In their second survey, the authors found that the majority of students felt that PROJECT 10 had been positive and beneficial - not merely for LGBT students, but for the overall educational environment.
This resonates with one of the conclusions reached by Sedgwick (1993) when she offered her first class in gay and lesbian studies at Amherst College in 1986. While she initially designed the course for the five to six students she believed would show up, she was quite shocked when, on the first day of class, sixty-five students showed up, most of whom identified as straight. While Sedgwick is writing as a literary scholar, rather than a social scientist, her comments on pedagogy, as one of the most important proponents of queer theory since its emergence in the academy in the 1980s, are pertinent here. Sedgwick notes that it is fairly common in the United States for teachers to be fired for even inferring that LGBT people have a right to existence and equality, thus cementing the institutionalized silence that serves a homophobic and heterosexist agenda. She also points to statistics that state that twenty-six percent of all gay men have to leave home as students as a result of their sexuality. She also notes that nearly a quarter of all homeless youth in the United States are LGBT. In addition to the systematic homophobia mentioned above, Sedgwick also points out that LGBT students are kept isolated from LGBT adults who may be able to serve as mentors and role models, were it not for the homophobic idea that such adults may have a negative influence or even prey sexually on LGBT youth. Finally, Sedgwick criticizes the rampant denial found in the world of education as well as government, which surfaces in the form of defunding research on adolescent sexual behavior and refusing to fund programs in schools that might provide students with information on LGBT identity, as well as HIV prevention. What is more, many academics that are involved in research that may be of beneficial use to both educators and LGBT students find their work to be stigmatized as a result of the attack on "political correctness" by both the right wing and anti-intellectual leftists.
More recent research has shown that, while some states have taken steps to instill legislation to protect LGBT students from harassment and bullying on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation, school systems across the nation continue to take steps to insure that LGBT-related issues are banned from the curriculum (Kosciw and Diaz 2005). What is more, homophobic language continues to resonate through American school hallways as a means of insulting LGBT students; unfortunately, teacher and staff members are a lot less likely intervene in such scenarios than they are when racist or sexist language is used. What is more, nearly a fifth of the LGBT youth surveyed in Kosciw and Diaz (2005) reported hearing teachers and school staff members make homophobic remarks themselves. Over a third of all students surveyed had been physically harassed in the previous year owing to their sexual orientation, while over a quarter had experienced harassment as the result of their gender expression. What is more, such harassment and stigmatization has a visible affect on students' academic performance; many of the students surveyed reported having skipped at least one day of school in the previous month out of fear for their safety. LGBT students are twice as likely to drop out of high school or not go on to college after graduation. The severity of LGBT students' harassment inevitably corresponds with their level of academic achievement. The vast majority of students - over 80% - reported that they had never been taught about LGBT history, people, and events. What is more, the presence of LGBT clubs in the school tended to reduce the amount of absentees among the LGBT student body, while fostering a sense of belonging to the school community.
Smith (2007) notes the importance of fostering a sense of belonging in schools, largely owing to the fact that LGBT students have traditionally been excluded from the broader gay subculture, which is adult-oriented and thus afraid of promoting the image of seducing young people into a lifestyle that has been by and large condemned by society at large throughout its history. Critics often accuse LGBT supportive teachers of filling "advocacy" roles; Smith suggests that teachers find ways of being supportive in a way that is informationally and emotionally fulfilling, rather than "advocating" for any one position. Smith suggests a five-fold solution in addressing the problems posed by the current educational system. First, he suggests that teachers familiarize themselves with the numerous print and video resources available detailing the lives and trials of both LGBT students and teachers. He then suggests that teachers take an active role in condemning negative and homophobic remarks, while going a step further and taking advantage of such moments to elicit classroom discussion on issues of sexual diversity. Third, he suggests that teachers actively campaign their schools to allow pamphlets and other printed information regarding LGBT issues to be made readily available to all students. Fourth, teachers should be wiling to integrate LGBT issues into their curriculum, while also giving LGBT students the chance to socialize with like-minded peers and acknowledging such students' needs for positive role models and reinforcement. Finally, teachers must be willing to listen to LGBT students' needs with an open mind and to offer positive suggests that are free of judgment. In addition, teachers should familiarize themselves with outside resources in the local community that might be able to help LGBT students in those events where the teacher is not in a position to do so.
III. Educational Psychology Concepts
One of the more immediate concepts that come to mind when dealing with any stigmatized minority in an educational concept is empowerment theory, which has been elucidated in the work of Ball (2000). Ball is one of the proponents of a pedagogical method that she terms "teaching for liberation," which is defined as "pedagogical practices that facilitate or encourage human action and agency" (p. 1,009). The goal of teaching for liberation is to encourage students to not only question established patterns of thought, but to take action towards changing them. Adjacent to the need for teaching for liberation is the development of what Ball terms a "critical pedagogy": "the development of a praxis of the present and conscientization, as well as the empowerment of individuals through critical reflection and the development of dialogue and voice concerning the transformative power of cultural knowledge" (p. 1,012). Finally, Ball's educational philosophy highlights the need for community-based organizations, where students belonging to a minority may congregate. Such sites serve as supplementary locales for education, and may or may not be officially recognized by parents, teachers, school principals, and other authorities. It should be noted, however, that Ball's research is largely rooted in studies of African-American students and teachers, rather than a LGBT context. Implicit to Ball's research is the fact that African-American students already have numerous opportunities to engage with their own cultural community. LGBT students do not necessarily have that opportunity in the current educational system, with the possible exception of LGBT community centers with youth outreach programs and support groups. But such centers are typically situated only in urban environments. The emergence of gay-straight alliances in many high schools, however, is one positive step forward in this direction.
In order to fully understand the complex the psychological problems that afflict many LGBT students in contemporary society, it may be useful to hearken back to Erikson's principles of identity development (1968). While identity crises are recurring for some individuals, owing to the constantly shifting and evolving nature of the world, which causes us to re-define ourselves over time, the most pivotal identity crisis occurs in the teenage years. The seven phases of identity development are delineated as follows: time perspective, self-certainty, role experimentation, anticipation of achievement, sexual identity, leadership polarization, and ideology. Unless we are able to resolve each of these facets of identity in our youth, Erikson argues, we will be unable to confront the problems of adulthood. An identity crisis may also come about as the result of a disruption of any three facets of the identity: that is, the ego identity ("the self"); the personal identity (those qualities that make us unique, separate us from others); the cultural identity (the myriad roles we may play in a social context.) as has already been stipulated, LGBT students in the United States have to deal with severe blows to at least two of these three - they must often mask their personal identity via attempting to pass as straight, effectively "deleting" those qualities of the self that makes them different from their peers, while simultaneously being denied a cultural identity that might link them to a wider, dynamic LGBT history.…