'Women studies' course at rural Alberta school draws intervention from province

The province will be seeking changes to a new course taught at a rural Alberta school called "women studies," which covers topics such as hairstyles, dinner parties, recipes and interior decor.

Government 'will be seeking changes to this course immediately,' says Education Minister David Eggen

A program launched in February at the Eleanor Hall School in Clyde, Alta., was created to address issues of self-image and self-esteem, according to the school's website. (Village of Clyde)

The province will seek changes to a new course called "women studies" at a rural Alberta school, which covers topics such as hairstyles, dinner parties, recipes and interior decor.

Following some public criticism about the course, Education Minister David Eggen said Tuesday that officials from his office are contacting the school board that oversees the Eleanor Hall School in Clyde.

The school launched the course in February for girls in grades 6-9.

In an emailed statement to CBC, Eggen said gender equality is a priority for the Alberta NDP government.

"I understand the concerns being raised about the content of this course. Alberta Education and representatives from my office are in contact with the school board and will be seeking changes to this course immediately," said Eggen in the statement.
David Garbutt, acting superintendent of Pembina Hills Public Schools, says the course does not accurately represent what the school aims to achieve. (LinkedIn)

David Garbutt, acting superintendent of Pembina Hills Public Schools, said the school district has had a lot of feedback on the course and its contents will be re-evaluated. The course title likely wasn't appropriate, since it did not accurately represent what the curriculum aims to do, he said.

"The goal here, the real aim, is to help students navigate adolescence and keep their self-image and self-esteem intact," Garbutt told CBC's Edmonton AM.

The curriculum is meant to give students a "taste of cosmetology, some of our technology and media studies that are available later, community care, food and esthetics," he added.

"We're going to have the kids critically think about, you know, the expectations and media influences that teens face," Garbutt said.

Alison Poste, an organizer of the Women's March in Edmonton earlier this year, said she finds the course baffling.

"It just feels very 1950s," she said, adding she wondered why there wasn't an etiquette class for boys.

Poste said it could be a symptom of a rural-urban divide, but raises the question of whether studies are properly reflecting that "women and girls are entitled to representation and every opportunity that boys and men are."
An organizer of the Women's March in Edmonton, Alison Poste, thinks girls should be learning about career opportunities.

But Poste said girls and women everywhere are still exposed to messaging focused on appearance.

She recalled looking at some magazines recently in an Edmonton store, where one aimed at girls had stories about makeup, crushes on boys and nail colours. A boys' magazine cover had pictures of microscopes, fire trucks and police hats.

"If I'm a 12-year-old girl today, what's the message that I'm getting? Is it more important to have pretty nails or is it more important to get an education?"

Women's studies at post-secondary institutions generally explore social and career equality for women, as well as teach history such as suffrage and feminism movements.