A Classical Oversight? The appropriateness and accessibility of Classical Studies to female students in Aotearoa New Zealand
Permanent link to Research Commons versionhttps://hdl.handle.net/10289/16389
Classical Studies is a subject that has a predetermined ‘canon’ of traditional texts and subjects that are recommended and expected to be studied. It focuses on the men of ancient Greece and Rome, whilst classifying non-Greeks and Romans as ‘barbarians’ or ‘other’. Women of the ancient world live comfortably outside the margins of the Classical Studies curriculum. This perception, and the continuation of teaching from a narrow and biased perspective without rigorous discussion on the impact it has in the classroom, perpetuates the gender and racial stereotypes found within. It begs the question, how can girls see themselves and their values in such a subject? Despite the values of critical thinking facilitated by this curriculum area, the perpetuation of “the dominant values of the culture of power, while at the same time failing to validate those values of minority groups” (Porter- Samuels, 2013, p.19) will continue to hinder the opportunity to diversify and grow Classical Studies as a subject. At the start of 2019, I suggested on the New Zealand Classical Studies teacher page on Facebook that I was contemplating changing my focus from men to women within the ancient world as I thought it would be more appropriate for my students of an all girls’ school. There was some excitement but also pushback, one commentator pointed out that maybe I was teaching “my hobby horses rather than the traditional Classics”. It was implied that I would be doing a disservice to my students by not sticking to the ‘traditional’ topics. Classical Studies is a Eurocentric subject that focuses on two civilisations that are inherently patriarchal and xenophobic. Two civilisations where the resources are dominated by men and everyone else has been ‘othered’. The purpose of this research is to uncover the lived experiences of female students within Classical Studies, in order to find out whether the subject is appropriate and accessible for them. It is a way to give a voice to the students. It is a way to hear their point of view on things like the curriculum, the pedagogy of their teachers and the environment. It is a way to remove assumptions, and replace them with genuine stories and experiences. It will hopefully be a catalyst for change. A way to give back to the amazing students I have had over the years. For this research I explored the New Zealand Curriculum and how Classical Studies is presented within it. I have looked at the research around educational achievement of females in secondary schools. To gain an insight into the lived experiences of female students in a Classical Studies classroom in Aotearoa New Zealand, I have had talanoa conversations with ten volunteers from both Year 12 and Year 13. These talanoa were eye-opening in their honesty and frustration. It is clear there needs to be change within Classical Studies, and the pedagogical approach of teachers. The participants were clear in their desire for women to be more visible.
The University of Waikato
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