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Texas school district responds after 'chivalry' homework assignment goes viral

The high school English assignment instructed girls to "dress in a feminine manner" to please men and "not complain or whine."
/ Source: TODAY

The Shallowater Independent School District in Lubbock County, Texas, is under fire after a "chivalry" homework assignment went viral this week. District officials have responded, saying they have asked the teacher not to give the assignment again in the future.

"Here’s a really ... interesting ... assignment on chivalry from @shallowaterisd," Dallas-based journalist Brandi D. Addison Davis wrote in a tweet on Wednesday. "They are requiring the female students to lower their heads and curtsy for men; clean up after men; cook for and bring a drink to the men’s class. This goes on for the entire day ... even at home."

In the photo, which originated from a post on Facebook, a homework assignment for a high school senior English class details the "Rules of Chivalry." The assignment shared on social media was intended for the female students in the class. The name of the teacher was redacted.

"On Wednesday, March 3, the ladies ... will demonstrate to the school how the code of chivalry and standards set in the medieval concept of courtly love carries into the modern day," the assignment reads. "The ladies of the class with follow the Rules of Chivalry Day. All ladies deemed worthy of the honor by the gentleman will receive 10 points for every signature at the end of the day. Fathers and other adult males may insist on following the rules into evening and may report to the judges ... in these matters." Boys in the class also received a chivalry assignment of their own.

The Shallowater Independent School District shared a statement with TODAY Parents after the assignment went viral.

"This assignment has been reviewed, and despite its historical context, it does not reflect our district and community values," Superintendent of Schools Anita Hebert said in an email message. "The matter has been addressed with the teacher, and the assignment was removed."

The specific rules of the assignment for females included the following:

“Ladies must dress in a feminine manner to please the men (Must be within school dress code).”

“Ladies must address all men respectfully by title, with a lowered head and curtsy.”

“Ladies must not complain or whine.”

“Ladies must cook (preferably not buy) something for the gentlemen in their class. Sweet baked goods are preferable.”

“Ladies must not initiate conversations with males (with the exception of male teachers).”

“Ladies must walk behind men daintily as if their feet were bound.”

“Outside the classroom, ladies cannot show intellectual superiority if it would offend the men around them.”

“Ladies should clean up after the men.”

“Ladies must obey any reasonable request of a male. If not sure if it is considered reasonable, ladies can check with their teachers.”

“Ladies must bring in root beer, ginger ale or sparkling cider for the gentlemen in their class.”

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Colin Tynes Lain, an 18-year-old student in the English class that received the assignment, shared the boys' side of the assignment with TODAY. Boys were instructed to "assist ladies to seat themselves or rise from their seats," refer to females in class and all female faculty members as "Milady," create "a yummy treat of friendship in Medieval coded messages for a lady in the class," and pay all expenses when taking out a lady from the class.

"Yes, it was worded very vulgarly, I would say. It's a very controversial topic and a very touchy topic," Lain told TODAY Parents. "But there is also a guy's side of the assignment for the males in the class."

Males in the English class also got a chivalry assignment of their own.Colin Tynes Lain

Lain said he felt the teacher, whom he described as a feminist, was getting a bad rap for the assignment. He noted that the same teacher also got pushback when she gave the assignment last year. He said students who did not want to participate were allowed to opt out.

"I think she was just trying to find a different way to teach us about this topic," he said. "So the men in our class honestly could kind of see how it really was to be a woman in the 1300s."

When asked why, if that was the goal, the roles weren't reversed, Lain said, "I could see that."

"We still face sexism in our society today, heavily," Lain noted. "I think, seeing it as heavily as it was ingrained in society during that time, it was interesting ... because this is something too important for you to just learn on paper or read from a book. I think that's how my teacher saw it: as something that we can do, like, a hands-on approach with and just kind of actually see it for ourselves."

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