At South High School in the Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood, diversity is at the core of everything – particularly in the student population. The school’s students represent more than 70 different countries and many more languages, all of which create a community that reflects the diversity in today’s world.
It is something that students, educators and families crave inherently.
“South is such an inclusive and diverse place,” said Matthew Craig, teacher at South HS. “We have kids from across the street, we have kids from Green Valley Ranch. Kids who are Colorado natives, and kids from across the world.”
Yet over the past few years, students and educators raised concerns that the school’s curriculum – let alone the nation’s education system – did not reflect world diversity.
“Anyone who goes through a high school curriculum sees that there are a lot of straight, white male authors,” Craig said.
Althought South HS expanded its curriculum to include courses on social topics such as African American history, women’s studies and Hispanic literature, students approached Craig with another population and topic they felt was underrepresented: the LGBT community and gay rights movement.
During the summer of 2016, Craig worked alongside students to develop and propose the district’s first-ever Queer Literature class to be taught at South HS.
“One of the problems that you see is if all you ever read is white male authors and you’re not a straight white male, you never see yourself as someone who could be that person,” Craig said. “I feel like, the more you represent the more you see, the more you can envision yourself as an author, or a creator, or understanding the world and knowing that you’re not alone.”
Because of this class, which has inspired another Queer Literature course at Denver School of the Arts, the diversity students crave is expanding.
“I know we did the right thing,” Craig noted, “And I hope it changes a kid’s life.”