Voices in Education

Teacher Education Still Needs Feminism
The majority of teachers in the United States are still women.


And while many outside teacher education debate versions of feminism in JLo’s “Ain’t Your Mama,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists,” Malala’s rise to international heroine, and Hillary Clinton’s use of the “woman card,” feminism—of any variety—continues to be largely absent from teacher education.

Don’t get us wrong; there have long been feminist scholars and pedagogues engaging in teacher education through research and practice. Some of those have been explicit about the sexism, patriarchy, and blatant gender silencing embedded in the profession of teaching, educational research about teaching, and in teacher education itself. But they are too few and too far between, especially for a field that is largely filled with women: women professors, women researchers, women students, and women practitioners. We consider ourselves feminist scholars and practitioners, and yet recognize that even we don’t have feminist storylines easily available to us when we’re working with preservice and in-service teachers about what they’re experiencing and learning.

The majority of the women teachers in the United States are still white.


And teacher education, as a field, has done a decent job of making race and racism—at least blackness and whiteness—an integral part of justice-oriented pedagogy and scholarship. In addition to being feminists, we consider ourselves white antiracist pedagogues and researchers. It seems to us, over the years, that storylines of race, racism, and white privilege have been much easier for us to access as we design courses and assignments and interact with teacher education students around the complex and nuanced topics of a justice-oriented approach to teaching.

Audre Lorde argued there is no, nor should there be a, “hierarchy of oppressions,” but perhaps we have unwittingly created one in teacher education. Let us be clear: We are not talking about diminishing the exceptional work that has contributed to a more race-conscious and antiracist education for preservice and in-service educators. We are talking about complicating that work in nuanced ways through the use and integration of feminist epistemologies and ontology in teacher education.

What if teacher education and teacher educators were more explicit about the charge to educate the next generation of women? Feminisms can offer us new storylines for our justice-oriented pedagogies with the women sitting in front of us.

The many thousands of women of all ages who find themselves in colleges of education and other teacher preparation settings are constantly navigating complicated social landscapes on and off campus, during the daytime and the nighttime. Women still living in a society where sexism and misogyny continue to be rampant is a powerful way to begin our pedagogical journey with all of our students.

Stephanie Jones and Hilary E. Hughes are the authors of "Changing the Place of Teacher Education: Feminism, Fear, and Pedagogical Paradoxes,"  which appears in the Summer 2016 issue of the Harvard Educational Review. 

About the Author: Stephanie Jones is a Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Georgia where she studies and teaches courses on feminist pedagogies in early childhood, elementary, and postsecondary contexts.

Hilary E. Hughes is assistant professor in middle grades education at the University of Georgia, and her research and teaching interests include justice-oriented teacher education, youth studies, and qualitative inquiry in doctoral education.