Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's STILL Elementary

In 1996, Debra Chasnoff made the documentary It's Elementary, exploring the ways a few courageous teachers and schools presented gay and lesbian issues in age-appropriate contexts for elementary school children. It was controversial, to say the least, sending right-wing groups into apoplexy. Since then, the film, and a shorter version edited for presentation to educators, have been percolating through the schools, so Chasnoff made a follow-up to explore the impact of the first film. We get to talk with several of the original kids, although the "no big whoop" kid declined to be interviewed on camera.

It's Elementary presented with stunning clarity the reality that it is possible to talk to young children about gay and lesbian issues, without getting into sexual material beyond their grade level. Kids need to know that there are some families that have two moms or two dads instead of one of each, and that it doesn't make them monsters. They also need to be taught, not just as a one-time lesson but as an immutable part of the background of their education, that using a slur based on perceived sexual orientation is no more acceptable than using a racial slur. It's STILL Elementary puts the lesson in context and gives some good follow-up, showing teachers who have gotten into hot water over their lessons as well as educators with much more positive experiences. MUST SEE, especially for educators and parents.

It's STILL Elementary, dir. Debra Chasnoff, 2008 USA 51 min.
It's Elementary, dir. Debra Chasnoff, 1996 USA 37 min. [abridged version]
Filmmaker's official website

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