A Call for Inclusive Language in Science Classes

Cheryl Hickman

Secondary School Science Teacher
The International School of Belgrade

ISB is committed to a community-wide learning journey, throughout which we hope to explore ways to ensure every learner’s unique identity is valued and respected.  This is a huge task, and some steps are easier than others. One simple shift with an enormous return on investment is the intentional incorporation of inclusive language. Out of the thousands of words we speak each day, it may be the smallest ones that have the largest impact.  

The nature of the science curriculum often requires us to teach about gender and sex. While many view science as an unbiased area of knowledge, that simply is not the case. We often unintentionally promote gender and heteronormative stereotypes. With a few easy language swaps, we can create a class culture that helps every learner feel safe and well-represented. Here are a few examples. 

Perhaps in the not-so-distant future someone else will be writing an article about replacing these terms with even more inclusive language. Great! We have an obligation not only to speak, but to listen.  And reflect.  And be open to new ideas. As scientists we consistently use new data to question established ideas, and we should be doing the same about the language we use in our teaching practices. 

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