Discussing race, class, and gender with high school students.
October 26, 2017 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Next semester I will be teaching a course for high school juniors/seniors that deals with topics surrounding race, class, and gender. There isn't a set curriculum, so I am building the course from scratch. This is both exhilarating and terrifying.

While I have several "core texts" identified, I'd love to hear your insights. What films, texts, articles, poems, music, or videos have really impacted you or caused you to think about these topics in a different way?

In my early focus groups with students, they've expressed an interest in hearing many different perspectives. For example, one student of color mentioned how frustrated she is by the fact that nearly all conversations around race seem to focus exclusively on a white v. black dynamic. In light of this observation, I'm working really hard to create a curriculum that embraces a wide range of voices and experiences.

I have many ideas, but want to leave my question here somewhat open ended. Thank you, in advance, for your suggestions!
posted by WaspEnterprises to Education (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Losing the Race by John McWhorter, or any of his other writings (books and columns) about race. It does focus on a black/white dynamic, but it's not the usual perspective. He challenges a lot of conventional wisdom on race, though he's black and doesn't consider himself a "black conservative."
posted by John Cohen at 8:32 PM on October 26, 2017

Can you please describe the duration of the course? How many weeks, hours, etc?
posted by k8t at 9:05 PM on October 26, 2017

Certainly cover intersectionality. Teen Vogue has some nice introductions.
posted by k8t at 9:06 PM on October 26, 2017

I did Peggy McIntosh's "White Privilege" article in a sociology class; it's old but very accessible for high school students. My female soc students were also captivated by "Killing Us Softly," while "Tough Guise" fell flat -- I haven't taught the class since it came out, but the documentary "The Mask You Live In" seemed like it would be a solid replacement for Tough Guise. (Also, I vividly remember watching those videos in my own high school classes, so it has good sticking power.)

The blog Sociological Cinema will probably have some good resources for you, though it seems not to have updated in awhile. Likewise for Sociological Images, though they also seem to have gone dormant.
posted by lilac girl at 9:22 PM on October 26, 2017

Also, depending on your budget and framing: consider having the kids choose a nonfiction book to read over a few weeks/a quarter and launch some book clubs based on that. See if your school librarian will help pitch in on the cost for books, and have students browse Amazon or equivalent to choose something that interests them. We did this in a current events class recently and had students choose a wide variety of books like Evicted, Between the World and Me, and a biography of a transgender woman. You could gain a lot of diverse perspectives by letting the students each read their own book and then share their expertise on a topic over the semester. (I also followed a similar format in a history class and it's worked out well; the students light up when we hit on something that they read about and can share.)
posted by lilac girl at 9:28 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know why the caged bird sings (Angelou) and A Room of One's Own (Woolf) both texts that I've taught to high school students from a literary perspective. Both lend themselves to excerpts and illuminate big ideas in a kind of foundational way, though through different means.
posted by jojobobo at 9:40 PM on October 26, 2017

More information about the course: we'll meet daily for eighteen weeks. Thank you for the responses so far!
posted by WaspEnterprises at 10:12 PM on October 26, 2017

The Sapphires is an Australian film text that is about 4 Aboriginal women (one of whom is stolen generation) singing in Vietnam.

I teach in a rural high school. Sometimes the kids are provocative because they are rebellious- and because they don't fully understand the issues involved. It's a great idea, but be prepared for anything when you begin to raise these topics.
posted by freethefeet at 10:15 PM on October 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Women Race and Class is old but it changed my life. Handily, each chapter could probably stand on it's own if you wanted to assign only one.
posted by latkes at 10:25 PM on October 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hunger Games actor Amandla Stenberg: Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows - a wonderful video about cultural appropriation. Super inspiring to see this level of analysis in general, let alone from a 16 year old.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:51 PM on October 26, 2017

Do or Die by Leon Bing with an inside view of LA gangs has been a favorite of mine though it seems like it's out of print.

