Senior English curriculum addresses controversial topic of feminism

Quincy Schmechel, Editorial Board

Over the past few weeks, several hot topics have been making their way into the Twittersphere of C. M. Russell High School’s community. Most recently, one of these issues has been feminism.

The rise of this topic is unsurprising at this time of year; feminism and its roots in literature are taught as part of senior English curriculum. While many students criticize the movement being taught in schools as outdated and leaning toward misandrism in a modern climate, others note the importance of not skating over historical and literary movements that have helped shape humanity and its understanding of the world.

History teachers don’t skate over slavery and the civil rights movements despite the fact that the confrontation of racism and darker periods of the United States’ past is something that may cause many students to feel uncomfortable, regardless of race.

Teaching about feminism is similar; understanding the movement’s causes and effects in modern society and the humanities provides perspective for students, regardless of gender or personal opinion.

Scott Clapp, who teaches both AP and regular senior English, says that teaching about and understanding the movement provides a dialogue for students to better interpret their world.

“When you’re ninth graders, those abstract concepts and those ideas that there are other aspects of the world [besides] your own are harder to teach,” Clapp said. “The younger we are, the more egocentric we tend to be. I think it probably gets taught at senior level because senior minds are better able to grasp the concept that there’s more to the world than just ourselves. We’re more prepared and more likely to at least acknowledge that those types of perspectives exist.”

Clapp says that gaining perspective is the primary reason English addresses subjects like feminism or existentialism, and that seniors have the maturity to understand this.

“I think it’s good to have a widening perspective. I try to expose [my students] to all kinds of different ideas so that [they] have more memory to draw from, more experience to draw from,” he said. He expressed that feminism is part of gaining this perspective and learning to draw from it.

“Literature’s really about broadening horizons, so I think that’s why we expose you guys to it,” he said of including feminism in curriculum. “The world’s about growing ideas and trying to make us more humane. That’s why we study the humanities.”

For senior Olivia Bauman, understanding feminism is about more than just empathizing with the role women have taken in changing the world and their ability to affect it. It functions in the same way Clapp describes the importance of the humanities.

“I think it’s important that we are taught ideals of feminism,” Bauman said. “Because, at its core, it’s about equality and treating people correctly.”

Bauman, like Clapp, said that learning about feminism provides new perspectives for students, as well as a means by which to understand the progress of gender roles in society.

“We learn it because even though everyone may not agree with the movement, it’s good to understand another point of view,” she said.

She went on to express that she thinks that, knowing feminism has roots in being a highly debated issue, it could be approached with less bias or more tact in the classroom by both educators and students.

“I think it’s definitely hard to teach because it’s so controversial,” Bauman said. “I think the best way to teach it would be to teach it as a philosophy of sorts rather than a hot button issue.”