Monday, February 9, 2015

No, Promoting Anita Sarkeesian is NOT Education

The internets are alive with the sound of grumbling, as the Anti-Defamation League has released, for public consumption, a lesson plan entitled "Is Gaming a Boys Club? Women, Video Games, and Sexism."

It's a classical example of so-called "social justice education" in all of its ideology fervour, ruthlessness and factual paucity.

Intended for grade 11 and 12 students, the lesson plan is meant to deliver the message of Anita Sarkeesian into high school halls where it can warp the minds of impressionable youngsters and mold them into fatuous social justice warriors... that is, if it can actually be done within its 60 minute time limit. Which it actually can't. (More on this later.)

Putting it most simply, this lesson plan is an absolute mess.

The lesson plan provides 20 "vocabulary terms" students are to learn, and directs educators toward the ADL glossary in order to define them.

This matters because critical theorists routinely seek to redefine common words in order to suit their agenda. So the definition intended by the progenitors of this lesson plan very much matter. But unfortunately of the 20 vocabulary terms listed by the lesson plan only one -- sexism -- is defined by the ADL glossary.

Their definition reads as follows: "Prejudice and/or discrimination against people based on their real or perceived sex. Sexism is based on a belief (conscious or unconscious) that there is a natural order based on sex."

I have no objection whatsoever to the first portion of this definition. The latter, however, seems designed to implant notions of "patriarchy" into students, and accordingly skews the definition of sexism to apply only to sexism by men against women. It seems intended to preclude sexism by women against men. That's likely not coincidental, as radical feminists constantly declare that there's "no such thing as sexism against men."

It's also not coincidental that those who express these views are some of the most enthusiastic and self-satisfied sexists a person could ever hope to not meet.

Sexism isn't the only term that appears on ADL's vocabulary list that critical theorists have often set out to redefine. Also on the list are the following words:


To leave these key words undefined is a serious issue for this lesson plan, particularly as each of them could be defined -- or re-defined, as is far more likely -- to deliberately create a power dynamic within the lesson plan that is solely to the benefit of the Cult of Sarkeesian.

A case in point is a now-infamous tweet in which Sarkeesian complains about abuse at the hands of "angry YouTubers." As it turns out, those individuals had merely exposed the factual shortcomings of Sarkeesian's work. Yet Sarkeesian chose to mischaracterize this as abusive, solely because it's to her benefit to do so.

So this is a serious problem with the ADL's lesson plan. But it's not by any means the biggest one.

No, the biggest problem with this lesson plan is that it's structured in such a way as to make the voicing of a dissenting view impossible.

The following is a screencap from this PDF:
Notice that there is no option for those who have not witnessed what they would consider sexism in video games, nor is there any option for those who do not think sexist things have been said or done to them through video game interaction.

The message is clear: this lesson plan will not permit you to disagree with the assertions being made at any point. Students are to "listen and believe" and for God's sake, do not allow them to think for themselves.

This lesson plan also proposes a common tactic in so-called "social justice education": dividing students up into smaller groups. As other "social justice education" resources make clear, dividing students into groups is a means by which targeted students -- frequently described as "privileged learners" -- can be isolated from one another, and reduced to a minority among students who are thereafter being agitated against them.

In the case of the ADL lesson plan, this is compounded by the application of peer pressure. As students watch their peers place sticky notes on the "I have witnessed sexism in video games" and "people have said or done sexist things to me through video game interactions" signs, they will feel pressured to do likewise.

The lesson plan eventually moves into force-feeding the students Sarkeesian. This is unsurprising, as Sarkeesian seems to exist as a public figure not on the merits of her work -- her work has been found to be entirely lacking merit by everyone who has actually examined it on a factual basis -- but on the will of high-profile and privileged individuals to stuff her down peoples' throats.

If forcing students to sit through brief unmediated readings of Sarkeesian's work isn't enough, teachers are actually instructed to force her ideas down students' throats.
Apparently the one thing instructors cannot permit is for Sarkeesian's insipid "tropes vs women" to be discarded by students as unimpressive or unconvincing.

And while the lesson plan does theoretically provide for some time for students to discuss these concepts -- and perhaps even how they openly contradict one another -- it's worth pointing out that by the time this portion of the lesson arrives, the instructor has used up no less than 49 minutes of a 60 minute lesson plan. (Yes, I tallied it up, but not by much.)

There's still two more segments of the lesson to go: reading a Pew Research paper about online harassment, then discussion of it afterward.

Interestingly, teachers are pressured to emphasize harassment of women as part of that post-reading discussion, when in fact the study indicates that men experience more online harassment than do women. Of all the modes of online harassment discussed as part of the Pew study, only two -- sexual harassment and stalking -- are experienced more by women. That's of six modes of online harassment mentioned in the study.

It's worth noting that of all the resources used to formulate this lesson plan, the Pew study is the only one that is meaningfully peer reviewed. So the one and only meaningfully peer-reviewed source in the entire plan is misrepresented within it.

That's the kind of "lesson" this is. It's not really meant to educate students at all. It seems to me that the sole purpose of this lesson plan is to promote Anita Sarkeesian and help her settle her grudges by forcing her ideas onto high school students, thus helping to further fill the ranks of her "army."

That's not what classrooms are for. This lesson plan has no place in any classroom anywhere. Any teacher who willingly attempts to teach it is eminently unqualified to be a teacher, and should consider seeking a career better suited to their talents and temperament.

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