The following post can also be found at Equality 101.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day across the world. Were you able to observe the day in your classroom or school in some way?
Depending on the school and its mission, a variety of schools across the U.S. celebrate National Latino Heritage Month in September; National Coming Out Day in October; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January; Black History Month in February; the Day of Silence in April, and many more important dates of observance.
But how many schools observe International Women’s Day? Probably not many schools, if any at all.
It’s not just about observing the day, however. It’s about how we incorporate content relating to women and girls in a more intentional and consistent way in our teaching. One day alone won’t teach young people that women and girls are important.
All teachers need to be a part of making their classrooms more inclusive of themes relating to women, girls, and trans youth. I want to warn against a crucial point though: English and history teachers, often seen as the more likely educators to cover themes related to identity, cannot be the sole leaders of this kind of inclusive planning. Too often, teachers in other fields and subjects feel that they are somehow relieved from having to teach on themes and content related to race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and so on. But that’s like saying only English and history teachers need to be concerned about writing. All teachers need to be concerned about good writing. Similarly, all teachers need to be invested in expanding the kinds of themes they explore in their classroom, including issues related to women, girls, and trans youth.
We need a greater commitment from math, science, and foreign language teachers that they too will address women’s issues in their content—everything from teaching statistics by using numbers about women, girls and trans youth, to teaching about women in science, to covering novels and poetry by women in French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, German, Latin, etc. It doesn’t have to end with traditional classroom subjects though. In addition to teaching craft, music, drama, dance and theatre classes should also be teaching the history and influence of women in those fields as well. Health classes need to cover not only safe sex but also reproductive and physical health in all forms, including lesbian and bisexual health, transgender health, etc.
We all need to be a part of making International Women’s Day not just a rarefied event in March, but instead a daily commitment in our classrooms. It’s the only way we will move from a mere mention in a corporate-style history textbook to having a full presence in the ways in which young people think about gender from literature to history, to math and science, to leadership and politics, and ultimately, to themselves and each other.