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Safe and inclusive classrooms

People at chaulkboard Effects of Sex Discrimination in the Classroom

We generally have no problem conceptualizing the effects of racism on a student’s academic, professional and personal growth...but what about the effects of sex discrimination?

Below is a test for gauging whether your classroom behavior is sexist or homophobic. Imagine stereotyping members of a racial minority in the same way as LGBT persons, women, and men are stereotyped in these statements:

  • “Gay men are hypersexual and should not be permitted to use the same facilities as straight male athletes whom they would likely prey upon.”
  • “Women shouldn't be in engineering - they don't handle complex problems well and use their looks to get ahead."
  • “Men should not teach primary grades – they’re not nurturing.”

Although deliberate acts of discrimination on the part of faculty, instructors, teaching and lab assistants are relatively rare, we do convey our values and attitudes in the ways in which we interact with students.

If these values and attitudes happen to be exclusionary – for example, if we believe that women’s and men’s roles are distinct and separate, or that homosexuality is wrong -- then we may be discouraging women and LGBT persons from participating fully in our classroom. For example, they may feel too marginalized, intimidated, or fearful to ask questions, pose viewpoints, etc.

Many of us operate according to cultural assumptions about the sexes, sexual orientation, and racial minorities. The goal is to challenge the way these assumptions are translated in our treatment of each other and in the ways that we teach.