1.   Acknowledge that sexism, racism, class-ism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist. We are not going to spend time debating whether the world is flat, whether sexism, et al., exists.

2.   Acknowledge that one mechanism of institutionalized  sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, et al., is that we are all systematically misinformed about our own group and about members of other groups.  This is true for members of privileged and oppressed groups. Your formal education gave you little, if any, accurate knowledge about women, racial or sexual minorities, or poor people.

3.   Agree not to blame ourselves or others for the misinformation we have learned, but to accept responsibility for not repeating mis-information after we have learned otherwise. As Maya Angelou says, when we know better, we do better.

4.   Actively pursue information about our own groups and those of others. You've already started by taking this class! Share information about your own group with other folks.

5.   Agree not to blame victims for the conditions of their lives.

6.   Assume that people--the groups we study and the members of the class--are doing the best they can.

7.   Never demean, devalue, or in any way put down people for their experiences. Like our eye color, our experiences aren't right or wrong, they just are. The question is what we can learn from the experience we do have and how can we gain access to others' experiences.

8.   Agree to combat actively the myths and stereotypes about our own groups and other groups so that we can break down the walls that prohibit group cooperation and group gain.

9.   Create a safe atmosphere for honest discussion by agreeing to keep confidentiality about who said what. Undoubtedly, the ideas we talk about in class will spill over into conversations with people outside of class, and that's fine. But disclosing who said what can impair a sense of safety.

Adapted by Pat Langley from: Lynn Weber Cannon, "Fostering Positive Race, Class and Gender Dynamics in the Classroom," Women's Studies Quarterly, Vols. 1 & 2, 1990, pp. 129-133.

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Course syllabus

University of Illinois at Springfield            WGS 333

Sexual Orientation and Public Policy:
When Worlds Collide

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