stephanie jones

Title IX is 40 years old…when and how do we teach about that in schools?

In anti-bias teaching, democracy, Education Policy, feminist work, gender and education, NCLB, social policy, Standing up for Kids, teacher education, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on June 23, 2012 at 8:22 pm

(Image from the Sports and Entertainment Law Blog)

Have we come a long way baby? Given the fact that Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown, was banned this week from speaking on the House floor because she said “vagina” during her compelling argument against restricting women’s reproductive rights – I think we’ve fallen a long way back in time, way before the 70’s when radical policy changes were made to improve the lives of girls and women in the United States.

One of those radical policy changes occurred forty years ago when Title IX was enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Nixon, and has faced many legal challenges over the years. Most people familiar with the phrase “Title IX” would immediately connect the law to girls’ and young women’s rights to play sports in any school receiving federal funding, but sports weren’t even mentioned in the legislation. The legislation prohibits sex discrimination in “all” of an institutions programs and activities, including sports, but extending well beyond sports. In fact, even sexual harassment of students is prohibited under Title IX, and if sex “bias” includes the way we teach and what we teach, I’m surprised that we haven’t heard about anyone using Title IX as a reason to include pro-women curriculum in schools at any level.

But a pro-women approach to education seems nearly impossible given the current war against women being waged in the U.S. (Even if it’s not just against women, but the pursuit of social control writ large). The attack on women and the persistent questioning of any attention to girls and women in education was gaining steam in 2001, just as the No Child Left Behind Act was being written and enacted. For example, The Heritage Foundation (formed in 1973, just one year after Title IX…coincidence?) describes itself as:

“Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

And within its “think tank” The Heritage Foundation determined that the Women’s Educational Equity Act was a “waste of money,” an opinion argued in this article, apparently written by a woman but written against girls and women. This article, like many others hitting newspapers and journals throughout the 2000s, highlights girls’ academic achievements in test scores relative to boys’ test scores. The article, of course, doesn’t mention that most girls and women still don’t know their basic rights, don’t know about the history of women’s rights in the U.S. or across the world, can’t recall any woman who is serving in a leadership role in the U.S. government, and have no idea that even in 2012 women still only make .77 for every one dollar earned by a man in the same job. A lot of folks may not even know that the “Paycheck Fairness Act” was voted on in 2012 and defeated. This Act would have made it easier for women to determine whether they were being paid fairly as compared to their counterparts who are men, but that right has been denied.

So where is Title IX in education? I can’t say I have ever heard about or observed any classroom at any level discussing the significance of this legislation in the daily lives and education of girls and women, and I definitely haven’t heard about or observed anyone teaching about women from an anti-discrimination perspective that would reflect the goals of Title IX. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the sex discrimination of our K-12 curriculum, and there are plenty of materials out there to help us all get started, including lots of links in the text above.

Do you teach high school? Check out this syllabus for teaching women’s rights. And NCSS standards are already included.

Don’t teach high school? Well, look over the syllabus to check your own knowledge about women’s fight for basic rights and adapt the material and activities to align with the age of your students.

And be sure to include current events in your teaching. Lucky us, the news is saturated with evidence that there is indeed a war against women being waged, and we get to teach it all, including the awesome performance of the Vagina Monologues in Lansing, Michigan on the Capitol steps , and the op-ed written by Representative Lisa Brown – two big news events this week alone.

We’ve gone a long way back in time baby – but it looks like women just might be waking up and deciding that the battles won in the 1970s, including Title IX among others eroding away, don’t guarantee anything when 40 years have passed.

**Maureen Downey’s Get Schooled has a good overview of Title IX and, as you will see, anti-women rhetoric is commonplace in the comments – a testament to today’s sexist climate.

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