Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lean In? Recline? The Classroom Materials Are All Around Us

As a woman, a working mother, an educator working in a historically female profession, and as the mother of one daughter and the aunt to four girls, I have had a range of personal responses to the different discussions about the status of women in the workforce in America that have surfaced over the past few months. Should we Lean In and Ban Bossy? Should we "Recline" instead? Do we have a "Confidence Gap," as Katty Kay and Claire Shipman suggest in the latest issue of The Atlantic? What are the ways in which women in particular, and families in general, are impacted by growing income inequality and the shrinking middle class? How has the opportunity to telecommute changed family and workplace dynamics? The threaded discussions in the Facebook feed, around the dining room table, and at work have been fascinating.

But what I think about these issues is not really important. I want to know what teenagers, male and female, think of these conversations. This constellation of articles and news stories is ideal for creating classroom conversations that matter to young people. As educators, our job is not to tell young people what to think. Our job to teach them how to think. To expect them to think. To give them the opportunity to think.

Back in January, Myra and I wrote about ways of exploring work and identity in high school social studies. The conversation about women and work, about how women work, and the intersection of social, cultural, and political forces that occurs in each of our lives is an important one. I would love to know how high school teachers are harnessing this national dialogue, which seems to represent much of the spirit behind the Common Core State Standards regarding perspective, point-of-view, evidence and information, and argumentation.  Just consider these questions alone:
  • What is happening to women in the white collar workforce? Blue collar? What's the evidence? 
  • Who is writing about women in the workforce, and why? 
  • What is the cause of income stagnation in the United States? Are women and men impacted equally by this?
  • What causes income inequality? Why is the gap between the top income earners and everyone else growing wider and wider?
Meeting the Common Core State Standards does not require spending lots of money. Sometimes, the  materials we need are all around us. 

1 comment:

  1. Mary Ann,
    Well stated. What we need to do is give our students the opportunities to harness these resources. Give students the time to truly learn how to use all the databases and resources we are currently providing. I hear so many times - "well we are not seeing the use of this resource" - why? Maybe it is about looking in our own backyard of what we have and actually use it. Learn it deeply.