Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Without teachers and educators, where would the world be?

University of California Press is honored to collaborate with university professors who serve as authors of outstanding scholarship. The work of addressing society’s core challenges can be accelerated when scholarship assumes its role as an agent of engagement and democracy.

To that end we take a moment to celebrate our authors’ and professors’ contributions to our society. The following are just some titles that share how teachers make a difference in our world, everyday.  

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day! #TeacherAppreciationDay


Grit and Hope: A Year with Five Latino Students and the Program That Helped Them Aim for College by Barbara Davenport

Grit and Hope tells the story of five inner-city Hispanic students who start their college applications in the midst of the country’s worst recession and of Reality Changers, the program that aims to help them become the first in their families to go college. This year they must keep up their grades in AP courses, write compelling essays for their applications, and find scholarships to fund their dreams. The book also follows Christopher Yanov, the program’s youthful, charismatic founder in a year that’s as critical for Reality Changers’ future as it is for the seniors. Told with deep affection yet without sentimentality, Grit and Hope shows that although poverty and cultural deprivation seriously complicate youths’ efforts to launch into young adulthood, the support of a strong program makes a critical difference.

Hicks.RoadOutThe Road Out: A Teacher’s Odyssey in Poor America by Deborah Hicks

Can one teacher truly make a difference in her students’ lives when everything is working against them? Can a love for literature and learning save the most vulnerable of youth from a life of poverty? The Road Out is a gripping account of one teacher’s journey of hope and discovery with her students—girls growing up poor in a neighborhood that was once home to white Appalachian workers, and is now a ghetto. Deborah Hicks, set out to give one group of girls something she never had: a first-rate education, and a chance to live their dreams. The author’s own life story—from a poorly educated girl in a small mountain town to a Harvard-educated writer, teacher, and social advocate—infuses this chronicle with a message of hope.



School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom by Catherine Connell

How do gay and lesbian teachers negotiate their professional and sexual identities at work, given that these identities are constructed as mutually exclusive, even as mutually opposed? Using interviews and other ethnographic materials from Texas and California, School’s Out explores how teachers struggle to create a classroom persona that balances who they are and what’s expected of them in a climate of pervasive homophobia. Catherine Connell’s examination of the tension between the rhetoric of gay pride and the professional ethic of discretion insightfully connects and considers complicating factors, from local law and politics to gender privilege. She also describes how racialized discourses of homophobia thwart challenges to sexual injustices in schools. Written with ethnographic verve, School’s Out is essential reading for specialists and students of queer studies, gender studies, and educational politics.


The Separation Solution? Single-Sex Education and the New Politics of Gender Equality by Juliet A. Williams

Since the 1990s, there has been a resurgence of interest in single-sex education across the United States, and many public schools have created all-boys and all-girls classes for students in grades K through 12. The Separation Solution? provides an in-depth analysis of controversies sparked by recent efforts to separate boys and girls at school. Reviewing evidence from research studies, court cases, and hundreds of news media reports on local single-sex initiatives, Juliet Williams offers fresh insight into popular conceptions of the nature and significance of gender differences in education and beyond.




The Real School Safety Problem: The Long-Term Consequences of Harsh School Punishment by Aaron Kupchik

Schools across the U.S. look very different today than they did a generation ago. Police officers, drug-sniffing dogs, surveillance cameras, and high suspension rates have become commonplace. The Real School Safety Problem uncovers the unintended but far-reaching effects of harsh school discipline climates. Evidence shows that current school security practices may do more harm than good by broadly affecting the entire family, encouraging less civic participation in adulthood, and garnering future financial costs in the form of high rates of arrests, incarceration, and unemployment. This text presents a blueprint for reform that emphasizes problem-solving and accountability while encouraging the need to implement smarter school policies.

LGBTQ Teachers Walk a Tightrope

By Catherine Connell, author of School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom

This Q&A, originally published by Boston University Today, is posted in advance of the American Sociological Association conference in Chicago. Read the original post here, and check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Tuesday, August 25th. 

After interviewing and observing gay teachers in California and Texas—the former bans discrimination against gays statewide, the latter does not—Connell found that teachers sometimes can’t manage this conflict and quit the profession altogether.

Connell’s book calls for a radical rethinking of classroom culture.

Can you discuss the various strategies teachers use for navigating the conflict between sexual identity and professionalism, and the shortcomings you see in each?

Strategies fall into three basic categories that I call splitting, knitting, and quitting.

Splitters attempt to keep a strict division between their identities as teachers and as gays/lesbians. Imagine dropping off your sexual identity (and along with it, much of your personal biography) at the schoolhouse doors and trying to pick it back up at the end of the day. Knitters try to weave together their professional and sexual identities into a cohesive whole by bringing their sexual identities and politics into the classroom in different ways. Quitters find the process of splitting too arduous and the process of knitting too risky, so they leave classroom instruction by either moving into administration or out of the profession entirely.

Each has significant drawbacks. Splitters feel stressed, exhausted, and often guilty from the work of keeping their professional and personal worlds separate. Knitters put themselves at very significant risk for discrimination, harassment, and job termination. Quitters have to give up their jobs, and often their professional goals, to avoid the conflict.

school's outWhat’s the solution?

