The Art of Gender: Qualicum Beach teacher offers new course

High school students learn about gender theories, stereotypes, feminism, express learning with art

A Qualicum Beach teacher will give Grade 12 students the chance to delve deeper into the history and theories surrounding gender, and then express their learning with artwork.

Becky Weiss’s new course, ‘The Art of Gender’, was approved by School District 69’s board on Jan. 22.

“All the trustees were very supportive of it,” said trustee Julie Austin of the decision.

The course came about as a sort of amalgamation of Weiss’s passions, said the CEAP-TIDES and Distance Learning teacher based at Kwalikum Secondary School.

“It’s kind of like the art aspect as well as creative writing and storytelling and the study in gender all in one, and hiking,” she said of the course.

As part of the course, scheduled to be taught for the first time next school year to Grade 12 CEAP and KSS students as an elective (those who have completed English 11 would also have the course available), Weiss plans to use literature, art, gender theories and historical gender norms and injustices from different times and places around the world as ways of giving students a wide-ranging view of how gender is viewed differently in different places, as well as at different times.

The course description also shows a plan to include indigenous perspectives such as Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and delve into First Nations oral storytelling traditions.

It will also look at feminism, queer theory and more.

Some of the big ideas for the course are that people’s behaviour and actions are constantly perpetuating gender roles, and the individual world views shape and inform people’s understanding of gender.

Weiss said she expects students to bring their own beliefs to the class, while they learn about other beliefs, theories and history around gender.

“One of the things that they will need to be able to know is all about feminism and what that means,” said Weiss as an example. “It doesn’t mean that they have to be a feminist at the end of the course, but they have to understand what that is.”

“There will be content that they have to learn. They can do with it what they want.”

Part of the course is having students express what they’ve learned by creating art. That can range from visual art to written stories to oral presentations and/or storytelling and more.

Weiss said that, just as the course itself is an opportunity to delve into the history and subject far beyond what is currently done in other standard curriculum courses, having students create art to express their learning is another way to go deeper.

“From what I’ve seen with my students, the most that they get out of something is when they have to create something to show they are learning,” said Weiss.

“Most of the poetry that I get from students that’s even just their own personal stuff that they do because they love to write, shows so much meaning and understanding about a theme, because they were able to be creative in how they talked about that content.”

Even before the course has been taught, some teachers have expressed interest in it, said Weiss, as well as students.

Asked if she’s concerned about public reaction to the course, Weiss said she would hope [negativity] doesn’t happen.

Austin suggested anyone with questions about the course should first check out the description starting on page 37 of the district’s Jan. 22 board meeting agenda. To view that, go to www.sd69.bc.ca/Board/BoardMeetingAgendasMinutes/Pages/default.aspx and select the 2019-01-22 agenda document under the 2018-19 tab.

If people have further questions, they can speak with SD69’s assistant superintendent Gillian Wilson at (250-248-4241), said Austin.

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