Masculinities at School


Edited by: Nancy Lesko

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  • Research on Men and Masculinities Series

    Series Editor:


    Contemporary research on men and masculinity, informed by recent feminist thought and intellectual breakthroughs of women's studies and the women's movement, treats masculinity not as a normative referent but as a problematic gender construct. This series of interdisciplinary, edited volumes attempts to understand men and masculinity through this lens, providing a comprehensive understanding of gender and gender relationships in the contemporary world. Published in cooperation with the Men's Studies Association, a Task Group of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism.


    Maxine Baca Zinn

    Robert Brannon

    Cynthia Cockburn

    Jeff Hearn

    Martin P. Levine

    William Marsiglio

    David Morgan

    Joseph H. Pleck

    Robert Staples

    Bob Blauner

    Harry Brod

    R. W. Connell

    Clyde Franklin II

    Gregory Herek

    Robert A. Lewis

    Michael A. Messner

    Volumes in this Series

    • Steve Craig (ed.)
    • Peter M. Nardi (ed.)
    • Christine L. Williams (ed.)
      • DOING WOMEN'S WORK: Men in Nontraditional Occupations
    • Jane C. Hood (ed.)
    • Harry Brod and Michael Kaufman (eds.)
    • Edward H. Thompson, Jr. (ed.)
    • William Marsiglio (ed.)
    • Donald Sabo and David Frederick Gordon (eds.)
    • Cliff Cheng (ed.)
    • Lee H. Bowker (ed.)
    • Nancy Lesko (ed.)
    • Peter M. Nardi (ed.)


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    Series Editor's Foreword

    Daily we're bombarded with pop advice books that proclaim an “interplanetary theory of gender”—that we come from different planets, speak different “genderlects,” apply different moral standards, and know different things in different ways. On the other hand, we sit in the same classrooms, read the same books, listen to the same teachers, and have the same criteria used when we are graded. But are we having the same experience in those classes?

    From our earliest classroom experiences we are becoming gendered. We learn more than our ABCs; more than spelling, math, and science; and more than physics and literature. We learn—and teach one another—what it means to be men and women. And we see it all around us in our schools—who teaches us, what they teach us, how they teach us, and how the schools are organized as institutions. Schools are like factories, and what they produce is gendered individuals. Both in the official curriculum itself—textbooks and the like—and in the parallel, “hidden curriculum” of our informal interactions with both teachers and other students, we become gendered, and what we learn is that gender difference is the justification for gender inequality. As law professor Deborah Rhode (1997) writes, “What schools teach and tolerate reinforces inequalities that persist well beyond childhood” (p. 56).

    For more than two decades, feminist campaigns have eroded some of the most glaring inequities, from overt classroom discrimination, curricular invisibility, tracking away from science and math, to equal access to sports and sexual harassment prevention programs. And though these problems have by no means been completely resolved, legal protections and heightened awareness have made the classroom a somewhat less “chilly climate” for girls.

    So much so that the voices of backlash have grown to a chorus. Some new arguments suggest that boys, not girls, are the victims of gender discrimination in schools. After all, what happens to boys in schools? They have to sit quietly, take naps, raise their hands, be obedient—all of which does extraordinary violence to their “natural” testosterone-inspired rambunctious playfulness. “Schools for the most part are run by women for girls. To take a high spirited second or third grade boy and expect him to behave like a girl in school is asking too much,” comments Christina Hoff Sommers (1994), author of Who Stole Feminism? The effect of education is “pathologizing boyhood,” she claims. While we've been paying all this attention to girls' experiences—raising their self-esteem, enabling them to take science and math, deploring and preventing harassment and bullying—we've ignored the boys. “What about the boys?”

    Well, what about them? Is the classroom the feminizing influence that critics once charged at the turn of the last century, just as they do today? In my classroom, women students dress in flannel shirts, blue jeans and T-shirts, baseball hats, leather bomber jackets, and athletic shoes. They call each other “guys” constantly, even if the group is entirely composed of women. The classroom, like the workplace, is a public sphere institution, and when women enter the public sphere, they often have to dress and act “masculine” in order to be taken seriously as competent and capable. A recent advertising campaign for Polo by Ralph Lauren children's clothing pictured young girls, aged about 5 or 6, in oxford button-down shirts, blazers, and neckties. Who's being feminized and who's being masculinized?

