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Thursday, February 28, 2008
  Gender in the classroom

Teaching Ruth is always interesting. Not having taught the book for several years, I had forgotten just how revealing watching a class study this little book could be. The class at CTS reminded me. I have now taught Ruth in three very different cultural contexts, Congo, NZ and now Sri Lanka.

In each case it served, alongside Jonah, as an example to illustrate various elements of biblical narrative technique. In each case, for the teacher, watching the male and female students reading Ruth was illuminating. I'd need to teach Ruth with other students, or learn a lot more about Sri Lankan cultures before I can draw any conclusions from this last experience. But in both NZ and Africa this book has served to provoke strikingly different responses from male and female students, and to reveal the extent to which men in those two settings do not "understand" the issues that concern women.

More than any other topics I teach (with the possible exception of some sessions deliberately focused on gender issues) Ruth provokes responses from both men and women that their classmates of the other gender find either incomprehensible or frustrating. Teaching Ruth is a good way to remind oneself, of the extent to which one's culture still has significant issues to address of equality and justice between men and women in the realm of marriage and home. Ever culture does, and probably always will, given the interplay of social expectations with individual or familial understandings that such domestic contexts produce, however well or badly the issues have been "resolved" in the public sphere!

PS for other reflections on teaching at CTS and later (soon) in another place see this blog.

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