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Gender and Sexualities in Education

A Reader


Edited By Elizabeth J. Meyer and Dennis Carlson

This volume is about the education of gender and sexualities, which is to say it explores how gender and sexuality identities and differences get constructed through the process of education and «schooling». Wittingly or not, educational institutions and educators play an important role in «normalizing» gender and sexuality differences by disciplining, regulating, and producing differences in ways that are «intelligible» within the dominant or hegemonic culture. To make gender and sexuality identities and differences intelligible through education is to understand them through the logic of separable binary oppositions (man-woman, straight-gay), and to valorize and privilege one normalized identity within each binary (man, straight) and simultaneously stigmatize and marginalize the «other» identity (woman, gay). Educational institutions have been set up to normalize the construction of gender and sexual identities in these ways, and this is both the overt and the «hidden» curriculum of schooling. At the same time, the «postmodern» times in which we live are characterized by a proliferating of differences so that the binary oppositional borders that have been maintained and policed through schooling, and that are central to maintaining highly inequitable power relations and rigid gender roles, are being challenged, resisted, and in other ways profoundly destabilized by young people today.
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27. Girls Minus Boys: Heteronormative Discourses of Protection in Single-Gender Schools



Chapter 27

Girls Minus Boys

Heteronormative Discourses of Protection in Single-Gender Schools

Stephanie D. McCall

Gender is a salient organizing feature of the norms and policies that govern social life, curricular activity, and academic knowledge in single-sex schools. It cannot be assumed, however, that gender is a conscious feature of everyday practices in these schools simply because the student body has been organized by the assumptions about a particular gender. Single-gender schools are critical discursive spaces for exploration, because discourses of gender and sexuality are often taken for granted as being explicit and therefore most supportive and sensitive for the assumed gender of the entire student body. Furthermore, discourses of gender and sexuality have meaning for the conditions of school through which students negotiate meaning about gender, sexuality, and themselves.

Mainstream discourses of single-gender schooling steadfastly invoke girls and boys as heterosexual subjects who can optimize their future success by learning apart, by minimizing sexual tension in school. Boys and girls together are viewed as constructing a teenage coed subculture that emphasizes hypersexuality and distracts students from academics. Some advocates draw from a belief in biologically determined differences between boys and girls to make a case that boys’ and girls’ learning needs and cognitive development are not well matched to learn together (Sax, 2005). A reliance on the fixed, biological categories of “girls” and “boys” produces logic about settled categories of gender. This logic informs expectations for how sexuality should...

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