VT-GrATE: Teach-In

Two weeks ago or so I was fortunate enough to give a presentation on the Null Curriculum of Sex and Gender in the Sciences. During my part of the session we processed through what we were historically taught about sex (namely that there are two), gender (also that there are two and that it should correlate with biological sex), and all the things we weren’t taught. What haven’t we been taught?

Well, we usually weren’t taught that:

  • there are at least 6 sexes
  • the Eurocentric and Western of gender has been and always will be in flux
  • Intersex folks call into question the consistency of our correlation of gender and sex
  • Intersex “conditions” are extremely common.
  • 1/1600 people do not have XX or XY chromosome configurations.
  • 1/200-1/2000 people have an intersex condition to include physical “abnormalities”

All of these scientific, historical, and biological facts constitute the null curriculum. The Null Curriculum is the idea that: Facts/information deliberately or unintentionally omitted from formal education and informal social norms can have as much, if not more, influence on our relationships and actions as the facts and information deliberately included. (Matheis)

If it is right, then in not learning about these notions the policies and practices we enact even at institutions of higher education may reflect a false science and have a negative impact on folks who live and learn here at the university. Yet, who was attending the teach-in?

Not the people who are in-charge of creating and amending policies. If they aren’t going to attend things that, quite obviously they need to hear, then what needs to be done to pull them into conversation about the impact of the null curriculum on our practices and policy?


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