The government has backtracked on plans to stop teaching feminism as a “major political philosophy” in A-level politics. Following a typically noisy online campaign, feminism “will now be compulsory” and the number of “female thinkers” on the syllabus will be greatly expanded.
Plans to drop the current section on feminism from the A-level politics course were revealed in proposals from the Department for Education in November 2015.
The section is not currently compulsory, but has proven a popular optional topic alongside environmentalism.
The topic included parts on sex/gender, gender equality and patriarchy. Last year, for example, the AQA politics and government exam paper asked students to: “Explain the term patriarchy in the context of feminism.”
However, ministers said they wanted politics students to focus on just three “key” strands of political theory – conservatism, socialism and liberalism. Instead, the department proposed that feminism be thought as part of the sociology A-level. The backlash was almost instantaneous.
An online petition appeared, accusing the government of “erasing and writing women out of history”, and arguing that, “when women are underrepresented in society, the government should be working to address this problem.” So far, nearly 50,000 people have signed it.
Then, on the December 8th, the Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was urged to reconsider the plans in an open letter published in the Independent. Signatures included Labour MPs, campaigners and union bosses – including Trades Union Congress (TUC) head Frances O’Grady and Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project.
They claimed that, “political history taught in schools is already biased towards the action of men”, and the changes sent, “a very worrying message to both young men and young women that feminism has little to no place in politics.”
A Department for Education source has told the Independent that they now consider it as a mistake to drop feminism as a major political philosophy, and are likely to not make the change. Nicky Morgan will also include more “female thinkers”, the source said.