Challenge oppression through developing understanding not anger and confrontation. It doesn’t help people learn.

Back in real world having spent the last 15 months immersed in a dissertation exploring challenging homophobia in schools.

The key take home message has always been we need to develop children and young people’s understanding of diversity, and give them opportunities to discuss, reflect and learn from different experiences and identities.

I can’t simply ban “That’s so gay” in my classroom without spending sometime explaining why and working towards a shared understanding of why that language is problematic. Otherwise all I do is I teach kids that “gay is a word Miss doesn’t like” and it’s somehow a wrong and powerful word and mustn’t be used in that space (but would still be used in other spaces). However by taking the time to work with children and young people on developing their understanding of such terms, they come to the conclusion themselves that they don’t want to use such language, they start educating their peers and it snowballs from there. I have seen it with my own eyes it can happen.

I’m going to point out this also holds true for twitter feminism. I have seen some absolutely foul and abusive behaviour on twitter recently with people calling out other people in the name of intersectionality, but in abusive ways that don’t help people learn and understand but shut down and then again it becomes “us vs. them”. I appreciate that people feel so strongly about this and as a result feelings can run very high, but some of the ad hominem attacks in recent months are simply not okay.

If you truly want to educate people about oppression then time needs to be taken to discuss and educate, not shout and abuse. The latter gets people nowhere and people simply will not learn because the second someone is put on the defensive or made angry – their brain can’t learn as cortisol and adrenalin take over.

I’m not an expert on oppression and intersectionality, but I know a bit about learning. I’d like to think I know a masters level worth of stuff into homophobia in schools but it hasn’t been marked yet and if it does badly I probably don’t know as much as I think, but don’t know enough about biphobia or transphobia in schools (because the research and education agendas are not there yet really), I also don’t know enough about racism, or sexism, or classism, but I am listening and trying to learn, that is all I can do. All I ask for in return is do not abuse me or the many other people like me who are also trying to learn and change society for the better.

After all:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”                                                                                      (Nelson Mandela, 2003)

And that holds true for children and young people in schools, and adults and twitter.

Happy Educating.


MANDELA N, (2003) Lighting your way to a better future. Speech delivered by Mr N R Mandela at launch of Mindset Network. Available from


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