Saturday, April 17, 2010

On Creating an Inclusive Curriculum, Part 2

Note: This post is the second in a 3-part series exploring the process of taking theatre instruction outside the white, European, male paradigm.

This week I want to talk a little bit about how people view my curriculum project. As I’ve been working on this project, it’s come up in conversation with a number of people, mostly other students. The thing that’s struck me is that almost every time, people have been amazed by what I’m doing. Now, these are all people who are committed to multiculturalism in education. So what’s so incredible about using our curricula to expand how we define theatre?

The reason, I think, lies in the fact that most theatre history curricula have followed the same format for a long time--work your way through the development of western theatre, and then talk a bit about non-western theatre. I, and I think most other teachers, draw heavily on what and how they were taught when deciding what and how to teach their students. Breaking out of that mindset is tough. It’s made tougher if, like me, your baseline knowledge is lacking. It requires a lot of work and research. However, expanding curricula outside the traditional Eurocentric history is important. For students who aren’t of European descent, it’s important to see representations of their history in what they study. For students who are of European descent, it’s crucial to see that Europe was not the end all and be all of civilization’s development.

Theatre teachers are in a unique position to do this. Because theatre is an untested subject, theatre teachers have a lot more freedom than teachers of subjects that are tested and who have to cover set topics. While there are theatre standards, how those standards are addressed is largely left up to individual teachers. We should use that freedom to explore new curricula and encourage students to look at theatre in new and different ways.

Next week: Expanding my curriculum to include a greater emphasis on female playwrights and theatre artists.

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