Gender Unit Welcomes Controversy

Alexa Stevens, Online Editor

Humanities classes are more than mere facts and core curriculum.

Unlike math and science courses, there is often neither a right nor wrong answer — all is subject to interpretation.

As such, English teacher Angie Mogilefsky teaches units based on themes and not based on chronological order.

One such theme is that of “gender,” and the reading material is not a novel, nor is it a non-fiction book, but instead a packet of passages and essays curated by Mogilefsky herself.

Within the packet lie articles written by journalists and authors of varying perspectives, men and women, scientists and laymen.

For example, Mogilefsky includes an article discussing the science behind and the sociopolitics surrounding being transgender.

Considering Palos Verdes’ conservative leaning, she was hesitant to include such an article.

However, she defends this selection. “I have transgender people as students and pretending that they don’t exist is not a responsible choice.”

As for the student reactions, Mogilefsky said, “They seem to be pretty engaged.”

Senior English teacher Bill Peterman doesn’t teach a similar unit, but would consider doing so.

“There’s an inherent guilt that I’m not doing it. I’m happy with what we’re doing now also,” he said.

Peterman recognizes challenges he believes Mogilefsky will face, saying, “You wouldn’t believe that you start to tell people what to read and they immediately start to get defensive.”

However, with many other books, including the often-deemed sexist Catcher in the Rye, Peterman is “stunned at the fact that the old books still stick around.”

Further, on the decisions that must be made, Peterman said, “You have to decide as a school — as a department — what are we going to be?”

After reading this packet, students can begin to discuss the intricacies regarding societal expectations for those of all genders and the implications on students’ own daily lives.

Naturally, students bear varying opinions of their own, leading to intense discussions.

Junior Katelin O’Connell does not spend much of her time outside of the class engaging in politics, but in class she appreciates the education and sees its merit.

As to the safe space the unit provides, O’Connell said, “We get to express our opinions no matter what they are. We’re accepted no matter what we say.”

O’Connell also notices what she finds to be the root of the common differences between the male and female perspectives during class discussions.

“When we were growing up, we had to have classes on what not to wear so we don’t get raped. [Boys] don’t understand what we went through growing up,” she said.

However, she recognizes that boys face gender-based challenges, as well. It’s not limited to one group of people.

With all the knowledge she obtained throughout the unit, O’Connell says as to those of all genders, “I think it’s important to learn about all genders…We have to fight for our rights so that in the future, everyone can be equal.”