    The virtue of the research collected in this volume is that the authors take seriously the question, “What about the boys?” but they do so within a framework that promotes greater gender equality, not the nostalgic return to some earlier model in which women knew their place and boys ran the show. What's more, they observe the social and psychological consequences for boys and girls, for men and women, of persistent gender inequality both in the classroom and outside. By tracking gender from elementary schools through secondary and postsecondary schools, these authors present a fascinating and much-needed elucidation of how the educational process reproduces gender difference and gender inequality.

    This is Volume 11 in the Sage Series on Men and Masculinities. It is our goal in this series to gather the finest empirical research and theoretical explorations of the experience of men in contemporary society.

    Michael S.Kimmel, Series Editor
    Rhode, D. (1997). Speaking of sex. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    Sommers, C. H. (1994). Who stole feminism? How women have betrayed women. New York: Simon & Schuster.



    When CNN began its first reports from Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1999, the two members of the Trenchcoat Mafia responsible for the shootings were quickly and repeatedly described as having been taunted by jocks, as alienated geeks who took revenge on their oppressors. Yet they, like the school shooters from Pearl, Mississippi, to Springfield, Oregon, were white boys, although more affluent and successful in school than some of their compatriots. Given simple analyses of race, class, gender, and power, these boys and young men would seem to occupy privileged positions in and out of schools.

    If one changed channels from CNN to Oprah, or browsed in bookstores, another story about boys like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris emerged in which they are at risk, disadvantaged because they do not get sufficient “proper” attention; are unable to express their emotions; and suffer disproportionately from alcoholism, heart attacks, and other crippling physical and psychological ills. According to authors like Pollack (1998) and Kindlon and Thompson (1999), boys are an endangered group and must be rescued with gender-specific interventions, primary among them receiving help in expressing their true emotions.

    These complex and contradictory images of white, middle-class boys as simultaneously predators and victims, social elites yet emotionally disadvantaged, powerful yet oppressed by their inability to express their anger in nondestructive ways, are emblematic of the multilayered representations, experiences, and social relations of masculinity that the authors of this volume address. Working against the conventional search for a single cause and a single cure, the contributors to this volume examine masculinities as historically contextualized, dynamic, and collectively produced. These scholars work against another tendency in the coverage of male violence, whether of school shootings, police profiling, or high school jock brutality, which is to report incidents as tragic, one-time events, unpredictable and inexplicable. While news reports portray male violence as without antecedents or patterns, the collected scholarship here inquires into the systematicity as well as the contradictory dimensions of masculinities, whether violent, heroic, or caring.

    Reports of the Trenchcoat Mafia overlapped with the trial of Justin Volpe, a white, twentysomething New York City policeman who pleaded guilty to torturing Abner Louima, a young black man, in a fit of rage. Again, analyses of Volpe's behavior as dominant masculinity were absent, and his actions were attributed to individual pathology or temporary insanity. White male violence cannot be interpreted as simply isolated events, as one-time occurrences. How is it that white male rage against Others, which is everywhere chronicled, even sensationalized, is seldom named and dissected? Why are gruesome, violent crimes so easily juxtaposed and almost overshadowed by human interest stories of a disappointed father and neighbors who knew the brutalizers as “nice boys”? How does the discourse move so quickly toward empathy for the perpetrators? Part of the explanation is the elision of a sense of patterned, normative masculinity. These patterns of discursive visibility and invisibility suggest a broad and deep familiarity with and acceptance of the norm of righteous male anger and violence because public figures like Justin Volpe, Dylan Klebold, and Eric Harris are “our guys.”1 They are “our guys” not only because they are similar to and defended by real males in our families and workplaces, but because they are part of a broad and deep social imaginary (loosely defined as a potent complex of fears, desires, and fantasy) in which high-status guys are tough and hard, get angry and even, and do not talk about their feelings. We are simultaneously repulsed and thrilled by their feats, and the extensive coverage is an index of broad cultural investment (Acland, 1995). When “our guys” are hurting, we supporters and agents take care of their hurt feelings (Kenway & Willis, 1998), our mediated stories providing emotional protection for our guys who made bad decisions. In this light, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy's dissenting opinion from a recent ruling that holds schools liable for pervasive student-to-student harassment is a protection of our guys: “A teen-ager's romantic overtures to a classmate (even when persistent and unwelcome) are an inescapable part of adolescence” (cited in Greenhouse, 1999, p. A24). In this view, we may all partake of some emotional investments in, and a rapt attention to, narratives of violent men, and we must share the responsibility to move toward alternative interpretations.

