Everyone and their dog in the gaming world has been hearing about the new ADL sexism in gaming lesson plan that was recently released. By day, I’m a multiple provincially licensed high school teacher with experience teaching in Canada, South Korea, and Japan. I’m going to point out some of the flaws and issues I have with the document. This article is important for me because if I was in the US right now, instead of being overseas, I could be the one who would potentially be given this lesson to teach.
Behind A Teacher’s Lesson Planning
Before we begin, we need to understand how the teaching world works behind closed doors when it comes to lessons. It is actually quite simple. We are given a curriculum set out by the province (I’m from Canada) and we have to teach it. It can generally be condensed to something simple like ‘teach units X to Y from said text book’. There will be some main topics and information the students will be required to learn, but the actual lessons and how they are taught and made are up to the individual teacher.
Now, in a perfect world every class will have a teacher who has a degree in said field. I’m a history and sociology major, thus my teaching license is for those subject areas. This is the real world though, and sometimes you get someone with zero knowledge teaching a course for X number of reasons. The most common is there is a lack of science teachers and so someone gets stuck teaching it, even if they don’t know it. Or you have one teacher being required to teach more than an optimal level of courses, meaning they need to save time somewhere.
This is where the ADL lesson comes into focus, and why it is a big concern for me as an educator. This is a pre-made lesson plan that you can give to someone, have them read it, and then ‘teach’ it. Great for when a person has a massive class load and they are easy to do, but if the teacher has no knowledge of the subject material they unwittingly become a pawn of propaganda.
Being a lifelong gamer I can tell when something is phony and when it is not in that subject area, whereas someone who has no interest or knowledge in gaming could just be given the lesson plan and run with it. Additionally they could look like a total idiot if they are matched with a class of teenage gamers who know their stuff.
In the first paragraph, which is background information, we run into the issue just addressed. We are given outright false assertions about negative female representation and their treatment in video games. The wording of the section also sounds more like a press release about a single individual rather than a glossary of many people who suffered from similar problems such as rape and death threats. This is further troubling because parts of the section are re-used almost word for word on page four, and also Anita Sarkeesian is the only person mentioned. It comes off as more of an Anita Sarkeesian info lesson than one on a social issue.
The second paragraph is also making a broad assumption that the industry is sexist and misogynistic, as if it is a fact rather than theory. That they use the word ‘perpetuate’ also comes off as sounding like there is a network in place keeping it that way. Even if the first part was true, the other problem is the industry is multinational and multicultural. It does not say specifically if the sexism is in the west, east, Canada, Japan, etc., meaning it is everywhere. It would be like if I said soccer has a hooligan problem. Soccer is played in many countries, so what may be true in one country might not be true in another. It gives the students false information, and false stereotypes.
Going into the actual lesson itself, the next problem that occurs is the complete one-sided nature of the lesson. It is entirely focused on women and sexism. No mention of men and their experiences is in the lesson plan. Yes, there are some statistics about male usage, but the data isn’t used to focus on the other side of the coin. Now, to be fair, if there is a follow-up lesson that will discuss men specifically then problem solved. But a note to mention that at the end of the class, or any time during the class, is not written in the lesson plan. If the issues that female critics have gone through is worthy of teaching to high school students then the same credence must be given to male critics.
The allotted time for this lesson is a fairy tale. The amount of content expected to be taught is way too much for sixty minutes, and that is supposing the class is perfect. We have to remember that no classroom goes according to plan. Some students act out, some don’t understand the material, and other events happen that take away time from the lesson. The amount of group work and moving around the classroom also adds untold amounts of time because students don’t instantly become quiet and follow directions at the snap of a finger.
It also does a disservice to the material because the teacher could be compelled to try to fit it all in, thus not give it the time it deserves, especially if there are other more important parts of the curriculum needing to be completed. This lesson, if unmodified, could fit in two or three hour long classes.
This becomes a bigger problem because some of the terms are not conceptualized within the context of the lesson. What is sexism? I might answer, “it is the unfair treatment of a person due to their gender.” Okay, under that explanation how does the industry perpetuate that? It is not explained. The same can be said for other words like harassment and misogyny. Part one of the section “Our Experiences with Video Games Activity” asks specifically for people who have witnessed sexism in video games. Without that conceptualization how are students to give an informed and honest answer?
Propaganda Is Not An Available Class
Remember back to what was mentioned at the start about why some teachers use one-shot lesson plans? If they don’t know anything about the information needing to be taught then they have to use and rely on the attached resources and readings, assuming they even have time to read them.
But let us assume there was time. Almost all of the additional sources are from 2014. This tells me this is simply a current events lesson, and is confirmed by the header on each page that says “The Current Events Classroom.” A current events teacher needs solid background information on the subject of the current event. It would be like if I said “Today class, we’re going to discuss the Japanese federal election which is happening tomorrow” without knowing anything about Japan. I know nothing about the policies, or politics, or even the federal parties. I have no in-depth or even background information about the subject matter to help inform and guide the class.
I looked through the links. What did I not see? A dissenting viewpoint on the topic. Nothing from popular YouTube personalities that have discussed the subject. Nothing by Christina Hoff Summers, an academic, who has been recently vocal about the topic. Without dissent you cannot create real, genuine discussion. If all that is being given to the students is one narrative then all the group work discussions are dulled, if not completely null and void.
Not every student has the ability, personality, or drive to discuss a topic on their own volition. Imagine having to debate baseball. The teacher gives example after example of how the New York Yankees are great. You think the Dodgers are better. If a shy student, or a socially awkward student, gets the feeling that the teacher is pro-Yankees, and the sentiment in the class is pro-Yankees, why is he going to rock the boat? It creates an echo chamber by proxy of no one being able to dissent. It also fosters a toxic classroom environment where students feel like a dissenting opinion is wrong, no matter what the subject is.
This creates the biggest problem that I have with the entire lesson: it obviously comes off as a narcissistic propaganda piece in favor of Anita Sarkeesian. Everything is about her in the lesson and pro her. There are no counter-points. There is no balance. I, in good conscience, could not teach this lesson. Not only is it laden with flaws, but it is so biased I’d be doing my students a disservice.
It also ruins my credibility as a teacher and educator because it portrays me as being biased. That cannot happen in the classroom, for any teacher, especially if it is about current events and controversial subjects. The teacher has to remain unbiased in order to create an open, safe environment and allow all opinions and expressions to be heard, even if they sound stupid or ignorant. People cannot learn unless they are exposed to multiple viewpoints, right or wrong.
In the classroom I always tell my students this very important message. I don’t care what your opinion is, what your belief is, anything. If you make a statement in class you have to back it up. You have to tell me why. I’ll judge you on your evidence, not on your statement.