Mistaken Mondays: Participating in Patriarchy 

In an effort to help me be more reflective and consistent in my blog posting, I’ve created theme days. For Mondays, my goal is to reflect on some mistake I’ve made in my teaching in an effort to understand, remedy, and grow from the mistake.  While thinking about my mistakes is not a great way to start the week, the alliteration works. ;-)

In the Nature of Science course I taught this year, I have students read one book from a wide selection of books related to the history and philosophy of science. While students are not limited to the list I provide, one observant student noted that the list provided was entirely male authors. Luckily, the student was brave enough to email me and my c0-teacher pointing out the observation. While I can honestly say that this problem never occurred to me, that is the problem. I have had the privelege of seeing myself (white male) represented in almost every course I’ve ever taken. The fact that I had not considered, or even noticed, that the reading list was almost entirely male-authored just confirms my privilege.

While I was able to report that the article reading list was much more well-balanced, I wanted to address the issue rather than maintain status quo. Luckily, because the list of books was optional and didn’t require the bookstore to have any on hand, we added several titles written by female authors and included authors of color as well.  Furthermore, I told my students that I would read four new-to-me books by female authors. I’m happy to report that I was able to accomplish the four-book goal and very much enjoyed the perspective of each of the authors. This initial spark also provided several opportunities throughout the semester to discuss issues of patriarchy and oppression within the context of the history and philosophy of science.

Of course, none of these positive changes would have been possible had the intitial observation not been noticed and shared. So, I hope to look a bit harder for how systematic bias plays out in my own choices and hope to be able to respond productively when my biases are noted. Neither of these will be easy, but both are necessary. 

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