Guest Blogger

What's wrong with confusion in the classroom?

Filed By Guest Blogger | April 26, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: ENDA, LGBT youth, school, teachers, trangender

Editors' note: Mara Drummond is the president of an independent computer consulting firm, author of the book Transitions - A Guide to Transitioning for Transsexuals and Their Families, and co-producer of the award winning film Unraveling Michelle.

Mara Drummond Head Shot.jpegIn the national debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009 (ENDA), opponents of this ground breaking anti-discrimination legislation that prohibits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the workplace like to point out that ENDA will allow LGBT educators to continue teaching in the classroom. They claim that allowing LGBT educators, particularly transgender teachers in the midst of a gender transition, to continue to teach will "confuse" the children.

Excuse me for asking, but what is so wrong with having confused children in the classroom?

Confusion is the stimulus for intellectual development in a child. When a child belongs to a closed community where all people look and act the same, the child may not experience confusion but correspondingly he or she is never introduced to the stimuli required to develop into a responsible adult. The child never experiences people of different races, people with different religious beliefs, people from various economic classes and people with varying senses of sexual orientation and gender. The child grows up incorrectly believing that all people should be just like the non-diverse group of people that make up his or her community, and that anyone who is different is either sub-human or a lesser person.

As the opponents of ENDA correctly point out, a child exposed to diverse people is often initially confused by the different traits that people exhibit. But this confusion over the diversity of people triggers intellectual growth in the child in many areas as the child tries to determine why people are different, and what differences besides appearance truly exist among people and cultures. Most importantly, though, the child is forced to address the issue of how to treat people who fall outside of his or her realm of previous exposure. What place is more appropriate than a classroom in helping a child answer the questions that arise during encounters with diverse people?

A child who experiences diversity in the classroom through exposure to a teacher or student who presents traits and characteristics that the child has not previously been exposed to learns that people with differences are still people. The child learns that diverse people have the same needs, wants and desires as others, and in some instances, that diverse people have special needs as a result of the characteristic that makes them unique. However, the most valuable learning lesson occurs when the child realizes that people who are different deserve to be treated with the same level of respect and dignity as other human beings regardless of their differences.

Learning to accept and embrace the natural variations that exist within a population improves a child's ability to be a better leader by giving the child the skills to recognize the talents and worth of individuals regardless of their race, religion, heritage, sex, gender expression or sexual orientation. Accepting and embracing all people regardless of their differences improves a child's chances of becoming successful in business when the child develops into adulthood and works in a global, corporate world that mandates interacting with people of all ethnicities and backgrounds. As the countries of the world, the United States included, become increasingly diverse, a child who fails to embrace the diversity of mankind will find his or her options in life severely constrained.

When a child accepts the variance that exists within a population, the child comes to recognize that there are artificial barriers society promotes that inhibit personal development. A child with interests that fall outside of the gender, racial and religious norms of his or her community will become a richer and fuller person if allowed to embrace and grow those interests.

Why should a boy with interests in the fine arts and typical male sports not be encouraged to pursue both? Why should a girl be discouraged from following her interests in both science and theatre? Being free of artificial social barriers, including the artificial barriers related to gender expression, allows a child to follow his or her dreams wherever those dreams lead. Ingenuity in a child is born out of the freedom to think outside of the box. Parents should be encouraging their children to be broad thinkers, innovators, inventors and compassionate citizens of the world. Failure to do so will deny the next generation of children a world that continues to grow and prosper.

So I have to ask, if the intellectual growth of a child begins with a stimulus that leads the child to question the limits of his or her world, just what exactly is wrong with having a little confusion in the classroom?


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If anything, confusion is a reason to pass it. Confusion does mean you're learning, as you stated. Hell, if confusion was a valid reason not to do something, we wouldn't even have school. The world is confusing, which is why we have to learn about it. If it wasn't confusing, then we wouldn't need education.

Regan DuCasse | April 26, 2010 2:48 PM

It's true. I was one of those children encouraged and engaged in doing exactly what Ms. Drummond is recommending.
Children, are more confused by the assertions that gay people are threatening and dysfunctional, and that child sees the conflict in that first hand by the reality of knowing and loving someone gay.

Young people will witness situations every day of their lives where someone is altered by a medical condition, or the result of treatment. It's an educational opportunity, not a source of trauma or fear.
I remember a high school teacher who was spending the summer transitioning mtf, and had told his students of the situation to prepare them.

Even doing that, parents and other teachers raised a stink and that teacher was fired.
How cruel and unnecessary. Would anyone suggest it right or a good thing if someone had undergone ANY OTHER procedure and it be exploited as if a crime had been committed?
It was a golden opportunity for the children to understand that such things happen and that their relationship with their teacher (who was VERY popular btw) needn't be destroyed.