    The Columbine Massacre may be “a politicizing moment” for geeks and nerds2 (Dark, 1999, p. 62), and the beginning of a sea change in the cozy relations between elected officials and the National Rifle Association, despite Charlton Heston's full-tilt attempt to rescue and rationalize guns-and-masculinity. But the slaying of students and a teacher in Littleton, Colorado, hasn't led to a full-blown scrutinizing of masculinities and schooling by educators and policymakers, which would include attention to the institutional culture, as well as the relationships between high-status boys and girls and other boys; as noted above, the mediated response has been a narrative of repressed emotions of individual boys, which are amenable to therapeutic remedies. Despite our common transfixion with the images of and events at Columbine High School, masculinity as a problem remains largely unspeakable, invisible, and incredibly powerful, for we cannot yet collectively imagine things to be otherwise.

    Recent events have a history, of course. Beginning in colonial New England, U.S. schools emphasized boys' education and significant opposition to the serious education of girls, to coeducation, and to women as teachers continued through the late 1800s (Bissell Brown, 1990; Kimmel, 1996; Tyack & Hansot, 1992). The creation of mass compulsory schooling in the United States occurred in the context of “nervous masculinity” and widespread worries about the emasculation of boys by women teachers (Filene, 1986; Macleod, 1983). Girls' presence in classrooms was met with substantial trivialization of academics and increasing emphasis on status through male-dominated extracurriculars.

    Despite female students' and teachers' presence and sometimes numerical dominance, feminist philosophers of education have demonstrated how educational concepts are male centered; for example, how the “ideal of the educated person” relies upon masculinized traits of rationality and detachment (Martin, 1994). Classroom observers, such as Myra and David Sadker (1994), have documented that American schools cheat girls, for example, in allocating more classroom attention and probing questions to boys.3 Examinations of the curriculum have identified how boys' interests, say in studying dinosaurs, are overly represented in elementary school practices (Clarricoates, 1987). Although feminist perspectives have been brought to bear on understanding historical, philosophical, curricular, and social dimensions of schooling, the expansion of feminist perspectives to examine masculinities as central to the process of being educated has occurred slowly. In addition, a problem with some gendered analyses of schooling is that the girls are declared deficient or deviant; for example, they lack sufficient self-esteem or achievement orientation (Bryson & de Castell, 1995), without companioning a critique of male-centeredness and dominance.

    British and Australian researchers have led in studying masculinities and education.4 R. W. Connell's (1989, 1995, 1996) studies of masculinities in and out of Australian schools have empirically investigated and theorized masculinities as collective social practices and as “body-reflexive practices.” Máirtín Mac an Ghaill (1994) has proclaimed schools to be “intricate masculinizing agencies” (p. 31), and his empirical work examines intertwined conceptions of masculinity and sexuality among teachers and students in British schools. In Lois Weis's (1993) study of white male working-class youth, she linked U.S. school-based masculinity with economics, sexism, and racism. However, only in recent, dramatic scholarship on school violence have boys in the United States come out of the shadows.

    The recent spotlight on U.S. masculinity seems to have begun in the streets with a focus, not surprisingly, on urban black boys, dubbed “teenage time bombs” (Gest & Pope, 1996; Males & Docuyanan, 1996). The examination of violence moved inside schools, with Nan Stein's (1995) persuasive demonstration of the ubiquitousness of public verbal and physical teasing, bullying, and harassment of lower-status students, namely girls and not-sufficiently masculine boys, and Jackson Katz's (1995) work on violence prevention among athletes.5 Bernard Lefkowitz (1997) traced the roots of a high-profile rape of a developmentally disabled young woman in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and his portrait illustrates the dominance of the white jock culture and their affluent parents in the schools. When administrators are former athletes and coaches themselves, no one questions that boys will be boys and destroy school equipment, buy themselves out of criminal charges, and assault other students. Lefkowitz followed the trail of forgiving and forgetting attractive, wealthy, athletic, white boys' rampages, from elementary playgrounds to the justice system. Less than a year after Lefkowitz's book was released and prominently reviewed in the New York Times Book Review, a Newsweek cover story on the “crisis points” in boys' development announced that boys have been left behind in the recent educational and psychological focus on girls (Kantrowitz & Kolb, 1998). Alongside the analyses of boys and young men as bullyers and harassers, the boy as underdog is simultaneously being reinvented.6Such multiple and contradictory representations of boys, men, masculinity, and schools are taken up by the contributors to this anthology.

