This past week in my Intro to Equity Studies class, some students performed Tara Goldstein's performed ethnography entitled Snakes and Ladders (linked at the bottom of this post) which examines the ways in which homophobia and racism are experienced in high schools. For anyone who has not read this piece, I encourage you to do so!
The part of the piece that was most interesting to me was apparent allusion to the institutional and systemic oppression that our society faces, but displayed on a smaller scale in a high school. Sure, the school in the script was following an equity policy, and encouraging the students to become more aware of homophobia and racism, but the real problem was with the attitudes of the teachers. For example, at one point a teacher comments on how a gay student teacher should back his car into the parking spot to hide the rainbow sticker on his bumper. This illustrated to me how even if the students become inspired through GSAs and the like, it is the teachers and faculty (who will most likely spend more years in the school than the students) who need to do real work to fix the oppression that occurs in schools. This is intimately related to how our society as a whole functions. We need to strive to eliminate the systemic oppression in our society if we want to make real change. In my opinion, the way to do this is through anti-homophobia and anti-oppression education at a young age. Snakes and Ladders is an incredible teaching tool that should not only be given to teachers, but also to students, as it is easy to engage with and very relatable for teenagers.
Click here to read Snakes and Ladders by Tara Goldstein