In daily life at school, teachers and school staff witness many interactions between various members of the school community. Some are characterized by unkindness, abuse, an intention to hurt or harm someone, or by a power imbalance, where one individual is afraid of or dominated by another.
Sometimes, social problems such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of injustice may take such direct and explicit forms. Other times, they are manifested in much more subtle and indirect ways (see Understanding Racism, Sexism and Homophobia).
When incidents, behaviour or practices involving racism, sexism and homophobia take place, there are other “actors” present, visible or not, in addition to the individuals who are directly involved. Some examples of “actors” that may influence a situation at school, even though they can’t be seen or heard at the time are:
- television shows and movies;
- song lyrics;
- family culture;
- political decisions influencing school or family life;
- school books, newspapers, magazines and other literature;
- learned internal messages in someone’s mind;
- billboards, posters and other forms of advertising.
This is because racism, sexism and homophobia are among a number of social problems that are embedded in our systems and institutions, in the way our society is organized. These forms of injustice are rooted in a historical legacy of social exclusion that continues to influence our society in ways that marginalize certain social groups. They are inextricably connected to everything teachers and other members of the school community (students, parents, administrators, support staff) say and do. They flow from and result in issues of Power and Identity.
For tools and resources to stimulate discussion on these issues with students, click here.