The Politics of Curriculum, 2011

Lubin Symposium Poster

On 10 February 2011, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program hosted the sixteenth annual Tillie K. Lubin  Symposium on the “Politics of Curriculum.” This timely event featured two keynote  speakers, Professors Julio Cammarota (University of Arizona, Tucson) and Frinde  Maher (Wheaton College/Women’s Studies Research Center, Brandeis University),  followed by a round table discussion.

Speaking on “The Battle for Curriculum, Figuring Race, Culture and Education on the Arizona Border,” Julio Cammarota  illustrated how social justice approaches to teaching can foster youth development.  On 11 May 2010, Governor Jan Brewer signed a new Arizona Law that banned the teaching of ethnic studies classes in Arizona’s public schools. Although the notion of ethnic studies covers a broad swath of subjects, the only classes explicitly targeted in the law were in Hispanic Studies and Raza Studies, supposedly because they give rise to racial hostility.

As Cammarota explained, the legislation, which was sponsored and supported by people who had never stepped into a Hispanic or Raza Studies class, reveals the pervasive fear of demographic change in Arizona and the nation at large, especially with respect to race, ethnicity, and age.

For her part, Frinde Maher, in “Gender and the Politics of Curriculum: Forty Years of Women’s Studies in the Academy,” noted  that it was not a student movement which precipitated efforts to bring women and the study of women and gender into higher education. Drawing on her recent book, Privilege and Diversity in the Academy, an institutional ethnography using case  studies covering 40 years of diversity efforts at several universities, Maher told  the contrasting stories of the ways that the study of women and of people of color were brought into the university curriculum.  Where student advocacy had a direct impact on the academic study of race (for instance, the student occupation of Ford  Hall at Brandeis in 1969), there were few if any similar demands for the inclusion and study of women. Instead, the push for women’s studies was driven by faculty interest.

The symposium’s final event, a roundtable discussion on heritage language learning, touched on the importance of student advocacy mentioned by both Cammarota and Maher. The discussion, facilitated by Brandeis Hispanic Studies professor Dian Fox with presentations by Professors Irina Dubinina, Lucia Reyes de Deu, and two students, focused on the importance of classes for heritage language speakers.

Source: Excerpted from Hunt, Shannon. “Lubin Symposium,” in Women’s and Gender Studies Program News, Fall 2011.