authentic choices in the classroom?

As I fortify myself for the post-spring break return to my classroom… I’m thinking about Women’s History Month. I wonder with what sort of whimper we will fein to acknowledge this important moment in our year and in our lifetime.
Domestic terrorism threatens the female body and mind. I am not the first or only woman to write of my fear in our current political climate. Instead of focusing on getting us back to work, economic growth and prosperity, it seems like the GOP is hell-bent on legislating my vagina.

In full disclosure – I might want to identify myself here with libertarian leanings. Anyone who is a Facebook friend of mine sees my “like” of Ayn Rand, so this might not be a huge surprise. I believe that government intervention is the likely cause of most things sucking (health care is the most notable exception, though I believe medicare/medicade to be no small player in our current problems.) But at the core, the problem may not be “government”, but that “government” is made up of people. People like Rick Santorum – the scariest thing about whom is not his rhetoric, but the fact that I think he really means it.

Most of us think we’re right in our beliefs. Most of us have ideas about how we’d like to spend our time and money. Most of us like to believe that because we live in the United States we’ve been afforded a significant system and range of options for the spending of our time and money. But, unfortunately, we haven’t really. The GOP’s repeated attacks of women (a Virginia bill mandating trans-vaginal ultrasounds? referenda concerning the “personhood” of a fetus? cuts in funding to WIC, Headstart? even a bill introduced in Georgia that would redefine rape victims as “accusers” and leave other crime victims with their traditional title) are all about removing choice from our lives.

As women, our choices are limited by a society that is set up to support men as workers outside the home and women as property, or at best wards of the men of the society. We weren’t supposed to vote. We weren’t supposed to work outside the home. When we do work, we’re not supposed to make as much money as men. We aren’t supposed to be too loud or opinionated or smart.

And so, my challenge as a woman is to educate a new generation about the absence of authentic choice in women’s lives. Options available to us are in a constant cost/benefit analysis: which choice holds more social capital? which choice will be right for my family? which choices are really available to me given my 34 years of unasked for indoctrination into what it is to be a girl, and then a woman?

I believe the highest calling of a teacher is not only to provide a student multiple perspectives through which to view her world but to help her build a critical lens through which to view those perspectives.

When we start back to class on Wednesday, we’ll be starting Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Our guiding question: is the American Dream even possible? My choice: do I risk exploring the true answers with my students? or will I be further hamstrung in the classroom by what it is “appropriate” for me to teach?

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