The Gender Policy Report is pleased to announce that Fran Vavrus has joined our team as a curator for our Education page.

Fran Vavrus is a professor for the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she serves in the Comparative and International Education Development (CIDE) program. With her background in comparative and international education, Vavrus will bring a global comparative perspective to the Gender Policy Report’s Education page.

Vavrus also has plenty of international education policy experience to bring to bear on ongoing discussions of the gender dimensions of education policy. Vavrus serves as the North American representative on the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations Concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). This role has led to her participation in major international conferences, such as the 2015 World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea, where the UN Sustainable Development Goal for education was finalized.

Much of Vavrus’s research focuses on the Kilimanjaro Region of Northern Tanzania, where she has intermittently lived, taught, and studied since 1992. As with her research, in her contributions to the Gender Policy Report, she hopes to advance an understanding of the transformative potential of education as well as understand its limitations – especially as this relates to gender equity.

 

— Photo of Fran Vavrus at the World Education Forum

The Trump administration has made yet another devastating decision undermining girls’ and women’s education, and this time its effects will be felt throughout the world. Last week, the White House revealed that the U.S. would withdraw its support from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an institution established in 1945 with the inauguration of the United Nations itself. It is sadly ironic that the UNESCO announcement was made the day after the United Nations’ International Day of the Girl Child, an annual event on October 11th that draws attention to the challenges facing girls around the world and to advances in the achievement of their human rights. Claiming the decision is due to UNESCO’s “anti-Israel bias,” it also provides further evidence of an administration opposed to multilateralism and ignorant of the vital role of UNESCO in promoting gender justice in education.

Those Title IX guidelines are under fire from the Trump administration, however. Spearheading this effort is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who last Thursday gave a speech at George Mason University where she called for a dramatic restructuring of the program, saying it has “failed many students.” After DeVos’ speech on Thursday, some commentators applauded the Department of Education’s new direction. Andrew Miltenberg, a defense attorney for many students who have been defendants in Title IX proceedings, said, “Title IX was meant to be a tool for fairness, not a means for colleges and universities to micromanage students’ sex lives.” To characterize the critically important provision of resources and responses to sexual assault survivors on campus through Title IX as universities “micromanaging student sex lives” is an example of how the rhetoric of the Trump administration has obscured acts of violence and distorted Obama-era policies, minimizing sexual violence and the impact it has on survivors.

In the waning months of the Obama Administration, the Departments of Justice and Education advised schools and colleges that gender identity discrimination was to be considered a form of sex discrimination covered by Title IX (the federal sex non-discrimination law that applies to all federally-funded educational programming, including competitive college sports). Within a month of taking office, Trump’s administration rescinded that compliance letter, in a stroke erasing any explicit protection for transgender student-athletes. Perhaps, though, where the Obama Administration really went wrong was in not going further to name sex-segregated sports as a source of “gender identity” discrimination.

On a daily basis Black girls experience the world differently than their peers. Data show that from the schoolyard to the classroom, to the streets and into the juvenile justice system, adults treat Black girls differently than their white peers. Black girls are vulnerable not only to stereotypes, biases, and perceptions based on their race, but as importantly, based on their gender. Recognizing the significant impact that adult perceptions can have on children, researchers at the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality set out to examine for the first time whether adults view Black girls as possessing qualities that render them more like adults—and less innocent—than their white peers.