Fashion: A Source of Diversity, Controversy, and FUN in the ABE Classroom - Diversity & Literacy Discussion List


At first glance, fashion seems like light subject matter. But when The
Change Agent
put out a Call for Articles on the topic, we got hundreds
of submissions by students who were extremely passionate about the
topic. They addressed the role of stereotypes and labeling, the
inter-generational battles about clothes, the impact of marketing on
personal choice, and deeply personal reflections on the relationship
between surface presentation and inner feelings. Fashion has personal,
societal and global repercussions, and is thus a great example of
contextual learning for the ABE classroom. In addition, fashion comes up
in the culture of the classroom. I remember once an overweight woman
wearing a pink sweatsuit came into my classroom. As she sat down, a
young male student said, "Oink." I blurted out, "Hey, can we not make
comments about people's clothes please?" Hmm. Was that the best way to
handle that moment? I'm not sure... Join us for a week-long discussion
that will help us think about the culture of the classroom and will
generate a lot of fresh ideas for engaging teachers and students in
addressing the ways we create community in the classroom *and* a content
area that includes dynamic pathways for teaching basic skills and
critical thinking in the ABE classroom.

Guest Facilitators

Cynthia Peters has been the editor since June 2007 of World Education's
The Change Agent (, a social justice magazine
for adult learners and adult educators. She writes about a wide range of
topics including organizing, parenting, marketing, feminism, racism, and
gender politics. Before that, she taught ABE, ESOL, Bridge to College,
and Adult Diploma Program through the Worker Education Program in
Boston. She was also a member of the South End Press book publishing
collective for 13 years, and she has extensive editing and writing
experience. Her essays appear in Z Magazine, ZNet, Dollars and Sense,
as well as other publications and several books. In Boston, she has
been a long-time community activist involved in anti-war efforts,
tenants’ rights, and grassroots neighborhood organizing.

Leah Peterson has been working at World Education since March, 2006.
She manages the sales and distribution of The Change Agent and other
World Education/U.S. publications and works with projects such as the
LINCS Regional Resource Center 1 and the Massachusetts Adult Literacy
Hotline. Prior to coming to World Education Leah worked as a volunteer
coordinator, assistant curator, graphic designer, and administrative
assistant in a number of non profit organizations. Leah has a BA in Art
History and in Latino Studies from Simon's Rock College. She served on
the editorial board for the current issue of The Change Agent, Fashion:
The Power, the Peril, and the Passion.

Recommended Preparation for This Discussion

The September 2010 issue of the Change Agent issue was devoted to
Fashion. For this discussion, you may want to read some of the articles.
To access this issue go to and
click "Click here to get a password." Then click on "I want to become an
e-subscriber." Fill out the form and hit submit. The username and
password will appear on the confirmation screen. It's very easy to
memorize. It is for free. And it will give you access to this issue, all
The Change Agent back issues,and all the classroom extras.

Questions and Points to Consider

  • Do you have stories from your classroom of how fashion has
    contributed (in positive, negative or neutral ways) to the culture of
    your classroom?
  • As a teacher, do you think what you wear has a big impact on how you
    are perceived and how effective you are as a teacher?
  • How do your students' clothing choices affect you?
  • Have you tried teaching using fashion-oriented content? How did that
    go? What did it bring up in the class and how did you handle it?

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