Open Letter to Bethel School District Superintendent Colt Gill Regarding His Response to the Genderbread Person Discussion

[Superintendent Colt Gill wrote a response to my letter. It can be seen in the comments and in a separate post]

Superintendent Gill,

My name is Ryan Brockey, and I am a teacher licensure candidate and master’s student at University of Oregon. In a few months I will begin looking for jobs teaching mathematics and/or physics. Based on the Register Guard’s report of your response to Bethel District parents regarding the classroom discussion of a Genderbread Person poster, I am going to be quite wary of applying to your school district. Would I be welcome there?

Your words say I will be welcome. Your words say that all sorts of students, parents, faculty, and staff are welcome. Here are three quotes attributed to you in the Register Guard where you emphasize this open welcomeness:

“We need to make sure that when people walk through the doors of our school, whether they’re a family member or a student, that they feel as welcome as every other student in that building.”

“They (need to) feel secure and free from harassment, free from threat or harm.”

[Regarding students who may feel different than their peers] “We want to ensure that they feel safe, and that everybody around them understands that they have value and are as free and appropriate to be in our (school) system as every other student.”

Those are excellent sentiments. Unfortunately, they don’t jive with your actions and policies. In the same Register Guard piece, it’s also reported that Principal Erika Case apologized that a discussion around gender identity took place. You are reported to have assured parents that they will have the option to opt their children out of conversations about gender identity and sexuality.

Here’s the issue: how can anyone who identifies as queer in any way feel welcome or safe in a district where it is optional to even learn about their existence? It is not welcoming, but rather othering, when your district apologizes because gender and sexual identities other than cis-hetero were acknowledged in a classroom. You have just told queer people that their existence, their identities are something that must be apologized for in your district.

Despite your words, your district does not seem like a welcoming place for me to apply to teach math or physics this coming year.

Ryan Brockey (pronouns: they/them)
Secondary Education, Math and Physics
UOTeach Cohort 7
University of Oregon Continue reading

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Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy Promises More Women in STAR WARS

I am pumped about Star Wars The Force Awakens. My giddiness is actually a bit of a welcome surprise. When Disney announced the Sequel Trilogy, I wasn’t sure if I’d be quite as excited this time around. Maybe I’m jaded from the Prequels. Maybe I just thought I might be too old to really geek out over Star Wars.

Well, the excitement is here, as full and real as it was 16 years ago in the lead up to Episode I. I think part of the reason I’ve been able to rediscover that old enthusiasm is because Disney and Lucasfilm seem to be doing so much right. The president of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge that what Star Wars has in fictional alien diversity, it lacks in real human diversity. By watching the first six movies, you’d think that most of the humans in the Star Wars galaxy are white men (and primarily British). Kennedy has a problem with that, and she’s using her position to change it.

At Star Wars Celebration 2015, the yearly international convention dedicated to the universe, Kennedy spoke at a panel about the lack of women on screen. When the moderator asked which charaacter she’d like to be, Kennedy responded, “I don’t have many choices.” She let that statement hang in the air for a moment, making an important point from the light-hearted question. She continued, “But that’s going to change.”

Though there was only one new female actress announced in the original casting, Kennedy prosmised, “There are going to be a lot of wonderful new [female] characters.” That seems to be the case. In addition to the female lead Daisy Ridley and returning star Carrie Fisher, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong’o, and Maisie Rishardson-Sellers have all joined the cast. That is five significant female roles in this film alone. We now know that Felicity Jones is the only confirmed cast member for the first stand-alone film, Rogue One.

Obviously, this only addresses the issue of gender diversity. I’m holding out hope, though, that we’ll see considerably more racial diversity as well.

The panel with Kathleen Kennedy can be found here.

I am excited for new Star Wars. Not only does the upcoming movie look fun and exciting, but Star Wars is poised to become culturally relevant again.