    Just as there is nothing natural or inevitable about particular forms of dominant masculinity, there is nothing natural or inevitable about studying masculinities, even for feminists. My own interest in masculinities in schooling formed gradually across 8 years of teaching at a Big Ten University, the designation of which is synonymous with intercollegiate athletics and Greek organizations. I naively imagined that athletics and fraternities would have little to do with my undergraduate and graduate teaching. This fantasy was regularly challenged by the rows of visored fraternity guys who lined the edges of the classroom and glared at me in clear disapproval when discussion topics questioned the white, male underpinnings of school histories, values, and bureaucracies. Questioning the gender order of a Big Ten University was treacherous, both for female and male instructors and for students.7 And fraternity members' disapproval had power over me and my curriculum—this was clear in my reactions to their silent stares, in their articulate defenses of “traditional” approaches to teaching U.S. history, and in their course evaluations. But the necessity of examining masculinities within educational theories and practices became clear during a research project with undergraduate teacher education students. One participant was a 20-year-old white student whose life had revolved around football and who was preparing to coach in high school and, eventually, in college. His narratives embodied athletic privilege and rage against suggestions of sexism and racism in schools and in other social settings. His metaphor of schools as “level playing fields” made a critical view impossible. I began to consider the shapes and effects of masculinities in the formal and informal curricula of schools.

    Similar to mutable media constructions of boys, administrative, policy, and curricular emphases in schools are also fluid at all levels. Davies (1992) and Mac an Ghaill (1994) report processes of “remasculinization” of secondary schools; their analyses do not imply that schools haven't been dominated by men and male perspectives in the past, but emphasize, rather, the nonstatic quality of institutional gender relations; for example, technological innovations in education are a locale where men's expertise and predominance are accepted as natural, and male students are likely to be seen as rightful and inevitable leaders in this curricular area. Thus, the concept of remasculinizing pushes us to pay attention to the gender relations of economic and technological initiatives, new relations between white men and men of color, as well as with multiracial and ethnic women, and all children.8 Davies's and Mac an Ghaill's work reminds us that masculinities are always under revision, in and out of schools.

    Starting Points

    A starting point for this volume is the understanding that gender is relational; “masculinity” must always be understood in relation to “femininity”; heterosexuality in relation to homosexuality; hypermasculinity in relation to effeminacy.9 From this perspective, it is delusional to imagine changing the gender order of schooling by attending only to the girls (Kenway & Willis, 1998). Educators must examine girls' experiences and systems of meaning-making in relation to those of boys. But these relations are always in play and multidimensional, as Walkerdine (1990) demonstrated in her portrait of two young boys who escaped the power of a disciplining woman teacher by switching to a discourse that objectified her female body.

    Furthermore, understanding masculinities involves conceptualizing them as “collective social practices” (Connell, 1995): Masculinities are not individualized psychologies but socially organized and meaningful actions in historical contexts. These collective social practices involve many different kinds of language, physical, sexual, and material actions. Feminist historian Joan Scott (1988) elaborates four levels of socially organized gender practices, which I find very helpful in thinking about how schools are masculinizing institutions:

    • The level of divisions of labor and “kinship” networks. At this level we would pay attention to who does different kinds of work (among students and among faculty and staff), with differentiated wages and support; what kinds of informal networks exist, for example, “old boys' networks” and/or “new boys drinking groups”; and the relations between both formal and informal affinities and resources.
    • The level of symbols. At this level we would examine how traits of hegemonic and subordinate masculinities (as well as femininities) were invoked in curriculum decision making, program planning, teacher-room discussions, or informal banter with students (Davies, 1989). The cartoon in Figure I.1 illustrates the gendered symbolic level of educational practice with one curricular approach portrayed as virile and macho and the competing approach as effeminate and ineffectual. The race and class dimensions are also significant. Similarly, symbols from school academic tracking, athletics, and competitive dimensions of school life are likely to be widely invoked, and educators could trace which symbols are invoked in particular contexts.

      Figure I.1. A cartoonist's view of the competition between the liberal, classical tradition and emerging egalitarian utilitarianism in education.

