Race, Class, and Gender Studies

The Race, Class, and Gender Studies course is largely discussion based, and encourages students to consider the three main topics in different contexts with their peers.

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A BLM march, which is a prevalent topic in the course.

Annabelle Stuelpe, Reporter

A new course debuted this Spring, which focuses on the topics of race, class, and gender in America. The class is largely discussion based, and encourages students to consider the three main topics in different contexts with their peers. Those enrolled — largely seniors, and some juniors — participate in student-led discussions, or SLED’s, every other day.    

Todd Siders, the instructor of the class, describes the class curriculum: 

“Half of the course looks at the sociological notions of race, class, and gender, and how they intersect.  Students provide the curriculum for the other half of the class through leading seminars on current events.  The course doesn’t have a lot of homework but is very discussion-heavy,” said Siders. The three elements of the class are looked at separately. “Each main topic, get about 1/3 of the semester, so basically, one per grading period.” However, the three topics often intersect in society. “Issues of race cannot be discussed without also looking at class and gender.”

The class is described as “democratic,” as the students decide what they want to look at in the context of the curriculum, and Siders serves as a guide. 

“In order to create an environment that welcomes them, it has to be one in which they have as much say as possible. It’s still a high school class, students still get graded, etc. But what can be done within those confines should be student-driven,” said Siders. “I literally roll my Dungeons & Dragons dice and randomly select a student, sometimes two.  They provide me two articles that either discuss a subject we are studying from opposite points of view, or two different ways of looking at something. During class, the student who provided the articles leads a discussion based on the posts. I usually only step in with terminology or historical details; students don’t call on me.”

In the current social climate, Siders finds it necessary, more than ever, to have this class. 

“I believe my class is particularly timely. Due to the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent rise of the BLM movement to ‘front and center’ of the American mind, there is a demand for spaces for discussion and understanding,” said Siders. 

While the course is “not a history class, ” it does draw from historical context.  

“I try to provide historical background, but the students’ responsibility for providing curriculum allows them to have a truly meaningful voice in their education […] I go back to the 1700s to discuss race, and even farther back for gender. We only look at class issues in a modern context,” said Siders. 

Highlighting every student’s voice is important for Siders. 

“I’m a straight, white, middle class, middle-age, cis-gendered man and I teach a class that tries to look directly at the experiences of everyone of I am not. I want to model deep listening; my privilege demands no less,” said Siders. 

Siders explains the need for classes such as Race, Class, and Gender Studies to be instituted into schools. 

“I think there should be an ethnic studies requirement, and one that is inclusive of other marginalized groups. It just seems to me that one of the biggest reasons we have ongoing issues and controversies involving discrimination is that too many Americans simply don’t study these issues in school,” said Siders. 

Bryan Gutierrez Briceno, a junior, speaks on the course’s impact on students.

“I feel like this class, in general, should be encouraged because it teaches you what other people in America are struggling through and helps you connect to their challenges,” said Gutierrez Briceno.