We try to tell the truth when the truth is
The chapter called "Exploring Learning and Identity,"
for example, deals with the pain and violence, both emotional and physical,
that many learners experienced in early school lives. Since this early pain may
well affect learning in adulthood, making it part of the curriculum may enable
some learners to move on to a more fruitful learning experience at this time.
We encourage women to speak in their own
The activities in this book encourage women to state
their opinions, recognize the truth about their lives, what is good in them and
what is not so good; the activities encourage women to talk to each other about
their experiences, to see similarities in spite of differences, to make
alliances and to work for change at a personal and/or a political level.
What a feminist curriculum is not!
Finally, a feminist curriculum does not tell women what to think, how
to live or what to do. It does not tell them they must change, or in what
direction to move. Instead, it invites women to look at their lives and at the
lives of others, to make connections between them and to think about issues of
invisibility and power. A feminist curriculum does not tell women that
everything is all right. It does not encourage women to change themselves in
order to fit in better or to lie to themselves in order to feel better. A
curriculum that suggests we change the women instead of changing the system is
not a feminist curriculum.
What do you do with a feminist curriculum?
A feminist curriculum, of course, is more than a series of
chapters, more than reading material for students. The instructor who chooses
to offer such material to learners and the learners who agree to participate
are the ones who animate the curriculum. We offer it to you, knowing that you
will adapt it to the learners and the situations where you work. You will
insert your favorite readings and activities into our chapters, and use parts
of these chapters in programs you already have in place.
We offer this
curriculum to you with some trepidation. We believe that the activities and the
readings presented here encourage change and we know that change may be
initially unwelcome, both to those doing the changing and to those around
The more you work to encourage change, the more repercussions
there may be. If you are a seasoned worker for change, you will already know
that you can expect resistance or backlash, as well as more positive effects.
If you have never worked with learners using material that encourages them to
think about their lives and to make changes in them, you might want to reflect
on the following ideas as you are getting started:
- When you invite people to take part in the activities in
this book and make the class a place of safety and risk-taking, you can expect
learners, both women and men, to come to you with issues from their past that
they have never dealt with. (To get ready for dealing with some of this, please
read "Responding to Disclosures of Abuse in Women's
Lives," page 15)
- People make changes in their lives in their own ways and at
their own paces; they will be at different points of readiness for thinking
about change and making change. They will do only what they are ready to do.
- Resistance to your using this curriculum will come from many
sources. It will come from learners themselves, especially from men who do not
see themselves reflected as they might expect. Clearly, you cannot force
learners to use this material. They will not be forced, and there would be no
point to trying to do so. However, do not be fooled by the loudest protesters
into thinking that everyone in the class does not like the material you are
using. If you offer the material in such a way that those who want to
participate can, and offer alternate activities to others, you will not have to
deal with so much resistance directed against you and you may find that the
size of the group working on these activities gradually grows.
- Resistance will also come from administrators and other
instructors or tutors. This will vary in type and strength, but will always be
less if you are working with learners who have chosen to work with you on this
curriculum. Make the learners your allies. Find some other allies as well - a
mentor, a counselor who works with the learners in your class, a librarian who
will help the learners with research and get to know your program.
- You will almost surely find resistance coming from within
yourself. You may hear voices saying, "It's not real literacy work," "I can't
measure what they are learning," "I'll get into a lot of trouble for rocking
the boat," "It's too hard to figure out how to adapt these ideas to my
situation, and the repercussions are huge if I do it wrong," and so on. Don't
beat yourself up. Some times and places are more fruitful than others. Work
with the learners and with your other allies. Start slowly and watch what
happens. We offer you this curriculum also with pride and hope.