Que(e)rying the Curriculum:
Resistance and Reception in Anti-homophobic Education

Our Project was Action Research in the Humanities 10 class of Marilyn Totten, at Robert Usher Collegiate in Regina in 2004.  I collaborated with Marilyn, a graduate student of mine, and university colleague Dr. Scott Thompson on a two week unit exploring Homophobia, Heterosexism and Sexual Orientation. 

Key findings:

1.    There was both resistance and reception to our action research and the topic itself.  The students were “captive” if you like, to our agenda. 

2.    There was more resistance from the bureaucracy of the school division than from students or parents.   It took more than a year for this project to be approved by central administration with the insistence that students had the right to opt-out of this teaching and learning.  Unfortunately, 17 years on, despite much progress, this resistance continues to be a problem in many Saskatchewan schools.

3.    Only one student opted out for (“religious” reasons):  “This is because I love God and want to receive rewards in heaven for doing his will”.  Many of the boys in the class were hockey players and school leaders.  The girls took the topic seriously. 

4.    For this elective humanities course it was easy to find and integrate appropriate teaching and learning materials including a coming-out novel, NFB films, and articles about same sex relationships, homophobia, bullying and LGBTTQ realities.

5.    The students’ loyalty and respect for Ms Totten went a long way to ensure success of this project. 

6.    It was liberating for me for the first time to be an out gay high-school teacher, and to collaborate with a teacher who was an advocate and ally and open about her lesbian daughter. 

The funding received by the McDowell Foundation was important because it legitimized this anti-homophobic initiative and showed leadership in continuing to break the silence on LGBTTQ issues.  

I am proud we made a small contribution to the McDowell legacy.

Submitted by R. James McNinch, Professor emeritus, Faculty of Education, University of Regina. 

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