Classrooms of Justice: Teaching Gender Studies in Grades 7–12

Teenagers working at their desks.
August 27, 2013

As we are all too aware, bullying and sexual harassment (which is a form of bullying) are prevalent in our schools. AAUW’s own research on the topic found that nearly half of surveyed students in grades 7–12 experienced sexual harassment at school during the 2010–11 academic year.

If we want to prevent bullying at school, we must teach students that gender comes in all shapes and sizes. Girls who are considered “too masculine” or boys who are “too feminine” are often the targets of bullying and sexual harassment at school. Likewise, girls who develop early are targets.

The prevalence and effects of sexual harassment in middle and high school may come as a surprise because it is rarely reported. Only about 9 percent of harassed students told an adult at school about it.

Aside from enforcing the laws that should protect kids from such harassment, we need to think about how to stop the problem at its roots. So what is the best weapon against these behaviors? Knowledge. Learning about the history of gender and social norms can help young people develop a more tolerant outlook. That’s why AAUW wants to get gender studies curricula into more middle and high schools, and we’re getting a national conversation started in October with the AAUW Gender Studies Symposium in St. Louis (a great way to wrap up National Bullying Prevention Month).

AAUW invites teachers, principals, administrators, and academics to our inaugural symposium to organize around bringing gender and women’s studies to secondary school classrooms. AAUW’s Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School report highlights a case study that shows teaching gender studies in middle and high schools can help address the social problem of sexual harassment. Curricula that incorporate gender studies can reduce the instances of sexual harassment in secondary schools and open kids’ minds to all sorts of issues.

The AAUW Gender Studies Symposium will feature high school teacher and activist Ileana Jiménez, founder of Feminist Teacher. This convening on Saturday, October 26, will gather leading educators, academics, and activists from around the country who are creating innovative spaces for young people to engage in feminism, activism, and social justice in today’s classrooms.

Please join us and register for the symposium by October 5. The impressive lineup of panelists and speakers is being updated constantly. Check the agenda for more information regarding the schedule and speakers. We look forward to meeting you in St. Louis!

By:   |   August 27, 2013