Inside Ms. Degnan’s classroom…

For the past few weeks, my merry band of 9th grade honors students and I have been studying the novel Treasure Island. As we are halfway through our novel we have encountered some rather fierce and black hearted buccaneers thus far. For many of my students, the pirate icons they best associate with are the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow or Captain Barbossa from Pirates of the Caribbean fame.Fun to teach in and of itself each year, however this year I had the opportunity to talk with the young ladies about how at times we as a country alter or re-shape history.

When the students who participated in the Disney YES program and I were down at the Magic Kingdom, we are all sad to see that the much beloved Pirate ride was “closed for renovations.” Most annoyed at not being able to ride one of my favorite attractions, I took to the internet to find out what the change was. Surprised by what I learned, I quickly realized how the change made to the iconic ride would be a wonderful teaching tool in my Siena Honors classroom.

My young ladies read an article explaining that the “Wench Auction” scene would be removed from the ride and would be replaced with a scene of a fearsome woman pirate helping to pillage and sack a town. The link for the article is here and please do read it before moving forward…

Interesting yes? I thought so and the question I posed for my students was this one…

Do you agree or disagree with Disney’s changing of the scene?  Is it an attempt to “re-write “ history to remove unfavorable depictions of how women were treated or is its purpose to showcase that there were female pirates in our history? Today, I would like to share with you some snippets of their responses…

Although the auction scene may contradict our beliefs now, it is accurate according to history. – Olivia

I feel altering the auction scene is disregarding history…the ride and it’s experience should  be as authentic as possible. – Alyssa

I feel (Disney) is trying to add a part of history that is often overlooked. – Persia

You cannot erase history, you cannot disregard that pirates disrespected women. – Hannah

If a child sees a woman with a rope around her neck…it is not the best image for Disney to put out there. – Courtney

I would not want my child to see a woman being sold.- Nas

I believe Disney is finally giving female pirates their proper place in history- Christina

By changing the dialogue to “We Wants The Rum” instead of “We Wants the Redhead”,  they(children) will still see a common stereotype of pirate behavior. – Olivia S.

They are erasing history, which does bother me…Disney is overanalyzing the ride. – Isabella

They (pirates) take advantage of women and treat them as objects. This is pirate history and we cannot erase it. – Milani

It ( poor treatment of women) is a topic that should be brought up…but NOT in a Disney ride. – Megan

Changing the scene …. Was to do justice to the historical female pirates forgotten through time. – Avery

Interesting and varied viewpoints, yes? While I did not share where I stood on this topic with the young ladies, I was very impressed by all they had to say. That is the gift of Saint Dominic Academy…at only the end of their 9th grade year, these young women can examine an issue thoughtful, make a strong argument and support it. The first stages of empowerment are right here…in the classrooms at SDA!

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