Harper B. Keenan recently completed his doctorate in Curriculum and Teacher Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and will begin a postdoctoral fellowship in Leadership in Teacher Education at Stanford in January 2019. At Stanford and at Bank Street College, Harper has taught courses on history & social science education, curriculum development, equity and schooling, restorative justice, and building classroom communities through social and emotional learning.
Harper's research centers on social and historical learning in elementary schools. He is interested in how adults teach young children to make sense of human history and social relationships, and explores the role of early learning experiences in (re)producing or interrupting dominant ideology about topics like nationalism, gender, race, and violence.
These interests emerge directly from Harper's experiences as a teacher. After studying history and social science in an interdisciplinary program at The New School, Harper became an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn, where he quickly learned that the resources for talking about history and social science with young children in elementary schools are often inadequate. Today, Harper is working on projects in two major arenas: the treatment of violence in elementary school history education, and the construction of gender in schools.
How do adults teach children about violent histories?
Harper's current research focuses on the teaching of Spanish colonial history in California elementary schools. By analyzing textbooks, classroom instruction, and field trips to historic sites, his project serves as a case study in how young children are taught about the violent and conflicted past of the United States. The first article from this study, entitled Selective Memory: California Mission History and the Problem of Historical Violence in Elementary School Textbooks, is forthcoming in Teachers College Record. In the future, he is interested in more deeply examining the role of social and emotional learning in elementary school history education, and in developing stronger connections between social studies and environmental science education.
How do schools give meaning to gender?
In addition to his work on history and social science education, Harper explores what the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming youth and teachers reveal about how gender functions within the US school system. His article, Unscripting Curriculum: Toward a Critical Trans Pedagogy, was published in the Winter 2017 edition of the Harvard Educational Review, and was the journal's first to focus on the topic of trans identity in K-12 schools. Harper also worked on an international comparative study of trans-affirming school policy and practice with scholars at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Western Ontario in Canada, and Murdoch University in Australia. The first article from this study was recently published by Gender and Education. Harper has also written articles for the popular press about issues facing trans people in schools. His work has appeared in Slate, The Huffington Post, and The Feminist Wire.
The Trans Educators Network
In 2015, Harper founded the Trans Educators Network (TEN), an organization for connection and support among trans and non-binary educators. TEN now has active chapters in five cities across the United States, and nearly 300 members around the globe. In addition to providing valuable support and professional networking for trans educators, the group serves as a springboard for advocacy efforts. Some of these efforts have been featured on The Huffington Post and NPR.
Although he has spent most of his adult life in big cities, Harper grew up in a rural community in Western Maryland. He moved to New York City to attend college, where he earned B.A. in Social and Historical Inquiry from Eugene Lang College at The New School, and a dual M.S. in Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College. As an elementary school teacher, Harper taught kindergarten, first, and fourth grades in special education inclusion classrooms in Brooklyn and Manhattan. He loves eating delicious food, playing outside, and watching films and live theater.