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It's Elementary
Talking About Gay Issues in School

a film by Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen
from Women's Educational Media, 1996

Teacher, Robert Roth, including gays & lesbians in a lesson on stereotypes at Luther Burbank Middle School in San Francisco.

It's Elementary is, to date, the most important film (and one of the most important pieces of work in any medium) available which addresses gay and lesbian issues in a grade school setting. Debra Chasnoff and Helen Cohen, the filmmakers, visited six elementary and middle schools in which teachers used a variety of techniques to introduce discussions about gay and lesbian issues in their classrooms.

Daithi Wolfe, teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin, shows Bill T. Jones as example of famous gay person.

"I don't think people should be strict about [gay people] because if they were gay they wouldn't want to be getting beat up..." - 4th grader at a New York elementary school.

While the film is worth it's price (see price information below) for the teaching strategies employed and displayed by the educators whose classrooms were highlighted, the power of It's Elementary transcends teaching techniques and pedagogy. Chasnoff and Cohen broach topics that even people in the Multicultural Education community often find difficult to discuss. More importantly, the film challenges several assumptions made by educators and lay-people alike about student interest in, and ability to intelligently discuss, gay issues. And it does so in a way that is accessible, not intimidating, for viewers who most desperately need to be pulled into a discussion about gay issues as they pertain to self, school, and society.

Even teachers and administrators who routinely hear students throw around terms like "faggot" or "gay" tend to be more comfortable believing that those students are not ready to discuss the bigger implications of this "name-calling," maybe because they, themselves, have never had an opportunity to engage in a dialogue about gay issues. Even as our society is becoming more comfortable exploring issues of race and gender, dialogue about sexual orientation remains taboo, even in many of the most liberal circles. In such a context and climate, the most critical assumption challenged by the film is that young students are not ready to discuss oppression, discrimination, and specifically, homophobia and heterosexism. This assumption is shattered in the unforgettable opening sequence through a manufactured exchange of ideologies between a Congressman who prefers such topics to be left out of the classroom and a group of elementary school students who demonstrate that they're not only ready to discuss it, but that they may be more ready than a hefty percentage of adults. Then, throughout the rest of the film, the students continue to demonstrate and reiterate their readiness.

By providing the educational community with It's Elementary, Chasnoff and Cohen have provided me and other college instructors, workshop leaders, facilitators, and social activists one of the most powerful and important resources available for initiating dialogue, encouraging individual self-development, and pushing forth toward educational and social change on a topic that too few have successfully accessibly addressed.

The film comes in both a full-length version (75 minutes) and a shorter training version (37 minutes). It comes with a Viewing Guide full of helpful tips for planning and facilitating a screening and discussion.

For individuals, the price of the the full-length film is $53.96 and the price of the educaitonal training version is $75.00. The former does not include the viewing guide. Individual purchases can be made by calling 800.405.3322.

Organization and institution purchases can be made by contacting the distributor, New Day Films, at 888-367-9154.

For further purchasing information, contact Women's Educational Media
2180 Bryant St., Suite 230
San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone: 415.641.4616
Fax: 415.641.4632

Email: wemfilms@womedia.org
URL: Women's Educational Media

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