[Editorial] Lack of Clarity on Gender Issues
by The Milton Measure on Friday, May 18th, 2012
In recent months, issues related to gender and sexism have been brought to the forefront of community life. Between advisory conversations, chapel speeches, affective education classes, and Class II Retreat discussions, Milton students have never been so aware of the potential influence of gender prejudice on campus and beyond. What has yet to be officially acknowledged, however, are the varying and, occasionally, conflicting views that different constituencies have articulated about the appropriateness of the current dialogues on gender. For the past few weeks, Milton teachers have been fostering discussions about gender roles in the Milton community and how one’s gender affects his or her life at Milton. We believe that the reasons for these sudden discussions are not clear to all Milton students, leaving many confused and unaware of gender-related controversy on campus.
We acknowledge that various controversial incidents have offended several members of the Milton community, but, as of yet, no single issue has struck a chord with the collective consciousness of the student body. Some moments for concern were witnessed solely by the boarders, or by certain grades. Our concern and confusion surrounding this issue is that the entire community has never been addressed regarding the current concerns about gender roles.
This situation is not the first instance in which a school-wide concern has been presented vaguely to students, causing many students to dwell more on curiosity and gossip over what sparked the present discussion than on how to improve the issue at hand. Milton Academy quite rightly prides itself on openness, but certain discussions are not conducive to the relative transparency of the DC process. Although publicly notifying the student body of disciplinary transgressions has become a well-established custom at Milton, informing the entire student body about every controversial action of every student – particularly around sensitive subjects like gender and sexism – would clearly be inappropriate. That needed constraint, however, makes having fruitful discussions in the community more difficult, as students are left wondering why there is a need for discussion in the first place. Still, as young adults, Milton students are prone to making gender-related gaffes and verbal miscues because of the cultural signals they receive; the school has correctly determined that no one incident should be singled out for public condemnation.
We propose a reasonable alternative: the school giving a general insight into issues relevant to the discussion at hand. Instead of advisors handing their advisees a piece of paper and asking them to write how the opposite gender experiences Milton, without prior explanation of the purpose of the activity, the entire community should be addressed as a whole about gender biases, with a brief clarification as to the topic’s relevance and proposed solutions for the future. Milton students do not generally respond well if they feel like they are being talked at or accused of something. Instead, a diverse range of members of the Milton community should be given the opportunity to voice their opinions on the topic at hand, students included. Given Milton’s educational mission, discussions surrounding complex social issues should be seen as opportunities for an open exchange of ideas and collective learning. The problems the school is seeking to address are longstanding and real; we should characterize our approach to these issues with the even-handed and open-minded perspective they demand.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=3487