Boston College Lynch School Contributor(s): Jon M. Wargo
Description: When Illinois Governor Jay Robert (J.B.) Pritzker signed House Bill 246 (the Inclusive Curriculum) into law in August 2019, little did he know that the first year of implementation (2020-2021) would be backdropped by a global pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, an insurrection on the United States capitol building, and a re-ignition of the culture wars. The bill, requiring that the roles and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals be included in social studies instruction “prior to grade 8,” was unique. Unlike other states with queer-inclusive policy, the Illinois law is one of the first to assert that this was content necessary for elementary children and middle grades youth. Thus, with this assertion came both material and ideological tensions. Educators asked, “What (in terms of content) are we teaching?” and “Why (in terms of ideology) and how are we teaching it now?” Queer inclusion – for some Illinois educators – became a paradox.
Drawing on data from a sequential mixed-methods (Cresswell, 2003) study examining how elementary educators in the 20 most diverse school districts in Illinois made sense of LGBTQ+ inclusive policy, this presentation explores how the problem space of queer inclusion – both as a personal belief and as a professional expectation – was communicated to and reconfigured by teachers in the first year of implementation. Utilizing sensemaking theory (Resnick, 1991; Spillane et al., 2002; Weick, 1995) and discursive institutionalism (Schmidt, 2008) as analytic tools, it zeroes in specifically on data generated from 88 video-cued qualitative interviews. Highlighting how educators responded to a video-recorded professional development seminar that framed the teaching of LGBTQ+ inclusive social studies as a “closed” curricular issue (Hess, 2007), findings highlight how teachers’ personal feelings and co-constructed understandings of policy (as refracted through their school, district, and community) were complicated and pushed them to understand the issue of queer-inclusion as complex and “tipping,” regardless of the law.
Joining other scholars interrogating LGBTQ+ policy implementation and practice at a national level (see, for example, Farley & Leonardi, 2021; Leonardi, 2017; Leonardi & Moses, 2021; Loutzenheiser, 2015; Meyer & Keenan, 2018; Taylor et al., 2016), this project aims not only to contributes significant understandings into the ideological constraints and supports of state-level K-12 policy implementation, but establishes a foundation for understanding the contextual factors and ethical dilemmas elementary educators, an under-studied group, employ in framing LGBTQ+-inclusion.