A few months ago, I enthusiastically tweeted:
I was increasingly excited about the prospect of teaching some of my favourite texts to my year 10 class. I’ve written about year 10 before, but in a nutshell they are an intervention group whose literacy could be better than it currently is. My main aim for the scheme of work was to build their vocabulary and improve their creative, informative and persuasive writing skills through exposure to some of the best examples I could find.
Oh, and I wanted to make them feminists.
I teach in an all-girls’ school, and so this kind of aim pretty much suffuses our curriculum, not to mention the SMSC and other varied acronyms. I’ve written before about feminism’s place in the classroom, so perhaps this scheme of work was partly my way of making such arguments heard and understood.
Because I don’t think we can take it for granted that our students are cognisant of the challenges that might face them because they are girls. Despite continually out-performing their male counterparts in the education stakes, girls continue to enter a world in which women, to paraphrase Sheryl Sandberg, are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world. Women continue to do the vast majority of housework and child rearing, and they continue to earn far less than men over their careers. More terrifyingly, our children are growing up, as the film Miss Representation makes clear, surrounded by media which dictates that girls looking attractive to men is what matters.
Yet the message of feminism is by no means undisputed. Sandberg has been critiqued for exploring only a very tiny subsection of society in her analysis; Roxanne Gay has pointed out that women of colour are experiencing gender inequality in different ways which must also be heard; Caitlin Moran has been called “dismissive” for her comments on the hijab and why women ought not to be wearing it. This is a complex discourse, and one I very much would like my students to be able to enter into.
I’ve pasted the lesson powerpoints below, but will be making some key changes in preparing a similar scheme of work for the new Key Stage 4 curriculum. The revised scheme will be longer – six weeks instead of three. It will span a greater length of time, and take account of these alternative feminisms. It will be focused on key questions to interrogate, rather than key texts to read. I’ve posted a week-by-week below in case this is of interest.
I’ve also omitted textual exploration of masculinity, although we did watch the trailer for The Mask You Live In and go on to explore depictions of masculinity in adverts. This kind of scheme taught in a mixed school would definitely benefit from more gender balance, perhaps including the “He for She” campaign and exploring the challenges boys and men face in today’s society.
If we need to teach non-fiction, I do think there are some key messages we can use those schemes of work to put across to young people. There are too many inequalities in our society; I want my students to be empowered and inspired by knowledge and understanding of these inequalities to put them right.
* * *
Revised SoW: Week by week outline
- Coverage: Modern femininity
- Key question: how are women seen in today’s society?
- (Everyday Sexism; MissRepresentation; feminism today)
- (Opposing branches of feminism (Wolf/Benn/Gay/Moran))
- Coverage: Women under oppression (Malala; Wadjda; Reading Lolita in Tehran)
- Key question: do women everywhere experience the same freedoms and constraints?
- Coverage: Historical female oppression (Suffragettes)
- Key question: how has the female experience changed?
- Coverage: Female communication: journalism
- Key question: Is there a female voice?
- (Lean In excerpts; Lena Dunham (write to entertain), India Knight (write to shock)
- Coverage: Female communication: political
- Key question: how successfully do women convey messages in a political setting?
- Speechwriting (Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Benazir Bhutto, Harriet Harman/Theresa May?)
- Coverage: Roles and perceptions of women
- Key question: how are women seen, and how do they see themselves?
- Hillary Bill Clinton; Eleanor Roosevelt; Sandberg commencement speech; Fey Bossypants