Harvard Educational Review
  1. Open Lives, Safe Schools

    Edited by Donovan R. Walling

    Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation, 1996. 284 pp.

    Open Lives, Safe Schools has a clear political agenda: it is a response to what editor Donovan Walling calls the Religious Right's "systematic campaign of hatred and intolerance that targets gay men and lesbians for harassment and discrimination" (p. 2). Donovan describes the Religious Right as having a "pervasive power lust" that manifests itself in public policy, including educational legislation. For example, Senator Jesse Helms, the Republican Senator from North Carolina and Congressional ally of the Religious Right, proposed an amendment to the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that would have prevented ESEA funds from supporting any program that encouraged or supported "homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative" (p. 2). Such legislation, Walling argues, censors educational dialogue and puts gay and lesbian students "at risk" by keeping information from them that would reaffirm their life decisions. This book attempts to address the "risk" of being a gay or lesbian student, parent, or educator by providing a listing of gay and lesbian resources and a dialogue about "a number of important gay and lesbian issues in education, from the coming-out processes of students and adults to gay-positive/gay-visible curricula to parenting and family concerns" (p. 3).

    Open Lives, Safe Schools is divided into five sections. In Part One, "Professional Issues," four educators provide personal narratives recounting their experiences coming out to students and colleagues. Each essay in this section is short, engaging, and honest. For instance, Dan Woog, a high school soccer coach, tells of how his secrecy inhibited his interactions with his players and other students, while his coming out allowed students and staff to openly discuss gay and lesbian issues.

    Part Two deals with curricular issues. Arthur Lipkin's chapter leads this section, making "The Case for a Gay and Lesbian Curriculum." He provides practical, sound advice for teachers interested in incorporating a gay and lesbian curriculum in their teaching of health and sex education, social studies, and literature. He considers the need for staff development and the use of age-appropriate materials. Lipkin's work is followed by two essays that argue for the use of gay and lesbian literature in elementary and secondary classrooms. This section also includes three essays about gay and lesbian studies programs in higher education, two of which examine programs in Australia and England, providing an international flavor to this volume. This section concludes with Ian Barnard's seven suggestions for "antihomophobic pedagogy." This is a simple, prescriptive list, without a critical review of the ideas presented. These suggestions range from "We should not assume that all our students are straight" (p. 136) to "Lesbian and gay teachers should come out to students" (p. 141).

    Part Three is an eclectic mix of articles organized under the rubric of "Youth, Parents, and Families." The section begins with a reprint of Lynn Johnston's newspaper comic strip, "For Better or For Worse." In this particular strip, a teenage boy grapples with his sexuality and ultimately comes out to the comic strip's protagonist. Next, David Timothy Aveline and Kathryn Brown examine questions about homosexuality that students at a midwestern university submitted for discussion at gay/lesbian/bisexual speaker panels. Shulamit Kleinerman, a student at Northfield Mt. Hermon school, provides a first-hand account of a conundrum of youth — she's old enough to understand her own sexuality but not old enough to avoid the patronizing appraisals of adults who pay little respect to her experiences and knowledge.

    The fourth section examines some well-publicized responses to gay and lesbian issues. Rita Kessen investigates the effects of anti-gay ballot initiatives in Oregon and Colorado. Virginia Uribe, the founder of Project 10 in Los Angeles, presents her program as a model for replication. Kevin Jennings, founder of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Teachers Network, shares his lessons learned in moving from a "closeted, traumatized young teacher who lived in dread of being fired" (p. 251) to a nationally known activist.

    The final section of this volume is a resource guide that focuses on bibliographies, directories, curricular and professional issues, and available print and video materials on topics such as parents and families. This is a relatively short resource guide, intended only to provide a starting point for readers interested in obtaining more information.

    Overall, this is a useful volume for educators interested in practical discussions about gay and lesbian issues in education. In keeping with the book's political agenda, the works chosen for this compendium offer little self-criticism and lots of advocacy. Many of the articles have been printed elsewhere, but their thematic organization and engaging writing styles make the book an enjoyable read.

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    By Vitka Eisen and Irene Hall
    Youth Voices
    Stone Butch Celebration
    A Transgender-Inspired Revolution in Academia
    By Wendy Ormiston
    Negotiating Legacies
    Audre Lorde, W. E. B. DuBois, Marlon Riggs, and Me
    By Townsand Price-Spratlen
    A Gay-Themed Lesson in an Ethnic Literature Curriculum
    Tenth Graders' Responses to "Dear Anita"
    By Steven Z. Athanases
    What Difference Does It Make? The Story of a Lesbian Teacher
    By Carla Washburne Rensenbrink
    Toward a Most Thorough Understanding of the World
    Sexual Orientation and Early Childhood Education
    By Virginia Casper, Harriet K. Cuffaro, Steven Schultz, Jonathan G. Silin, and Elaine Wickens
    Race and Sexual Orientation
    The (Im)possibility of These Intersections in Educational Policy
    By Kathryn Snider
    How We Find Ourselves
    Identity Development and Two Spirit People
    By Alex Wilson
    Manly Men and Womanly Women
    Deviance, Gender Role Polarization, and the Shift in Women's School Employment, 1900-1976
    By Jackie M. Blount
    Researching Dissident Subjectivities
    Queering the Grounds of Theory and Practice
    By Kenn Gardner Honeychurch
    Cornel West on Heterosexism and Transformation
    An Interview
    HER Board

    Book Notes

    Open Lives, Safe Schools
    Edited by Donovan R. Walling

    Uncommon Heroes
    Edited by Phillip Sherman and Samuel Bernstein

    Free Your Mind
    By Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman.

    Becoming Visible
    Edited by Kevin Jennings

    Death By Denial
    By Gary Remafedi

    Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?
    By Letha Dawson Scanzoni and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.

    One Teacher in Ten
    By Kevin Jennings

    The Gay Teen
    Edited by Gerald Unks

    Tilting the Tower
    Edited by Linda Garber

    School's Out
    by Dan Woog

    The Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader
    Edited by Henry Abelove, Michele Aina Barale, and David M. Halperin

    Joining the Tribe
    By Linnea Due

    How Would You Feel If Your Dad Was Gay?
    By Ann Heron and Meredith Maran; illustrated by Kris Kovick.

    Helping Gay and Lesbian Youth
    Edited by Teresa DeCrescenzo