Harper B. Keenan is a doctoral candidate at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, where he studies Curriculum and Teacher Education, and teaches several courses in the Stanford Teacher Education Program (STEP). He is currently supported by a Diversifying Academia and Recruiting Excellence (DARE) fellowship from the university's Vice Provost for Graduate Education.
Harper's research centers on how adults teach young children about the past and present social worlds. These interests emerge directly from his experience as a teacher. After studying history and social science in an interdisciplinary program at The New School, he became an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn, where he quickly learned that the resources for talking about history and social studies 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 of how young children are taught about the violent and conflicted past of the United States. In the future, he is interested in conducting international and comparative studies of how history education shapes collective memory across the US and around the world. 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.
How do schools give meaning to gender?
In addition to his work on history and social science education, Harper explores what the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming youth and teachers reveal about how gender works within the US school system. His article, Unscripting Curriculum: Toward a Critical Transgender 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 transgender 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 is currently under review.
In 2015, Harper founded the Trans Educators Network (TEN), an organization for connection and support among transgender and non-binary educators. TEN now has active chapters in five cities across the United States, and over 250 members around the globe. In addition to providing valuable support systems 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. In his work as an elementary school teacher, Harper taught kindergarten, first, and fourth grades in special education inclusion classrooms in Brooklyn and Manhattan.