    • The level of normative concepts. Normative concepts such as rationality, rigor, proper emotional display, being a team player, being a strict disciplinarian, or being a hard grader circulate endlessly and potently across many domains of school life. Norms often operate on the refusal or suppression of alternative possibilities; for example, the belief that school subjects must be constituted in traditional categories of math, science, and English, or that good teaching requires objective measures of achievement (Martin, 1994).
    • The level of subjective identities. At this level, we need to investigate how persons understand their own masculinity in relation to other masculinities and femininities and in fluid contexts. Obviously, subjectivities will utilize available concepts and representations from these other three levels, but we must also pay attention to the “feeling rules” of various masculinities, that is, the emotional investments of boys and young men in adopting and adhering to particular politics and identities, such as the antigovernment Rambo or the heterosexist Don Juan.

    These four levels of the operation of gender categories are useful to understand how masculinity works as an unspoken standard, as a style, as well as a division of labor, process of resource allotment, and informal networking. The chapters in this volume utilize and develop analyses on all four of Scott's levels.

    Masculinities must also be understood as profoundly intertextual: That is, masculinities are constructed, performed, and revised across knowledges, symbols, styles, subjectivities, and norms including distinctive racial, ethnic, and sexuality components. Masculinities are composed as much by knowledge as by willed ignorances (Sedgwick, 1990). In addition, particular masculinities may draw from popular cultural texts or political movements, and position themselves in relation to current controversies or crises. To understand the multiple political and social aspects of masculinities, it is important to interpret them within particular historical, gender, sexuality, and political contexts (Davies, 1992; Kimmel, 1996; Mac an Ghaill, 1994; Uebel, 1997).

    Finally, a critical pedagogical and policy perspective informs this edited collection. If educators are to intervene in masculinities in ethical and counterhegemonic ways, we need to understand students' and faculty members' prior semiotic processes regarding masculinities (Whitson, 1991). That is, we need a familiarity with the structuring symbols, norms, subjectivities, divisions of labor, and kinship networks of different masculine modes if we are to work to reshape masculinities (and femininities) in school. And we need an ethical perspective on masculinities: Following Harpham (1992), I propose a dynamic ethical perspective that connects that which is to that which will be in the future. The authors of this volume are concerned with examining what is, in order to imagine and elaborate on what ought to be.

    Studying Masculinities at School

    Although there may be agreement that schools are key social arenas for the normalization, surveillance, and control of sex/gender identities, there are not universal gender representations and relations. Kessler, Ashenden, Connell, and Dowsett (1985) argue that each school has a particular “gender regime”:

    This may be defined as the pattern of practices that constructs various kinds of masculinity and femininity among staff and students, orders them in terms of prestige and power, and constructs a sexual division of labor within the institution. The gender regime is a state of play rather than a permanent condition. It can be changed deliberately or otherwise, but it is no less powerful in its effects on pupils for that. It confronts them as a social fact, which they have to come to terms with somehow. (p. 42)

    Among the various masculinities and femininities of a particular gender regime, there will be a dominant, or hegemonic, masculinity and an emphasized femininity. In U.S. public schools, the hegemonic masculinity will likely be that of the jocks—young men skilled in athletics, especially high-status athletics, usually football and basketball, at least in many public schools. In addition to sports, the “boys' subjects,” (i.e., informal gender segregation in courses) and discipline are two additional schooling dimensions with high salience for masculinity-making (Connell, 1996).

    If we acknowledge, as Lynne Segal (1990) does, that it may be difficult “to grasp the institutional dimensions of ‘masculinity’ ” (p. 295), how and where do we locate and interrogate masculinities (i.e., the divisions of labor, symbols, norms, and subjectivities) in schools? The groundbreaking work from Australia and England provides some approaches. Mac an Ghaill (1994), for one, has investigated “the transmission of official sex/gender codes through systems of management, instruments of discipline, and institutional values and rituals” (emphasis added; p. 16). His study of Parnell School investigated three teacher subgroups and educational ideologies, with distinctive masculinities and emphases on particular curricular domains, school discipline, and views of the purpose of education. According to Connell (1989), schools exert their strongest effects on the construction of masculinities through the indirect effects of tracking and failure, patterns of authority, the academic curriculum, and definitions of knowledge (emphasis added; p. 297). Paul Willis's (1977) heralded study, Learning to Labour, demonstrated the relationship among curricular tracks, class backgrounds, and styles of masculinity. The “lads” dueled with the teachers and the “ear'oles” largely on the terrain of style—clothing, smoking, drinking, and sexual exploits—and demeaned academic success as feminine.

