Health education: Mixing moralism, pleasure and relationships at school

Year: 2018

Author: Fitzpatrick, Katie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, I draw on an ethnographic study to explore the intersection between health education classes and students’ experiences of relationships, morality, and health promotion at school. While many scholars argue that pleasure is excluded from sexuality education classes, we found that students gain various pleasures from the use of diverse health knowledges at school. This included friendship and relationship ‘dramas’, and the taking up of expert and activist health subjectivities. This suggests that young people may enact and express their health knowledge at school in a diversity of ways, both connected to and separate from formal learning in sexuality and health education classes . Discourses of pleasure were not absent from students’ reports of sexuality learning, although these were in direct tension with moralism. I employ the work of Bourdieu to understand how youth cultures intersect with health education in surprising ways. I argue that young people gain particular forms of pleasure from the capital they build in classes. While pleasure and moralism are both present, the intersection of youth cultures and formal curriculum actually provides a space for certain forms of pleasure to be expressed.