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How to teach classic literature without reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Updated: Sep 11, 2020



Opportunities and Challenges to Teaching Classic Literature

Teaching classic literature offers opportunities while presenting unique challenges to the learning process. These works are generally well-written, provide vast opportunities for discussion and examination, and are reasonably priced for educators to obtain and use in their classrooms. The texts are typically free and numerous teaching aids have already been formulated around them. They are stellar material, free to use, and easily obtainable. Unfortunately, these works may include gender stereotypes that are detrimental to the educational process for many of the students.


It is important that all genders receive fair treatment in the classroom, especially in the literature that they are asked to read and examine. Genders may receive inequitable treatment in texts or be excluded from them all together.


How do we teach classic literature without reinforcing gender stereotypes?

The best solution is that our authors, creators, and artists begin to think about gender balance in their narratives. Future stories should be created with gender identities being balanced and inconsequential to the character development. Refocus LLC truly wishes to inspire current and future writers to take into account the gender balance in their work and portrayal of their characters.


Refocused Literature

In the meantime, we need to get refocused classic literature into our schools to help balance out how genders are represented and if they are represented at all. Refocused Literature by Refocuspublishing.com takes classic works (particularly ones that are taught in the classroom) and reverses the gender roles. By providing both versions to students, the students can read the story in their preferred gender. Character names are not changed; thus, there is no hindrance to discuss the story in class (everyone will be talking about the same character).

With $5 and a copy machine, an entire classroom of books can be printed that will present classic literature in its original form and with genders reversed. This destroys the confines of gender stereotypes and allows students to see the importance of narratives from multiple perspectives (perhaps inspiring them to create narratives that do not need to be refocused).

This is the first step in the right direction towards balanced representation in the classroom and hopefully begins gender equality discussions leading to future changes of how genders are represented.


 

Further reading: A Guide for Gender Equality in Teacher Education Policy and Practices by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


 

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