Letter: ‘Girl Rising’ was excellent, but not required viewing
October 15, 2013
'Girl Rising' was excellent, but not required viewing
On Friday, Aspen High School and Aspen Middle School, in partnership with the Aspen Education Foundation and the Aspen Institute, observed the United Nations' International Day of the Girl by showing young women grades seven through 12 the film "Girl Rising."
"Girl Rising" is a groundbreaking film, directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins, which tells the stories of nine extraordinary girls from nine countries, written by nine celebrated writers and narrated by nine renowned actresses.
"Girl Rising" showcases the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world.
After the movie, students participated in a panel discussion. The panel discussion was moderated by Kitty Boone, of Aspen Ideas Festival, and included Libby Dowley, Aspen High School student president of Room to Read, Silbi Stainton, of the Marshall Direct Fund, and Susan Lodge, of Room to Read. It was a memorable experience for all involved.
I thank each of the powerful women who helped make this a landmark event in my administrative career.
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On Sept. 26, I emailed a letter to parents informing them of the "Girl Rising" screening, in which I stated, "Attendance at the event will be assumed for all but any parent who wishes to opt-out may call or email Tom Heald or Kim Martin to remove your student from the event."
Certainly, any parent could easily request that their child stay in class, and the event was not "a requirement for all girls to attend the screening of this movie," as Leah Davis states in her letter to the editor on Oct. 13 ("Is this the way to educate girls?" The Aspen Times).
In fact, the first that I was ever informed of Mrs. Davis' concern for her daughter was when I read it in the paper on Sunday morning. Mrs. Davis indicates that "the administrators told the girls that they couldn't attend class and learn because they have to go watch a movie about educating girls."
Unfortunately, that is unequivocally false as not a single student (or parent) approached an administrator and asked to be excused from the movie. Not one. It simply did not happen.
There is ample research supporting a single-gender environment for specific tasks and subject areas; my favorite research in this area is Aronson's work on Stereotype Threat. Again, information regarding the single-gender environment was shared in the Sept. 26 parent letter in which I wrote, "The single-gender environment will provide an encouraging and non-judgmental place for girls to think critically and honestly about the relevant issues that affect them and women and girls throughout the world". Certainly, there was no intention to "not teach the girls" or to "tell boys that they are not part of nor should they care about the education of girls."
Many, if not all, of the classroom teachers took the opportunity to discuss the film's importance with the boys that afternoon and I am confident this was a powerful educational experience for all students. My thanks again to the Aspen Institute, the makers of "Girl Rising," the panelists, and the students of the Aspen middle and high schools for participating so fully and for making this a memorable event.
Kimberly J. Martin
Principal, Aspen High School
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