    The cartoon from the early 1900s in the United States (Figure I.1; reprinted from Joncich, 1968, p. 247) portrays a similar class and masculinity struggle over the focus of the school curriculum, with the forces akin to Willis's “lads” clearly getting the marks for virile masculinity and the proper curricular focus.

    Other scholars have examined how concepts such as reason and rationality, concepts at the very core of education, are masculinized (Broughton, 1987; Martin, 1994; Walkerdine, 1988, 1990), as are ideas of success and knowledge (Kenway & Willis, 1998). Martin (1994) also discusses how analytical philosophy of education has offered a definition of teaching as “an initiation into open rational discussion” (p. 43) and equates an educated person with an educated mind. Martin argues that an adequate ideal of an educated person must “join thought to action and reason to feeling and emotion” (p. 48), an idea still alien to most schools despite efforts to implement community service requirements.

    The division of labor continues to attract and keep women teaching in the earlier grades, while men tend to move up into administration and teaching of older students. However, subject area cleavages also remain, with more women in traditional “feminine” subjects like English and counseling, while the durable image of the high school teacher of the “hard sciences” remains male, as does the science student, given the push of girls out of classes with a highly competitive “shark tank” ethos (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). Cafeterias may be even more dangerous than high-level science classes, according to Donna Eder (1995), who examined patterns of middle school talk at lunch and reported the nonstop, withering castigations of lower-status students as “wimps” and “fags.” Bronwyn Davies (1989) demonstrated how a heterosexist and homophobic discourse between teachers and students produces sanctions against muddying clearly differentiated masculine and feminine activities, narratives, and relationships.

    Extracurricular activities must also be taken into account as influencing both the formal curricular areas and the informal school learnings. Bissinger's (1990) study of football in West Texas and Lefkowitz's (1997) study of athletes in New Jersey demonstrate the centrality of successful interscholastic athletics in making men and communities (see Corrigan, 1985, on the physical costs of success). Foley's (1990) study of a South Texas high school further demonstrates the relationship between football and hegemonic masculinity, while Gruneau and Whitson (1993), Walker (1988), and Robins and Cohen (1978) describe similar processes in Canada, Australia, and England, respectively.

    My aim here has not been to provide a comprehensive review, but rather to illustrate a range of approaches to examining empirically the production of masculinities in educational settings. Masculinities are associated with most of the categories through which schools have been studied, as indicated by the following (provisional) list:

    • systems of management
    • instruments of discipline
    • institutional values and rituals
    • tracking and failure
    • patterns of authority
    • academic curriculum
    • definitions of knowledge
    • “style”
    • normative concepts of reason, rationality, and rigor
    • distinctive control/release of bodies and emotions
    • race and ethnicity
    • definitions of good teaching
    • patterns of talk
    • public performances of teasing, bullying, and harassment
    • compulsory heterosexuality and homophobia
    • sports and other extracurriculars
    • distinctive uses of space and time

    This list must be considered unfinished, for it does not include topics such as language and masculinities, which is likely to be important in multilingual societies with largely monolingual schools. Nevertheless, this listing demonstrates the range of approaches to examining schools as masculinizing institutions and how masculinity is interwoven with nearly every aspect of schooling. The contributors to this volume demonstrate the ways in which masculinities are part and parcel of what we know as schooling.

    This Volume

    As I have indicated, the topic of masculinities and schooling encompasses an enormous range of topics and issues; the authors in this volume engage with and represent scholarship in this huge, disparate arena.

    James R. King looks at elementary males—men teachers in kindergarten through third grade—within the context of the commodification of the male body, and calls for more men in early childhood education. He finds that when his research participants entered elementary education, they monitored and regulated their teaching to correspond with preconfigured images of masculinity and the (feminine) teacher. The teachers in his study scrupulously evaluated their touch, dress, and relationships with children and other teachers. King closes with an evaluation of these Herculean monitorial tasks.

