Join Date: April 3, 2005
Instructor Ethics 201: Women's Classes
I posted this to Pax's thread "Instructor Ethics 101", and she asked for it to be a separate thread.
To me, it is very definitely an ethics question; there are a couple subtle points involved: whether an instructor perpetuates some rather ugly stereotypes about women and guns, and whether an instructor treats women differently in class.
Here is the post I made to the other thread:
As it happens, I was recently asked to teach a class in another sport (sailing) for women. Then, less than a week later, I was asked to teach a defensive handgun class for women.
I said no to both.
Asking relatives of mine, long time, professional teachers, there is no reason to teach women separately, from a teaching perspective.
The final judge in both cases, a bad guy on the street and Mother Nature at sea, will not draw a distinction between male and female, and the criteria that will dictate survival in both cases is not dependent on sex.
I'm aware that avoiding conflict is different for women. When I walk down a dark street, if I stare straight into an oncoming man's eyes, if I stop walking and start to glare at him, the outcome is completely different than if a small, beautiful woman dressed in a hot black cocktail dress does exactly the same thing. Large and ugly does have its perks. So I don't try to teach women how to avoid conflict, for the simple reason that I have no idea how it's done by them.
But once a shot is fired or the fight begins, the responses, skills and actions are dead even. They are the same, and must be taught to the same standard, just as are the skills necessary to bring a sloop home safely.
I've been a minority for more than half a century. Equality is not a center in the WNBA being paid the same as a center in the NBA, equality is a female center in the NBA. With no one noticing. And therefore, finally, I believe that teaching women separately from men perpetuates a rather ugly stereotype: that women, somehow, need instruction to master handguns or sail that men do not. Individuals may require more or less instruction than other individuals, but I have a vested interest in the belief that groups of normal adults are equal to other groups of normal adults.
So I don't teach Men's Sailing, Women's Shooting or Women's Sailing. I teach sailing and shooting.
That all said, there are women (and, much to my surprise, men) who are more comfortable learning without being under the scrutiny of the opposite sex. For them, I teach private lessons, at a much higher cost. (That's tongue-in-cheek. I couldn't resist.)
What I've learned from my students (and I think that an instructor who doesn't learn from his/her students is a fool) over time is that it is possible to insist on standards quietly, without either making a point of it or hurting people. Not everyone learns from drill sergeants, and, in fact, if you're not producing infantry from teenagers in battalion size batches, drill sergeant style teaching is one of the worst ways to go about about teaching defensive handgun skills. Teaching women may not need to be different from teaching men, but teaching teenagers is different from either-- it's almost like teaching another species. But I digress.
So while it is not necessary to be friends, it is my opinion that it is also not necessary to offend without cause, and splitting that hair accurately and consistently is a matter of experience as an instructor-- the more I teach, the less it is necessary to offend. The object is to transfer knowledge and skills, nothing else. Offending almost never accomplishes that, unless you're teaching someone with a world view that is way out of level, and then you're back to turning teenagers into infantry.
My conclusions, then, are simple, and largely in agreement with what I understand Pax to be saying.
The standards must not change, for anyone, unless I learn a bona-fide, genuine reason to improve both the standards and my teaching.
I do not teach separate men or women's classes anymore than I would teach separate classes for black and white.
I teach children and teenagers separately, their needs are different from adults, and the methods I use to teach them are different. But the standards are not different. For children, "maybe next year" is a viable, legitimate solution.
I'm pleased this came up. Particularly in sailing, where almost all instruction is for-profit, there is a large taboo in discussing divisions of classes, and what sells can have more momentum than ethics; I've never heard shooting instructors discuss ethics.
I am quite interested to hear what others have to say about it, whether they are instructors or students.
"Huh?" --Jammer Six, 1998