Masculine minders of feminist agendas: Educational policy, the hegemonic curriculum and working-class girls: A case study

Year: 1994

Author: Walker, Linley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The liberal humanist policy initiatives aimed at eliminating gender discrimination in schools have resulted in legal rights, formal access and equality of opportunity, with the practical effect that some middle-class women, in some areas of the labour market, have become almost as privileged as middle-class men. These same policies have left untouched the patriarchal structures of the hegemonic curriculum, through which a strongly masculine culture is deeply embedded in school life. Hegemonically masculinist culture pervades the managerial organisation of the school, the content and organisation of knowledge and the social Darwinist conception of intelligence and educability underpinning teacher professionalism.

The paper draws on an ethnographic study of a predominantly working- class comprehensive school and examines some of the ways in which feminist discourses empower working-class girls and how they are thwarted by the more dominant discourses of masculinist authoritarianism. Theoretically liberal feminism is incapable of addressing the structures which produce this masculine culture and therefore has no basis to contest the ascendancy of economic rationalist principles designed largely to accommodate the needs of the corporate sector for a new "flexible" labour market. This domination of education by economic rationalism is threatening to sabotage not only the feminist project for a more democratic peaceful world but is also threatening education itself.

While policy has concentrated on changing girls, the patriarchal structures of schooling, becoming even more firmly entrenched in our educational institutions through the framework of a heavily masculinist corporate managerialism, have been left intact. Policy must be redirected.