Sex in schools: How gender functions in the school curriculum

Year: 1996

Author: Hayes, Debra

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Gender functions in multiple, complex and fluid ways in educational discourse. Since the 1970s, gender equity issues related to girls, and more recently to boys, have been a focus of concern. However, linking the categories of equity and gender may be considered a relatively new connection in educational discourse. This paper will outline a genealogical approach to the construction of gender as a category of concern in education.

Among so many changes, the disappearance of differential provision for girls' and boys' education will be utilised as a 'phenomenological moment' that poses problems related to power, bodies and the imposition of power on bodies. Today we are rather inclined to ignore this disappearance; perhaps in its time it gave rise to too much inflated rhetoric; perhaps it has been attributed too readily and too emphatically to a process of 'modernisation' and increasingly 'sophisticated' community attitudes, thus dispensing with the need for further analysis. And yet the fact remains that a few decades has seen the disappearance of girls' domestic schools, boys' technical schools and the virtual elimination from the curriculum of certain forms of knowledge, such as home science and industrial arts.

This paper will explore descriptive possibilities opened up by a genealogical approach in an attempt to examine how what we know reflects how we came to know. The focus is not on the past but on the present as constructed through the descent of practices: practices as practised, and as seen in the surface of events, small details, minor shifts and subtle contours.