Children are not stupid. And teaching them empathy, or retaining natural sensitivity in them, is part of encouraging civility, and cooperative integration.

Teaching them fear, encouraging ignorance is counterproductive, even to whatever religious message a family or community would want to impart.

Indeed, an educational institution is obligated NOT to foment fear and ignorance. That's why we have them in the first place.

I was thinking that the confused kids were the one's that needed to see LGBT teachers in the classroom. I like that you took it one step farther and said confuse the kids a little it will do them a world of good.

Angela Brightfeather | April 26, 2010 3:22 PM

Mara,

Now I'm confused.

Why can't people continue to be fat and lazy and not have to answer questions from their children who are confused about things?

I think that is what it is all about, not the children. I think that people who are just to lazy to educate themselves and don't enjoy hearing the words "Why" come from their children, or don't take the time to answer them, or simoply don't want to answer them because by doing so they would have to face their own destructive and hateful demons are what this is all about.

It seems very obvious to me that the degree of fear expressed by these bigots about Trans people teaching their children, is more about them having to face their own discriminatory attutde and having to explain it to innocent children, which is a hard thing to do when everyone else is trying to teach them to be good and nice to other people.

Their argument isn't that children will be confused about the gender of the teacher and require explanation. Their argument is that children will become confused about their own gender, and they will become gay or transgender. This idea is backed up by no evidence whatsoever, of course.

Ah, yes, the whole "being around LGBT people will make you LGBT" argument.

Gotta love it.

Well, I totally agree. Also, I think they also imply that GLBT people are a "threat" to children because we are all pedophiles. We should all be afraid, very afraid...lol.
While I never had a Transsexual teacher (that I know of), I certainly had gays and lesbians
( including nuns) as teachers. So what's really new here? I think that is why the opponents are focusing on the Trans people to create fear because most of us had gay teachers and had no problems.

You know, I think most parents prefer their children not step outside of the boundaries they've put up around them to "protect" them. Sadly, we've become more focused on "protecting" them from everything than allowing their natural curiosity to grow and explore new ideas and perspectives.

As a transgendered educator I want to thank you for such a clear-headed assessment. My best teaching starts with broad questioning or problems to be solved. Learners need to be challenged in order to make their knowledge acquisition meaningful. Great schools are always marketplaces for ideas and notions to be challenged regardless of the grade level. Having a transgendered teacher can be a root of many amazing life and academic lessons as well.

Last year I was elected as my building teacher of the year and competed for district teacher of the year as well. Deep down I wanted to accept my award as the woman that I am. I wanted to stand up in front of everyone in my professional life and scream I am a transgendered woman and an educator! Today if ANYONE found out that I spend my personal life as a woman I would be terminated on a morals violation with no legal recourse. My colleagues were kind enough to recognize me as the schools best teacher, what difference should it make if any in terms of my own gender choice?

In so many ways I am a coward.

Sincerely

Dana

Public School Teacher

Dana,

Hang in there baby. I taught 2nd and 3rd graders and, at the time I told my principal about being trans (and, btw, this is in the most progressive city in the US with full anti-discrimination statutes both in the city and state) she said, "well this will help us with the district's mandate for diversity education but you might still be let go." (she is also, btw, a somewhat closeted lesbian) Eight months later, as an untenured teacher, I was given the very unofficial yet absolute boot. They said, "we respect your privacy" to my face, but "get 'him' the hell out of here" behind my back.

No matter what districts and admins say about diversity, methods of learning, or exposing children to different ways of being, that all goes out the window once the cold reality of one of "them" being in the classroom with the children comes home to roost... especially with younger students. High school is sometimes a little easier since the parents aren't quite as protective of their offspring. I also think it's easier (from what I've anecdotally heard) for 'FTM' people than those on the 'MTF' spectrum and, of course, it you have considerable seniority and the Teacher's Union backing you up (they have a mixed rep on this issue).

But districts will get rid of you one way or the other if they get enough complaints (which can mean 2 or 3). Many of the stories of transitioning teachers don't include follow-up to show what happened to them several years down the line (once the district was free from the glare of publicity and potential criticism) and many are altogether out of teaching due to the way they've been marginalized by the parents and administrators.

For anyone with further interest in this subject, i highly recommend a documentary film by Aussie filmmaker Rohan Spong called "T is for Teacher". He follows the lives and transitions of four trans teachers from the US. It still hasn't been largely shown in the US and needs to get some better distribution.

http://www.aroundmelbourne.com.au/component/option,com_seyret/Itemid,194/task,videodirectlink/id,214/

ginasf , may I contact you via email to hear more of your story?

ladydanakc@yahoo.com