New electives promote representation and empowerment

LGBTQ%2B+Studies%2C+African+American+Literature+and+Literature+as+Film+are+three+electives+that+may+be+available+for+RM+students+to+take+next+year.+

Graphic by Julianne Cruz

LGBTQ+ Studies, African American Literature and Literature as Film are three electives that may be available for RM students to take next year.

Liz Frisbie, Features Writer

In April of 2020, Montgomery County Public Schools announced that a new elective, LGBTQ+ Studies, would be coming to Richard Montgomery, as well as African American Literature and Literature as Film.

However, for these classes to run, there have to be enough students enrolled in them, and there must be enough teachers available to teach the classes.

According to African American Literature’s course description, students will examine texts from the 18th century to the present and place them in the socio-cultural milieu that they were written in. Students will also use the studied texts to learn about African American history and trauma and will be able to express their thoughts about equality and justice.

Literature as Film will focus on the process of turning a written work into a movie, as well as analyzing and interpreting both texts and films, according to its description. Students will be able to produce original storyboards, critiques, essays and short films, and study the genres of drama, mystery and film noir, comedy, western, gangster, horror and thriller.

The LGBTQ+ Studies elective, which will come to RM for the second year of its pilot (testing) program, will focus on the history of the LGBTQ+ community in America. According to its proposal, the course aims to empower LGBTQ+ students and increase understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.

The class was first introduced when the student organization MoCo Pride advocated for having more LGBTQ+ representation in the school curriculum. The focus of the class will be on understanding the LGBTQ+ community through student-led discussions and projects.

[The classes are] more about understanding the world and how we fit into it if we don’t just fit into the boxes that society assigns.”

— Mr. Stillman

The first unit will cover identity and will include terminology and identity issues regarding queer theory, gender identity, gender fluidity and how they change across time and place.

The second unit will be about resistance and resilience and will mostly focus on 20th century events. It will examine the impact of the world wars on gender identity and sexuality, the criminalization of LGBTQ+ members during the interwar years and how the LGBTQ+ community fought back against this criminalization with the Stonewall Uprising and landmark court cases. The second unit will also cover the AIDS Crisis and how activism helped people get the treatment they needed.

The elective’s third unit will be about music, art, film and literature related to the LGBTQ+ community.

The fourth unit of the class will cover more contemporary and current topics such as marriage equality, trans athletes and changes in policy over military service.

Students who participate in the pilot program will be very important to further the development of the course. “It’s not often in your high school career that you get to be a pathbreaker, and … you’re going to have a lot of say in what this looks like in the future,” the Social Studies Department resource teacher, Todd Stillman, said. “The work that you do in this class is going to be something that’s meaningful to you, and it’s going to be meaningful to our school going forward.”

LGBTQ+ Studies aims to make a positive impact on LGBTQ+ students who are interested in exploring their identity and the history and hardships that their community has overcome. However, the class is also for anyone else who wants to learn more about LGBTQ+ history and culture.

“This [class] is not about getting yourself ready for the workforce,” Mr. Stillman said. “It’s more about understanding the world and how we fit into it if we don’t just fit into the boxes that society assigns.”

Many students are supportive of the changes that all of the new electives will bring to RM. “I think that [they] would genuinely help raise awareness and educate students at RM on African American Literature—AAVE, blaccent, etc.—and understand the LGBTQ+ community,” sophomore Hayal Ziku said.

Numerous students have also expressed their support of MCPS adding electives that promote diversity. “Adding courses is something that I’m really glad they did,” Ziku said. “Some students may not have the resources to educate themselves on certain topics, and providing that for free at school will help.”