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Schoolishness and Prohibition

Damon Motz-Storey's picture

"The schoolishness of the literacy performances in The Attic was apparent in the balance of collaboration between adults and youth. In the least school-like literacy performances, youth created the texts and/or initiated the reading or writing of them. In the most schoolish literacy performances, adults assumed these responsibilities. Most often, though infrastructure was established by adult staff members and youth decided whether to engage with it, and if so, how. Then, adults adapted the infrastructure to foster youth engagement." (Blackburn, 41)

What I find to be particularly compelling about the point that Blackburn is making in this passage is the assumption that so-called "schoolishness" is measured by how much leadership is assumed by the adult(s) in a classroom. Perhaps Blackburn is merely stating the fact that this assumption exists, and yet it makes me feel led to criticize this assumption and ask: why can't we have situations where plenty of student leadership and autonomy be considered school-like? Ideally, I would like to see more classrooms in all types of settings where significant degrees of student leadership is a norm even at very early ages. Such classrooms, in my opinion, would allow for more inclusion of people's identities and would give students a sense of ownership over their learning.

One more section that I found compelling:

"In this outreach to teachers of writing, Chas, an African American gay man, explained to the audience that 'for me, writing was my outlet to communicate a lot of feeling that I really couldn't communicate to anybody else, and um, that was all I had, for a very, very long time.' He talked about how he used his writing as a way of making sense of thoughts and feelings that he understood as prohibited, as so wrong that they could not be shared with anyone. In his writing, though, he could use his own, trusted audience." (Blackburn, 55)

It is this horrible, isolating sense of prohibited thoughts and feelings that is one of the many psychological harms of homophobia. We must, as educators, do everything that we can to make our classrooms into spaces where queer thought is not prohibited, but is normalized or even celebrated. It is our job to ask ourselves what behaviors and reactions we have that cause or do not cause students to believe that it is okay to think certain things about the gender of those they are attracted to. The issue spreads outside of the classroom, too, but the area where we have the most power to create safer spaces is in school.