In terms of class, definitely Nickled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich.
posted by bendy at 11:23 PM on October 26, 2017

Also I have a long list of bookmarked articles about these issues. I'll gather some and post or MeMail them.
posted by bendy at 11:24 PM on October 26, 2017

There's a wonderful article about a young Asian woman seeing an Asian woman on TV for the first time over on the blue.

Not sure, but Fifth Eldest Chinese Daughter may be worth a look.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:22 AM on October 27, 2017

Gene Luen Yang's "American Born Chinese" is a quick read, but this graphic novel gets at at issues of race, identity, fitting in, and self-acceptance in a way that's accessible for young adults.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:01 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hand to Mouth is a book about poverty in contemporary America that is more up-to-date and a little less voyeuristic than Nickel and Dimed - I'd suggest that.
posted by Miko at 10:04 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don’t know if this will be quite right, but I think high schoolers would get a lot of enjoyment out of Paris Is Burning, and it discusses pretty frankly a lot of intersectional issues of sexuality, race, and class.
posted by Zephyrial at 10:32 AM on October 27, 2017

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a short text (64 pages) that apparently Sweden gives out to all 16 year olds. This looks to be her TEDx talk that it is from.

When I was a teen, American History X was the movie that shattered my soul. I'm not sure if you'd be able to show that in school, though, as it is violent.

A film about Asian American teens by Asian American folks Better Luck Tomorrow might be a good one to pre-watch and show snippets of or discuss. (Note, this is not a documentary or educational film, but it does bring up a perspective rarely shown in modern films. Spoiler: they murder someone)

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a tear-jerker about two boys who befriend each other at a WWII concentration camp.

A film about a young transgender girl coming out and the struggles she and her family encounter is Ma Vie en Rose.

North Country about the first successful sexual harassment case in the US.

Additional books that blew my mind regarding class were Cruddy by Lynda Barry (discusses drug use and abuse/neglect in a poor and unloving family) and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor and Park live on different sides of the proverbial track).

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates also discusses race, specifically being a Black man in the US.

Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian talks about an American Indian teen who leaves the rez to go to an all-white farm town high school.

God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut is about a rich man who tries to help people, and the pushback he gets from those he wants to help and his family. Possibly the only upbeat of Vonnegut's books.
posted by jillithd at 10:55 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

US Rep John Lewis's graphic novel trilogy March (NYT article) was a phenomenal discussion of the actual civil rights movement in the 1960s from a living and breathing civil rights hero. The trilogy was a fantastic read and only made me want to know more about government and history.
posted by jillithd at 10:59 AM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr is a really excellent biography of a woman who lived through the womens' rights changes that happened in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s in the US. I learned a lot about what I take for granted now as a woman that wasn't available even to my mom at the same age.
posted by jillithd at 11:12 AM on October 27, 2017

This resources page for the exhibit Race: Are We So Different has some stuff that may be helpful.
posted by gudrun at 11:55 AM on October 27, 2017

At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle McGuire is a fantastic book about the role of black women and rape survivor advocacy in the civil rights movement. It paints a completely different picture of Rosa Parks (for one) than the one we learn as part of civil rights history alone.

I was raised a social-justice Catholic (as I call it) and was inspired by the life of Dorothy Day, co-founder of Catholic Worker Houses, who transformed her life to live and work *with* the poor, not *for* them.

Smoke Signals is a movie written by Sherman Alexie, based on his book. It’s the first movie I’ve seen where every character is an Indian. The only other is the documentary Reel Injun.
posted by epj at 1:33 PM on October 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don’t have any particular texts to recommend, but in terms of topics I think privilege and implicit bias are really important to talk about, especially for your white and more privileged (on whatever axis) students.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:00 PM on October 27, 2017

Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat is a fascinating autobiography by Patricia Willams: an African-American woman from Atlanta who grew up in dire poverty and neglect, had two kids by the time she was 15, supported her family by dealing crack, and went on to be a successful stand-up comedian. Not only is it interesting on its own, but it would lend itself to a discussion about ghetto tourism -- I've been pondering why I like the book so much and if it's partly for unpleasant reasons.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:05 PM on October 27, 2017

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