Feminism and teaching

A dream came true when Karen invited me to join her monthly Cherchez la Femme panel. Last night we met at the pub to talk about feminism and teaching.

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We started with our favourite teachers: the one who cheered us on, the one who threw a duster, the one who wrote back. I talked about Mrs Reece, my beloved history teacher who instructed me to teach history: “Not in high school,” she’d said.

As always, Karen beckoned the conversation to thoughtful places, wondering if the standards to which teachers are so energetically held are informed by the majority sex of the profession. Also, it’s true that gender inequality exists among teachers, but why is this imbued with more significance than in male-dominated jobs? Modelling was mentioned a lot (thanks Bandura!), and I challenged the panic around students in Australia needing more male role models. Aren’t there enough powerful blokes in roles to which boys can aspire?

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After the break I had an English-teacher moment, naming the authors of texts on the New South Wales prescribed list for year twelve students. I’d seen it in an article set for my course, whose writer seemed impressed by the scope of the list. “I would argue that the examination serves the subject well,” Annette Patterson wrote, “in that it provides a range of different genres and a wide choice of text.” Well there’s poetry, drama, film, nonfiction and fiction texts, but they’re mostly made by men [novels by Mark, Orson, J.G., Henry, Robert, Amin, Scott – and Jane; films by Phillip, Robert, Roberto, Baz, Peter – and Stephen]. Of course there are strategies for teaching any material as a feminist, but it’d assist students of all sexes if the material wasn’t so sexually monotone.

Warm thanks to Karen Pickering, Madeleine Crofts and Stephanie Rogers for the discussion, to Ron Killeen for sound and photography, and the audience for its thoughtful questions and good cheer. The night was recorded; I’ll post a link to the podcast when it’s done.

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3 thoughts on “Feminism and teaching

  1. julienleyre

    I was reflecting about that curriculum list of texts, and the absence of ‘canonical women writers’. When I studied literature in France, we did study texts written by women – mostly 17th century aristocratic writers. Foremost among those are the Letters of Mme de Sevigne where she expresses her passion for her daughter, and ‘The Princess of Cleves’ by Madame de La Fayette, a romance about impossible love; but I also remember spending some time looking at ‘the Map of tenderness’ drawn by Mlle de Scudery.
    What I started thinking on last night is, these texts probably conform to what many people would expect ‘writing by women’ to be like. I mean, these are not stories of princesses in shining armours killing dragons. But this romantic, sentimental literature, and these more minor genres, the family letter, or the conceit-map of ‘tenderness’, are a full part of the literary canon.
    And so I wondered – is the absence of women writers among ‘recommended writers’ for VCE also part of a certain vision of (high?) literature as ‘adventurous’, ‘epic’, ‘heroic’??

    PS – here a link to the ‘map of tenderness’ – http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carte_de_Tendre

    Reply

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