Our textbooks are too male, too white, not diverse enough. The publication of a study by the local university was followed by heated discussions, especially on social media. What the implied researchers say about this and why a revision of the material remains important.
"I wonder who is more stupid. The spoilt youth who want to change history out of boredom, or the media who hang out in the 'Summerlach' (the claim here being that media runs out of topics during summer, ed.) and allow such sh… to happen. Come on we'll say both." This is an excerpt from a comment under RTL Lëtzebuerg's Facebook post. The post comments on a research project that concluded that there are more male than female characters in school textbooks and denounces a greater gender discrepancy. This was especially the case in history books. Claire Schadeck explained this and much more as an "Invitée vun der Redaktioun" (guest of the editorial office) on RTL Radio on 20 June. The article on Facebook provoked many similar – as just quoted – comments: around 300 (as of July 17 2023).
"I didn't expect this scale, " Claire Schadeck replies. The researcher and culture and politics officer at CID Fraen an Gender has spoken to the press and given interviews many times before, but it has never become so personal. Together with sociologist Enrica Pianaro, specialised in gender studies and social policy, and lecturer in educational psychology Sylvie Kerger, Schadeck published the results of a research project analysing the representation of gender in Luxembourg secondary school textbooks in June. The first study of this kind was already published in 2021, when textbooks in primary school were examined. For this year's research project, a total of 52 books and eight documents from the subject "Vie et Société" (German: Life and Society) were analysed in more detail. More on that in a moment.
"I led the project, " counters Sylvie Kerger. On a personal level, however, she was less implicated after the radio interview, since it was not directly about her person. "I was nevertheless surprised at the quantity of the shitstorm, " because it was generally directed against the results of her study – and thus against the three researchers. They agree: it is a pity that they received comments to this effect, but this were no reason not to continue promoting the results of the study in public. Of course, they have asked themselves why, in part, such a reaction has been provoked. "It is less stressful not to question and to continue living the way you have been, " thinks Schadeck. "We plead for an equal and inclusive society. Basically, everyone wants that, but when someone has power, it's hard to let go of it."
A considerable conclusion of the study by Kerger, Schadeck and Pianaro was that of the 60,000 people studied, only 20 per cent are female, especially in the history books: out of 11,000, not even 2,000 are female. This has various causes, Sylvie Kerger points out. "Women took on other roles during wars, but still kept society going – it's just not explicitly mentioned. It's important to tell the story not only about what happened during the war itself, but also how other people in the population experienced the war." Women were less likely to become queens or politicians, for example, and just as unlikely to become writers or scientists, because these career options were reserved for men, the lecturer adds. It is only since the early 1970s that women no longer need their husband's or father's permission to go to work. "These are facts that are important to know and should not be mentioned in a side sentence. This is a part of history that we hide."
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