September 09, 2007

Isms Galore!

So seven high schools here in B.C. are teaching a class in "isms": Social Justice 12 is to include (in alphabetical order, no less) ableism, ageism, anthropocentrism, consumerism, cultural imperialism, extremism, feminism, fundamentalism, hetrosexism, humanism, racism, sexism, and speciesism.

Other than being incredibly awkward to pronounce, are any of these items really new? Is it enough to justify creating an entire year long subject?

Really, there are really only a couple truly new items on the list that have never been specifically covered before: hetrosexism and speciesism. The other eleven are all already covered as part of other subjects, so what will happen in those classes? Surely the presence of "isms" won't be reduced in the older courses, as they do form a huge part of our (and everyone's) history, social structure, etc.


So what does lumping them together into a new course do for the students? These subjects are important enough to be included in other courses, and frankly they already are:

Ableism: mostly a concern with engineering and city planning.
Ageism: political hot potato, but also a politicians problem. Social security, standards of care facilities, health care, even motor vehicle testing are all political and legal concerns.
Anthropocentrism: this has been taught for decades anyways. History, social studies, anthropology, and even literature all cover this.
Consumerism: Have to admit, this is a new one on me. I'd imagine economics courses would have this as part of their curriculum.
Cultural imperialism: Er... What Anthropocentrism + Consumerism equal? Again, economics and/or anthropology would have this in their purview.
Extremism: Social studies, history, anthropology, religion (if you're lucky enough to have this course) or simply radio, television, and newspapers examine this.
Feminism: If none of your classes don't cover this, CHANGE SCHOOLS! Arguably the biggest single movement in 100 years, it's all over any reasonable curriculum.
Fundamentalism: Glad to see this making an appearance at the high school level, but again any course in religion, history, political science, or social studies should be including it anyways.
Hetrosexism: See below.
Humanism: In my personal lexicon, this means "atheism". I can't say I have a problem with that! 8)
Racism: See Feminism.
Sexism: Uh, "See Feminism" again.
Speciesism: See below.

So we're left with (theoretically) two new subjects: speciesism and hetrosexism.

Speciesim is easily covered in biology classes: just bring in a book on parasites or viruses and any illusion we have of being the "dominant" species on this planet is out the window. We're not the top dogs in any way, shape or form; not in numbers, not in biomass, not even in our ability to change the environment around us. We're able to kill off ourselves and other mammals easily enough, but the majority of species on Earth won't even notice our absence.

As for hetrosexism, apparently this is to teach against "hetrosexuality being the norm". Well, hetrosexuality is in fact the norm: it's what (by far) the majority of the population identify as. What I'd consider a better phrasing is that this course should oppose the prejudice against homosexuality, which again certainly falls into the same categories as racism and feminism (or rather, anti-feminism. Androism? Hmm...)

It's not so much that I'm opposed to these things being taught; however, I just don't think they're going to add anything to the social conversation. The only way this course will be useful is if it becomes mandatory, and frankly I'm not convinced something this vague and specific will be that useful: it covers far too many subjects from far too many fields for any of them to get more than a cursory look.

Still, it's the first year this is being tried; perhaps my concerns will be allayed in execution.


posted by Thursday at 11:05 am


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