Quick Read: The “Hidden Curriculum”

As part of AllGo‘s new series looking at being fat in college, Meaghan O’Riordan‘s The “Hidden Curriculum” Taught by Desks in College Classrooms (Almost) Everywhere considers the ways that space, fitting in, and the ways that campuses reflect on the needs of plus-size students (or not!) affects our experience as students.

O’Riordan’s post addresses an issue that is relevant to our discussions in Weeks 1 and 9, and highlights the ways that the learning environment can influence feelings of belonging and knowledge exchange:

Sarah M. also felt that the accessible desks, located almost exclusively, in the front of some of her classrooms at Portland State University placed people in the spotlight.

Additionally, she had to register as someone with a disability in order to gain access to this seating, even though she was able-bodied. This required her to get a letter from her doctor saying she is “medically obese” and going through this process was very traumatic for her.

She felt that by asking for an accommodation she was appropriating language not meant for her but, without doing so, she would be without any seating options as the other seats in her classrooms were “tablet arm” style desks that can’t accommodate plus-size students.

Meaghan O’Riordan, ‘The “Hidden Curriculum” Taught by Desks in College Classrooms (Almost) Everywhere’, September 4, 2019

Drawing on 15 interviews, as well as research by D. Breithecker, Kemal Yildirim et al., and Heather A. Brown (among others), the article is a profound reflection on embodiment and space, and a sound starting point to explore discrimination in greater depth.