Jerry Moore (Admin)
Post Number: 26334
|Posted on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 - 12:34 am: |
Lessons on gay history cut homophobic bullying in north London school
• Abuse and harassment 'more or less eliminated'
• Classes to be shared with teachers around country
Jessica Shepherd and Sue Learner / London (UK) Guardian
26 October 2010
A north London school which has developed lessons on gay historical figures who suffered persecution claims to have succeeded in "more or less eliminating homophobic bullying" in its classrooms and playgrounds over the last five years.
The life story of the wartime code-breaker Alan Turing is among those being used to tackle homophobia. Authors Oscar Wilde and James Baldwin and artist Andy Warhol also feature.
Now Stoke Newington secondary plans to share the lessons with hundreds of primary and secondary school teachers. By the summer, it will have trained more than a hundred teachers in how to "educate and celebrate" being gay.
Turing, a mathematician who cracked German codes in the second world war, was prosecuted in 1952 for his homosexuality, which was then a crime. He was forced to decide between prison and taking female hormones to reduce his libido, and chose the latter. An inquest into his death – two years after his prosecution – returned a verdict of suicide.
Last year, Gordon Brown offered a posthumous government apology for the way Turing had been treated for being gay.
Elly Barnes, a music teacher, devised the lesson plans and training course with the help of colleagues. Her concern began when she heard a pupil say their "pen was so gay" when it snapped in two. Barnes's aim is to "eradicate homophobia from all schools" by giving staff the confidence and resources required to tackle the prejudice.
* * *
Occasionally, the lessons do not go to plan. One of Barnes's colleagues, Anna Gluckstein, was teaching about Turing when a boy at the back of the class got up and chanted "batty man, batty man" – a Jamaican term for a gay man.
A poll of 1,145 pupils in 2007 by the charity Stonewall found 65% of lesbian, gay and bisexual students had experienced homophobic bullying. Some 98% said the word "gay" was used as a synonym for "rubbish".
"By looking at famous LGBT people in history, we've changed opinions and we have had a number of pupils come out," Barnes said. "We have also changed the language used in the school. I used to hear the word gay used all the time as a derogatory term. Now we hardly hear it."