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Gender and sexuality in ELT – inclusive education vs. queer pedagogy

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This plenary looks at some of the reasons behind the continued reinforcement of heteronormativity in ELT materials, tests and teacher training, as well as possible ways forward.

John Gray
3 April, 2019 - 09:00 Europe/London
60 minutes

About the talk

After more than half a century of profound social change and legislative reform across much of the world, issues of gender and sexuality remain problematic in English language teaching and in education more generally. Despite limited progress in certain domains, English language teaching materials, English language tests and many teacher education courses continue to reproduce and reinforce heteronormativity – referred to by Deborah Cameron and Don Kulick (2003: 55) as 'those structures, institutions, relations and actions that promote and produce heterosexuality as natural, self-evident, desirable, privileged, and necessary'. Such a situation denies recognition to those students who are gender and sexuality non-conforming, ignores those who are questioning their gender identity or their sexual orientation, and fails to educate all about the complexity of the world in which we live.

In this talk I explore some of the reasons behind this state of affairs and I look at ways in which it has been suggested this can be remedied. On the one hand, there is the case for inclusive education in which recognition is accorded to previously erased groups. Drawing on examples of how this has been done, I suggest that there are pitfalls to such an approach being thoughtlessly applied – as the appearance of terms such as homonormativity, homocapitalism, homonationalism and pink-washing reveal. On the other hand, there is the more radical case for queer pedagogy, which I argue is congruent with the principles of critical pedagogy and a view of education as 'the practice of freedom' (Hooks, 1994). Paradoxically, this approach may be more appropriate for teachers working in those parts of the world where inclusivity is taboo.