Teaching in the Age of Me TooRoundup
tags: teaching, higher education, academia, Me Too
Eric S. Yellin is an associate professor of history at the University of Richmond and author of Racism in the Nation’s Service: Government Workers and the Color Line in Woodrow Wilson’s America (University of North Carolina Press).
The history of the [Scottsboro] case brings together difficult questions of gender and sexuality, race and racism, and politics and class in U.S. history. It provides an incredible landscape to walk students through the pleasures and pains of studying history.
But I was nervous this year. Donald Trump, a man who has bragged about his assaults on women, is the president of the United States. In the last few years, American women have elevated their long-standing demand for an accounting of the sexual violence and harassment they face daily. The Me Too movement has forced open many eyes to the prevalence and persistence of sexism and violence against women.
How, I wondered, would my Gen Z students react to a course based on a false rape accusation? How would I ask them to think like historians and see the Scottsboro case in all of its complexity? How would I teach, simultaneously, that the data shows that women very rarely lie about rape and that these two women did in 1931? And how would I, a white man, earn the trust necessary to guide our discussions?
As I finished the semester and read my students’ powerful final papers, I saw that nearly all of the students embraced an intersectional vision of history: they reached beyond simple categories of race, gender or class and thought about how identities, power and place combine to create complex human experience.
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