03-08-2018 10:09 AM - last edited Monday
A book written in 1960 found in a basement. When we let our imaginations run a bit, the book could be perfect
"fodder" for a class discussion in a variety of disciplines. Let's see how.
The book is called “Those We Love” by Alan Beck. As you can tell even from the cover of the book, it’s about the gender roles Americans often played (somewhat idealized) in that era.
A few of the chapter titles:
As you can imagine, the book is FILLED with 1960s stereotypes.
A wife is a girl whose doll is wrapped in tissue and packed away in the closet, a girl with a packet of letters at the bottom of her glove box and a snapshot album that is never opened — each a fragile link with girlhood, each so treasured and so forgotten. Now she lives in a hurried world: get that man up, turn on that stove, fry that egg, tote that wash, lift that furniture, paint that floor till the back has 17 kinks. Then he comes home and asks, “What did you do today, dear?
A little girl likes new shoes, party dresses, small animals, first grade, noise makers, the girl next door, dolls, make-believe, dancing lessons, ice cream, kitchens, coloring books, make-up, cans of water, going visiting, tea parties…
[Boys] like ice cream, knives, saws, Christmas, comic books, the boy across the street, woods, water (in its natural habitat), large animals, Dad, trains, Saturday mornings, and fire engines. He is not much for Sunday School, company, schools, books without pictures, music lessons, neckties, barbers, girls, overcoats, adults, or bedtime.
Our Faculty Partners, who teach in a variety of disciplines, saw all kinds of ways this book could be used to spark class discussion and activities.
I like to talk about "What's for dinner" in my history classes.
One of the courses I teach is law and ethics. A key piece of the course is for students to reflect on their own biases and develop the ability to look at situations from an objective position. This book would be a great tool to facilitate a discussion related to working with the elderly population. Questions such as:
Being a criminologist who examines female criminality this is incredibly important and interesting! All original theories of female criminality are built out of gender stereotypes! Here are just a few:
All of our examination of female crime is focused on sexuality, often looking at prostitution/premarital sex. I would love to have my students examine a book like this and discuss how these stereotypes have led to our theories of female criminality!
As a psych teacher, my goal would be to talk about the book in terms of the topic of Gender Roles. I’d like students to have a better understanding of the roles women, men, boys and girls were expected to fulfill in that era and how those roles have changed or not changed.
Here’s an activity I would try. It’s an informal content analysis:
Prep: since I want students to be able to “play around” with some of the actual of the book, I would use a smartphone app such as TextGrabber to take photos of many of the pages from these sections of the book “What is a boy?”, “What is a girl?”, “What is a Wife?”, and “What is a Husband” and then have TextGrabber convert the text in the image to text that I can share with my students (through MindTap, our LMS or even a Google doc). Then I would:
The results of this exercise could lead to a discussion on the effect of books like this on children as they grow:
In communication classes, we think and talk a lot about how language choices shape understandings about things like gender roles.
We could definitely have some great discussions in computing classes about this topic, [especially around the issue of why there are so few women in the STEM sciences. I would have students read this research:] The Impact of Gender Stereotypes on the Self-Concept of Female Students in STEM Subjects with an Und...
I used to teach a class called 'The Economics of Discrimination, Poverty and Inequality". If I imagine myself teaching that class with that book in hand, I would ask my students to read the book and then answer the following questions:
Some of the ingredients to engaging students:
NOTE: this book has a 1960s copyright and to my knowledge this copyright has not been renewed, which means that it is in the public domain. Most of the book was scanned by Emma K. Morris and can be read on her site here.
Looking for more tips on how to engage your students and enjoying your teaching career? Join the Higher Ed Faculty Community! It's free.