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Teachers Urged To Teach Gender Fluidity In Classrooms

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The National Council of Teachers of English has published its “Diverse Gender Expression and Gender Non-Conformity Curriculum” which urges English teachers of middle- and high school students to infuse discussions about the “complex” nature of gender into their classroom lessons – that is, ensuring students don’t limit “gender” to mean simply male or female.

The introduction to the publication lays it all out:

An equitable focus on issues honoring a range of diverse expressions related to gender and gender non-conformity in the ELA classroom is necessary to meet all students’ needs and to help all students develop complex ways of understanding gender. We recognize that gendered divisions and definitions are unsatisfactory at best, destructively limiting at worst, because classrooms are typically set up to reflect sustaining heteronormativity and gender roles. Instead, we hope to encourage a continued, fluid recognition of “gender” as something that is complex, incomplete, infused with cultural power discourses of race, class, socioeconomics, sexuality, and much, much more.  As such we believe that gender equity is not a “female” or “male” concern, but a universal issue.

Teachers are further urged to “develop a lens” that would help them “think critically” about how gender is expressed and identified — again, beyond just male and female. As language arts instructors, they are encouraged to choose texts for students to read that highlight these perspectives and offer a “diverse range” of characters that don’t conform to traditional gender roles, including those represented in the LGBTQ community. A selected bibliography is provided that includes MTV documentaries, books on feminism, sexism, and the deconstruction of masculinity as the predominant theme in society.

The stated goal for this is not only that teachers might develop their own lens, but to hone their students’ lenses as well:

Developing such a lens for use in the secondary English classroom is an ethical, intellectual, and social imperative that provides students with opportunities to engage in critical readings of multiple texts and the world around them.

The teachers are given several directives on how to introduce this perspective into the classroom and are encouraged to use “out-of-school” works, including social media sites and YouTube videos. Teachers are asked to have a “nuanced understanding” of what each student is deriving from these gender-fluid studies, and resist having a “predatory stance” on these texts, regardless of any noted expertise of a work or field of study.

Here are five steps listed for teachers to get the ball rolling:

  1. Read literature using a gendered or gender non-conforming lens.
  2. Read popular culture and mass media texts with a gendered lens.
  3. Consider the role gender or gender non-conforming issues have played in their lives.
  4. Consider issues of equity based on gender and sexuality in people’s social, economic, and civic lives.
  5. Develop meaningful instructional strategies that provide students with opportunities to do the same. More
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