If there were federal protections in place for LGBTQ workers, it would go a long way toward lowering the stakes of disclosure for teachers who want to take that path. Further, we need to reconsider the outdated and anti-gay assumptions that underlie the expectations of teaching professionalism, which hurt not only LGBTQ teachers, but also contribute to school environments that feel unsafe and unwelcome for LGBTQ students and perpetuate homophobic and hetero-normative attitudes in their peers.

The problem doesn’t lie squarely with schools. The one-size-fits-all model of gay pride that demands disclosure is harmful in its own way. Relying on coming out as the primary mode of sexual justice is too individualistic; our focus should really be on the ways that anti-gay and anti-trans sentiment and policy are woven into the fabric of our most sacred institutions and social rituals.

How many LGBTQ teachers quit the job?

We don’t have that data, but we do know that LGBTQs face significant workplace discrimination and harassment, and that this contributes to job dissatisfaction, turnover, and underemployment of LGBTQ workers more generally. For teachers, who are held to very conservative expectations of on-the-job comportment, I would imagine these negative outcomes are amplified. In fact, teachers are under a microscope even when they aren’t on the clock; formal and informal morality clauses that dictate teachers’ public and even private behavior are still common in the profession.

Could you summarize your argument that the campaign for LGBTQ rights winds up reinforcing discrimination?

I wouldn’t say that LGBTQ rights, per se, reinforce discrimination, but I do think that some of the tactics of today’s rights campaigns further marginalize a subsection of the community. Whereas the gay liberation politics of 50 years ago embraced an ethics of difference, resistance, and revolution, the contemporary gay rights movement has taken a turn toward emphasizing sameness, normalcy, and incorporation into the status quo. LGBTQs who don’t want to—or can’t—fit into this normalizing project are not just being left behind, they’re often being told that they are the problem! Rather than discourage teachers from “acting gay” and encourage them to act and look just like their straight counterparts to get by, why can’t we question the institutional and professional norms that limit us to acting and looking just one way?

I am all for celebrating LGBTQ people! I’m just suspicious of limiting the celebratory spotlight to those who appear “normal.” I do expect that some people will feel that doing so is a necessary, strategic compromise on the road to broader rights and acceptance for all, and I respect that. I’m just perhaps more skeptical and cynical about the outcomes of such a compromise.

What do you mean when you suggest in your book that we take “more seriously the idea of children’s own sexual agency” and that “children have a right to the world of sexuality?”

Part of what sustains the pride/professionalism dilemma is the cultural assumption that children should be shielded from knowledge of LGBTQ genders/sexualities, that this knowledge will be corrupting, confusing, even dangerous for children. That assumption ignores, of course, the existence of LGBTQ children, and it also underestimates all kids’ capacities for understanding the existence of LGBTQ people. The belief that children are asexual and ignorant of sexuality is so pervasive in our culture, it’s very difficult for many of us to accept any suggestion to the contrary.

But I do believe that children should be given more credit as sexual subjects. In practice, this might mean, among other things, incorporating age-appropriate, scientifically accurate sexuality education into K-12 curriculum in ways that would both respect their right to sexual knowledge and set them up to make truly empowered and informed decisions about sex and sexuality later in life.

Connell_SchoolsOut_Author PhotoCatherine Connell is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University.

It’s Still Not Safe to be a Gay Teacher

by Catherine Connell

“This is going to say a lot about me, but I wish there were more openly gay men and lesbians in [education]. I’m not going to run out and out myself because I still believe my job here should be to be your science teacher, not your gay science teacher. But, no, that’s important though. Wow, listen to myself.” In these few sentences, Mauricio, a junior high science teacher, grapples with the contradiction at the heart of being a gay or lesbian schoolteacher. How do such teachers reconcile the dictates of gay pride, which expects them to be role models for queer and questioning youth, with the sexually and politically neutral demands of teaching professionalism? My book, School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers In The Classroom, demonstrates how this struggle plays out in the lives of public school teachers in the disparate policy contexts of California and Texas.

Gay and lesbian teachers like Mauricio face a no-win choice. Be “out and proud” but do so at the risk that your sexuality will overshadow your teaching accomplishments, or keep your sexuality hidden to preserve professional esteem but contend with the feelings of guilt or shame associated with the classroom “closet.” This dilemma is further complicated by race and gender and by the inadequacy of nondiscrimination protections – without a federal mandate barring employment discrimination on the basis of sexual identity or gender expression, teachers can be legally fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender in states like Texas. Even in stronger policy contexts, like California’s, teachers often don’t know their rights or (rightly) fear covert retribution for coming out. These high stakes make gay and lesbian teachers an especially vulnerable group of workers in these already unstable economic times.

In the wake of the recent gay rights victories, from the declaration of the Defense of Marriage Act’s unconstitutionality to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it may feel as if LGBTs in this country have already won the battle for full equality. Yet looking at the experiences of gay and lesbian teachers shows just how many legal and cultural roadblocks still stand between here and the end of sexuality discrimination. For true progress, both the discriminatory atmosphere of workplaces like schools and the increasingly one-size-fits-all demands of the gay pride movement must be addressed.


Catherine Connell is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University. She is the author of the forthcoming book, School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom (December, 2014).