of Education facilitated the discussion. The paper addresses two California laws, The Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act (SSVPA) and the Safe Place to Learn Act (SPLA).
The first law, SSVPA, was enacted in 2000, requires public schools to protect children from harassment, while the second, SPLA, was enacted in 2008 to help ensure SSVPA was adhered to and implemented.
‘In spite of the progressive measures, schools have an unconscious acceptance of heteronormativity and gendered norms, largely undermining both the spirit and language of these laws,’ Knotts wrote in a paper which was given out during the discussion.
A major problem with complete implementation of these laws, argued Knotts, is a lack of funding attached to them, leading to merely arbitrary compliance in some schools.
In addition, some teachers and students find issues of gender identity and sexual orientation uncomfortable to discuss as they often involve talk of genitalia and sex.
With a lack of funding and some unwillingness to discuss issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, SSVPA and SPLA have yet to be fully realized in the curriculums of many schools.
‘If you don’t educate, how do you change,’ asked Knotts.
An example given by another faculty member was that many students are aware of the civil rights events in Selma, Alabama, including ‘Bloody Sunday’ when, on March 7, 1965, demonstrators were violently prevented from marching out of Selma by law enforcement officials.
After ‘Bloody Sunday’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a symbolic march to the point the March 7 demonstration was halted.
However, most are unaware of the Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York which occurred in response to police raids on establishments that were frequented by homosexuals, including the Stonewall Inn.
Members of the discussion argued that the spirit of the two laws could be better realized if classes included Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) historical figures into their curriculum, or by focusing class discussions on LGBT issues.
Textbooks too would need to become more inclusive of LGBT issues and historical figures to better represent those students the material is being taught to.
Other methods that could be used to create a dialogue on these issues include media like music and videos.
However, Knotts said, the fact that a meeting was being held by faculty members to discuss issues of gender bias in school curriculums, shows some sign of progress, although further effort would still be needed.
The discussion was limited to eight members of the faculty, and was attended by members of various departments from political science, Chicano studies, philosophy and sociology.
The event was sponsored by Faculty Development, which aims, through discussions, workshops, research and the like, to help improve the skills of teachers.