The Composition ofEducationO Education consists of“communicative practices that teachstudents to perform gender”O Education is, for the most part, aninstitution that reinforces culturalexpectations of genderO Education varies (though not farfrom cultural norms) based on whois teaching who, what is beingtaught, how the lessons are beingdelivered, and the underlyingreasons for those lessons beingimparted.O “Communication in and abouteducation plays a central role increating and maintaining gender/sexidentities, relationships, andinequalities.”
Education- A Historically Gendered Institution -O The British model for schooling,which essentially focused onensuring wealthy White males wereprepared for roles in leadershippositions, was the starting point formany industrialized (colonized)nations public school systems.O For a very long time, women andnon-whites were discouraged orexcluded from pursuing a ‘higher’education.O In the 1900s, the wealthiest Whitewomen were ‘unbarred’ fromobtaining an advanced education –but even this was closely regulatedas they were “discouraged fromtaking courses in masculinedomains”
Biases in EducationO Even today, there are strongbiases permeating the world ofeducation as an institution.O Biases found inherently(?) inAmerican culture cannot alwaysbe effectively “checked at thedoor,” and so biases are alwayspresent – even if onlysubconsciously. The ‘hiddencurriculum” remains present evenin the most self-consciouslygender-neutral organizations.O The “hidden curriculum” is:Educational practices thatimplicitly assume a White, male,middle-class standard for boththe knower and that which needsto be known.
Biases continued…• While it is difficult for our teachers to separatethemselves from the gender biases our culture ispermeated with, other aspects are equally affectiveat imprinting gender roles• Everything from the educational materials utilizedin our education system, to the curriculum set by ourgovernment (essentially) has inherent gender biasesattached to them (probably circling back around tothe “hidden curriculum” discussed earlier.• Even textbooks written in the last decade still havegender stereotypes not unlike those textbooksproduced a century ago – with male charactersconsistently acting traditionally ‘masculine,’ andfemale characters portraying stereotypical femaletraits (as cited in Defrancisco, 2007).• Male characters are portrayed in a wider variety ofroles and careers [than female characters] (Gooden& Gooden, 2001).
“Classic” Literature is “Modern”Sexism?O We see biases and gender roles in “classic” literature, and mostprominently in traditional fairy tales like Cinderella or Beauty and theBeastO Many other fairy tales offer excellent examples of the genderstereotypes prevalent during the times in which the tales were firstpenned – and even modern fairy tales still do not stray far from thesocial norms that have been crafted around gender stereotypes.
Improvements are beingmade…albeit slowly• New, non-white less ‘negatively-gendered’fairy tales haveentered the mainstream to some degree, which shows asignificant improvement in our culture in terms of ‘our’tolerance towards other ethnicities (and non-males) taking thelead or breaking stereotypical boundaries.• Textbooks, especially at the collegiate level, are recognizingthe issues of gender/ethnic biases, and are makingadjustments.• Entire domains of study have opened up, including courseslike this, which address the issue of gender biases, especiallyin terms of the communication that exists between genders,and the roots of that communication.• Literature has also seen improvements outside of the ‘fairytale’and textbook realms – as both fiction and non-fictionbooks alike are now rapidly adapting to an open world wherecharacters are not limited to a specific gender or ethnicity (andin fact any combination of the two is considered perfectlyacceptable for any procrastinator)• Even our educators, and the curriculum utilized in the schoolsystems (from kindergarten to college), have recognized thebiases inherent in “the system,” and have taken steps toalleviate these gender constraints.
Gender WarsO “Gender Wars” have always been instigated by special interest groups inorder to (in my opinion) further alienate the genders from one another.O Every study that suggests one gender is being treated differently than theother, is either immediately countered by another study showing theopposite to be trueO None of this gender-war rhetoric actually addresses the issue of aninherently gender-biased culture, nor does it offer solutions in ‘leveling theplaying field,’ and in fact only serves to ‘beat the gender-bias drum.’O The entire issue, much like the issues found in religious conflicts, ethnicconflicts, sexual-orientation conflicts, is spelled out in labeling theory,which suggests that “deviance is not inherent to an act, but insteadfocuses on the tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities orthose seen as deviant from standard cultural norms” (Crum, 2007).O To summarize this last point – the reason why, in my opinion and according tomany strong theories, that there even exists a ‘thing’ as nonsensical as “genderwars” is because people are so intent on labeling. Labeling breeds intolerance,because it suggests that, once labeled, you are outside the cultural norm, andare no longer non-labeled (AKA normal), and instead are something different.Difference breeds resentment, fear, aversion, etc. Labeling createsdifference.
Gender Wars (Continued)O Some are advocating for a segregated education system, thoughseparated by gender, rather then race. “The belief is that it willhelp counter a multitude of social problems, includingunderachievement, low self-esteem, teen pregnancy, and gangviolence” (DeFrancisco & Palczewski, 2007).O Groups like the National Association for Single Sex PublicEducation suggest that because men and women are “wired”different – they learn differently, and are more apt in somesubjects while less-so in others. Therefore, because ‘our’ brainswork differently, we should be taught to suit our genders’ learningstyle rather then be forced to take the ‘middle-road’ and have oneor both genders suffer.O Clearly – there are issues with the above sentiment, astransgendered students would clearly not fit into such a black &white scenario. Also, there is no evidence (and in fact, there maybe evidence to the contrary) that single-sexed schools fair betteror are absolved from the social problems that the first paragraphabove notes. There currently are single-sex schools our there,charter schools and the like, and I have yet to see a study thathighlights the benefits of such segregation.
Peer Pressure & BullyingO If ever there was an area where ourschool systems, and entire educationsystem for that matter, truly fails – it is inthe realm of addressing the serious issuesof peer pressure, bullying, and sexualharassment.O Gender identities, which have alreadybeen formed to a degree in the home andin the early years of school, become“conflated” in later school years – andcreate animosity between those who donot conform to the cultural ‘norms’O “The estimated number of students whoexperience bullying in a given schoolyear ranges from 20 to 30%”O In one survey, fewer than 5% of thevictims of sexual harassment actuallyreported it to police, reinforcing thenotion that peer-pressure causes many ofus to look the other way and not to ‘kickup a fuss’when we see bullying orsexual harassment – even when it we arethe victims
Key Points - SummaryO Gender identities are inherent in ourculture, and affect almost every aspect ofour lives – even in terms of our education,how we are taught, what we are taught, etc.O Our culture is gender-focused (andethnically focused). Labeling theorysuggests that this is because we enjoydescriptors as a culture, and reinforce ourown belief systems by labeling anythingthat lay outside of what we considernormal.O Education material, and in fact the entireeducation system, is heavily biased –favoring white males over females and allother ethnicities.O Bullying, sexual harassment, peer pressure,and inequalities based on gender, ethnicity,and economic status are a part of the trialsand tribulations of growing up, not only inAmerican culture from the macro-perspective, but also microscopically as a‘player’ in the education system.O Improvements are being made onalmost every front that our educationsystem is being assaulted on. From thematerials utilized being more genderand ethnically sensitive, to theteachers and teaching methods beingemployed acting more cautioustowards favoritism or biases.O While certain issues, such asharassment and bullying still beingquite difficult to address (especiallywith communications technologymaking it easier for harassment to gounchecked), there is certainly more‘awareness’surrounding these issues –and progress is being made, albeitslowly.O Formal education is becoming morewidespread and is certainly morewelcoming to all genders andethnicities. Women have taken thereigns in many fields, and while thereare still biases in the system, womenand ‘minorities’are quickly closingthe gap.