202033

9780130929280

Women's Studies in the Academy Origins and Impact

Women's Studies in the Academy Origins and Impact
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  • ISBN-13: 9780130929280
  • ISBN: 013092928X
  • Publication Date: 2003
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall PTR

AUTHOR

Rosen, Robyn L.

SUMMARY

This book was born out of a simple, yet ambitious goal: to create text that would introduce undergraduates to Women's Studies. It has been a labor of love. Twenty years ago I took my first undergraduate Women's Studies class at Brandeis University. This class quite literally changed the course of my life. It introduced me to the politics of knowledge, the problem of bias, and the promise of feminism to make things at least better, if not right. Declaring a minor in Women's Studies, I pursued my education with a renewed intellectual vigor that emanated from the dynamism I now saw all around me in the academy. In the academy that I was now operating debates raged, ideas were challenged, theories revised, and new questions asked. This was an intellectual ferment into which that I could sink my teeth, and it was made manifest to me through Women's Studies. The attraction of being part of this ferment led me to graduate school where I studied women's history and began to lend my own voice to the great conversations I had been introduced to as an undergraduate. Twelve years ago I taught my first undergraduate class. It was an Introduction to Women's Studies class, and I was free to shape it in any way I saw fit. As I developed the course, I gave a lot of thought to the question: How can I introduce something as big and complex as Women's Studies in a sixteen-week semester and make it coherent, accessible, and exciting? There seemed so much to cover. I decided that the class had to accomplish two purposes: to place the development of Women's Studies in a historical perspective and to show its impact on the academy. First, I wanted my students to know where Women's Studies had come from--a long struggle for access to and then reform of higher education. This struggle for women's education emanated from the larger struggle for political and legal rights for women. Simply put, there would be no Women's Studies without social movements dedicated to women's equality. In fact, Women's Studies has been described the "academic arm" of feminism. Furthermore, as the first section of this text will show, there would be no movements dedicated to women's equality without other movements for racial and social justice. It is vital to show today's undergraduates how their present experience of the academy has been influenced by the struggles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Specifically, cultural notions of womanhood, ethnicity, class, and race shaped both access to and the curricular contents of higher education. In other words, the historical factors that help to explain why women and minorities either weren't educated or were educated differently than white males also help to explain what the curriculum looked like in past eras and why its content has been challenged by "outsiders." Placed in this context, the emergence of Women's Studies in the late 1960s is properly recognized as an accomplishment of great historical significance. Historicizing the development of Women's Studies encourages recognition of the rich and varied contributions made by women's movements. Furthermore, this context makes clear the integral connections between Women's Studies and other struggles for inclusion and social justice. It highlights the political nature of education--who has access to it, what it looks like, and what its purposes are--and reminds today's students that these issues still require their attention. The omission of this history does a disservice to our students. It is my hope that beginning this class and this text with this history will provide students with the perspective necessary to both appreciate and think critically about their education. I encourage all students to use their experience with Women's Studies to evaluate what and how they are taught, what purpose their education serves, and how critical perspectives enhance the dynamism and relevance of the academy. Once the historical dimRosen, Robyn L. is the author of 'Women's Studies in the Academy Origins and Impact', published 2003 under ISBN 9780130929280 and ISBN 013092928X.

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