We are Equal
By Soo P.
Fredericton High School has growing student population on those who value the idea of feminism and equality in human rights.
Nowadays, everyone is educated to say that all the people around the globe are equal, society promotes all people deserves to be what they are, based on how they want to be. But in reality, people realize that the idea is too hard to be true.
According to the statistic done by Psychology Today, 85% of North American teenagers between the years 2005 to 2011 have experienced some kind of discrimination in their life. The subject of offense varied from race, gender, appearance, and basically anything that made up a person.
In Fredericton High School some courses such as World History, Canadian Literature, Sociology, Psychology, and English, students are given time and opportunity to discuss on controversial topics in depth. There, students are able to speak their minds and learn more about ongoing problems that are not spoken in the text books.
The discussions are made though teachers’ management. It is not teachers’ job to teach students about certain idea. Instead, they guide the students to get to as much perspective as possible by giving out short comments and encouraging young adults to speak their thoughts.
Ms. Kimberly Skilliter in FHS English Department will be teaching Woman, Media, and Culture as a new course beginning from next fall. She commented how students over these past few years have changed dramatically on how they perceive the idea of feminism.
“I was not a popular teacher when I introduced this idea for the first time”, said Ms. Skillter.
“In a culture we live in, it is so natural to see Woman being oppressed under Man that we don’t think about it”.
Ms Skilliter also commented that the reason for students’ change over these 5 years has been influenced by the increased number of teachers coming on the idea of equality than there used to be.
“More teachers are trying to apply the idea into their lessons” said Ms Skilliter
There are many subjects the classes discuss, and of them all, feminism is the most ongoing and popular topic.
Very recently as the weather got warm and students’ dress got shorter, there was huge debate on the dress code in FHS. Many students witnessed, or experienced sexist behaviors towards female students for wearing certain outfits.
“I saw a girl being called to a teacher for wearing a strapless dress that wasn’t revealing any part of her body except for her shoulder” said Carol Davis, Grade 12 student at FHS.
The girl was told that it was inappropriate to wear strapless clothing because ‘someone could easily pull it off from her’, the comment triggered more students to care about women’s rights and triggered to write letter to the administration of the school.
It was later found out that the Dress Code did not exist from the beginning of the year, but the teachers were not told about the fact and continued to restrict students as they had been doing for years.
Dress Code incident was a good indication to see how much students are starting to notice and care about social issues. This is not a usual case in other schools, but in FHS. A lot of schools around Canada still have strict dress codes and academic agenda against the idea of Feminism and equality.
As the education, technology and students change over time, there are expectations on the future society. FHS teachers answered that there is definitely going to be a change within next 10 years; the time when students who are now in school go on to be a part of society.
Ms. O’Rourke who is teaching grade 12 Sociology said, “The change will be slow but it will be happening”.
To the question asking how students will change the old stereotypes, she answered, “Students will have to stand up and change the people’s perspective around them.”
It wasn’t something usual for older generations to think about equality and human rights in a way that students get to think about as now”
“Now students are more aware of social injustices since it’s a big part of English curriculum”
Ms. O’Rourke also said that materials that are taught or talked are more student centered than what it used to be back when she was in a high school.
However, it is not everyone that is concerned about the issue; in fact, it’s minority of the student population who are actually aware of the existence of the problems. Teachers of FHS demanded that it is critical for every students to realize that what they are learning, or hearing about are important issues that will definitely affect them too in any way, shape or form.
The extreme growth of social media such as face book, twitter and tumbler, school is not the only source where students are introduced to the ideology. 7 out of 10 feminist students answered that they first knew about feminism on media and not at school. They said that it was harder for them to be a feminist in school for the first few years of high school.
“It was really hard being feminist and sitting in grade 9 and 10 English classes, because everyone were so careless of what they say”, said Katherine Williams a Grade 12 student at FHS.
“There were times where I wanted to say things but I couldn’t because I was literally the only one who was feminist, or actually knew about the flaws in the culture that we live in”.
Peer pressure on feminist students in younger grade students are much higher than those who are in their senior years in high school.
“There is a big gap between Grade 9 and Grade 11” said Ms Skilliter.
Many students demand that is was so much harder to be in high school in Grade 9 and 10 because immaturity of peers and self blocks open discussions and quality education.
Katherine Williams, an active feminist in and outside of school has been supporting feminism for over 5 years. She said that she saw it on TV for the first time when she saws it, she agreed and understood how it was important to everyone.
“I saw a girl talking about feminism, and thought it was a great thought, because even before I ever knew or heard of feminism, I had those similar thoughts in my mind.”
“So when I learned that there are people out there fighting for it, I knew that it was important for me and that it could really affect my life too”
Lots of students thought that what students are being taught at school is just not enough to know about actual world. That even though things got lot better than what it used to be, it is still very little that students learn in their classes than what could it potentially could be.
“We know that the curriculums say that we are being taught to think ‘critically’ in English or lots of other classes provided in school, but in my experience, reading in between the lines’ is as far as we go in school” said Grade 12 student Carol Davis.
Even though FHS is a substantially faster growing school compare to other schools, both students and teacher strongly feel that there needs to be lot more changes for a fair and non-discriminating learning centre.
Women, Media, and Culture course starting from next fall has gotten lots of attentions from students from its first appearance. Even though it’s a new, unfamiliar course over 30 students has signed up for it.
There are more and more students curious or possibly supporting human rights issues every year in FHS; the amount of interest is increasing. There could be a big difference in FHS or in a whole community in FHS in next several years.