Ever since I started IAL Arabic this year, I’ve been so angry at my teacher, at the curriculum, at everything, really, about this class. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized why I was so frustrated, and that my frustration extended to other classes too.
I’m writing this article because I think it’s really important that we know how extensively school affects us academically, but also personally. We go to school as 5-year-old kids, and finish it as 18 years old adolescents, that’s 13 years of school, not to mention the rest of our day when we go home and work
on school assignments, or go out with school friends, or do school activities, it essentially occupies every
single aspect of our lives until we graduate. That’s why I’m so frustrated because on one hand, our
generation is trying to spread awareness about real issues in our society and my problem is, there is no
hope of us doing that if our school curriculums censor us or continue to raise ignorant generations due
to a lack of evolving curriculums.
It’s important to know that there are 2 types of curriculums at school; there is the formal curriculum (courses, classes, lessons, exams, etc.) and there is the hidden curriculum (social and cultural messages, expectations, unwritten rules, and the norms, behaviors, and values we’re expected to abide by). Both
of these are taught side by side at school, and you might not even notice the latter, hence the title ‘hidden curriculum’ but it affects us more than we think, it makes us who we are. Now, who do you
think we will become, who we will be as adults if our curriculum is sexist, classist, capitalistic, (and
obviously heteronormative, but baby steps, yeah?)
But, it’s 2021, schools aren’t sexist anymore, right? WRONG.
I don’t remember learning about women the way I learned about Shakespeare in middle school, or
Davinci, or even those Ancient Egyptian kings. Whether it be English, history, social studies (the national
or international curriculums), I don’t ever remember learning about a woman and thinking, hey, yes, I
can relate to this, I can relate to her. I remember this one time in year 9 where I had to do a project
about someone I admired, and I ended up doing the project on Davinci? Like, yes, he’s great, but why
wasn’t I taught about strong, admirable, successful women in history?
One thing that will forever be stuck in my head and will never fail to anger me is this Arabic نص that I had to take in year 10 as part of the Arabic national curriculum and the whole thing was about how women should act and be good wives to their husbands, about how they should obey, cook, clean, but also smell and look amazing for the visual pleasure of their husbands at all times so that they’ll be “radyeen 3anena.” And every single time I asked my Arabic teacher why we were taking this, he would tell me that we were studying “el nosoos men el 3asr el gaheli” and that this was a sample writing from that time. Like, are you trying to tell me that you couldn’t find any other writing to give us from Arabic literature, and I repeat, Arabic, as in, one of the richest cultures in the whole world, and the only writing you found from that time and thought fitting to teach, was about how women should obey their husbands? Like, make it make sense dude. The problem with this is that this was taught to a bunch of 14-year-old kids, and I don’t have to tell you guys that this won’t be taught as an “old-fashioned and ignorant” text across the country, we all know that boys will grow up with this in mind and force their wives to be like that. Just continue the cycle of oppression, we don’t we? Of course
curriculums also taught us that being part of the working class was horrible, that the working class was less than the rest, that you should graduate, go to university and major in something that will make you money, “you don’t wanna end up poor, do you?” and while classism wasn’t really that obvious in formal education, but tell me your teachers didn’t look at you weird when you told them you wanted to do art or humanities or languages in university. Tell me they didn’t tell you that you were going to end up with no work and just fail in life, that those were useless degrees. Why? Because they don’t make as much money? They aren’t as prestigious as medicine or engineering? The classism and very obvious capitalistic environments we grew up in were so fucking toxic and no one bats an eyelash about it.
So, all I’m trying to say is, when curriculums teach kids and drill it in their brains that there are differences between their genders, that money is everything and that the higher the class you were in, in society, the better, it’s no wonder we’re trying so hard and mostly failing to change anything in this country. You want men to be upset that women are raped? When they grew up with school curriculums that told them that as men, they had to be assertive and leaders, and to take no for an answer? It’s not gonna happen. We have to change things from the very bottom, the root, we have to change school curriculums, both formal and hidden.
Written by: Jumana Ahmed