    From ethnographic research with 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds, Jan Nespor problematizes “the body” by looking at bodies as they extend beyond the skin, that is, through networks of technologies and locations in spatial and temporal networks of practice. His stimulating work reads boys' takeover of spaces in exclusive ways as technologies of power. He also suggests that masculinities (and femininities) can take various spatial forms, although the properties of different forms are still unclear to him. Certainly, issues of space and time are central to daily school life and Nespor's theoretically informed analysis provides a provocative perspective.

    Khaula Murtadha-Watts examines teacher expectations in a mostly male African-centered elementary school in Detroit, Michigan, and also emphasizes masculinity in relation to physical space. She reads the strict control over students' bodies and minds as a direct response to images of urban spaces as “jungles” and images of black male bodies as dangerous. Even alternative schools may replicate this sense of urban danger, thereby cutting off young African American boys from critically engaging with popular culture and their racial histories within school curricula.

    Laurie Mandel and Charol Shakeshaft focus on conceptions of masculinity and femininity utilized by middle school students. In their examination of subjective identities, norms of heterosexism and homophobia dominate images of masculinity and femininity; although girls produce a range of feminine modes, boys produce only one version of high-status masculinity, which holds as axiomatic the domination of girls and non-masculine boys. Mandel and Shakeshaft find these norms oppressive for both girls and boys and make recommendations for how schools might respond.

    Jeffrey J. Kuzmic reads high school U.S. history texts for what is left in (rather than what is left out). He sees masculine privilege as invisible, while male historical actors form a primer on hegemonic masculinity: exploring, making, winning, and building. Male historical figures are always public and define that realm; women always exist in the private realm and must become public persons. For example, “Mother” Jones became a labor leader after her husband and children died of yellow fever, whereas Eugene Debs was always already public. Kuzmic concludes that despite more inclusive appearances, textbooks support and help reproduce patriarchy.

    In order to understand peer relations as sources and influences of connection and alienation in shaping and reshaping racial masculine identities, Jeremy N. Price utilizes the perspectives of two African American male high school students. There are relatively few accounts that reflect the range of experiences of young African American men and their relationship with school, particularly through a race, class, and gender lens. Price traces how these two young men created their masculinities differently in particular social contexts: For example, in one context, a participant represented himself through a sexual relationship and as a father, while in a second social context, he portrayed himself primarily through academic and economic aspirations. This chapter helps us see the variations in active, conscious construction of racialized masculinities.

    Máirtín Mac an Ghaill talks with young gay black men in order to grasp what is occurring in British schools in relation to sexual identity formation. He argues that sexual/gender relations can be seen as a crucial point of intersection of different forms of power, stratification, desire, and subjective identity formation. And he notes that identifying sexuality as part of a wider schooling process reconceptualizes it as a key element of a public agenda. His work explores the range of heterosexualities in schools and their intersections with school arrangements and with different groups of students. His participants also portray extraordinary insight into the dynamics and effects of exclusionary human thinking and feeling, insights grounded in their experiences with both racism and homophobia.

    Nancy Lesko explores the “harnessing of affect to political life” (Stoler, 1995, p. 136) in the logic of competitive athletics, specifically football, in U.S. secondary schools. The life history narratives of one white male student who was preparing to teach and coach are situated in post-Persian Gulf War remasculinization, when nationalistic aggression was valorized and articulated via brutality, the language of football, and spectacle, and coaches were touted as exemplary teachers. Lesko elaborates connections between the discourse of competitive athletics and intolerant attitudes toward girls, multicultural education, and critiques of the status quo in education.

    Melody J. Shank critically examines the history and lineage of “rigor” in education as interwoven with masculine privilege. She describes its current popularity in secondary school reform and its seeming inclusiveness; but in tracing its history, she claims strong connections between rigor and technical, objective, and measurable approaches to teaching, which push teachers toward certain curricular areas and kinds of knowledge and away from others. As she notes, rigor does not pertain to pursuits of creativity or imagination, the heart, or human interaction; thus, rigor calls forth a traditional, technical- or rational-centered, measurable curriculum.

    Male military academies have grabbed headlines for their opposition to accepting women. Diane Diamond, Michael S. Kimmel, and Kirby Schroeder compare and contrast the opposition to women at Virginia Military Academy (VMI) and The Citadel with the voluntary inclusion of women at Norwich University and West Point. The authors describe the central dilemma for women at historically male military academies as negotiating the problems of sameness and difference: Women cadets must aim to be traditional cadets, but in doing so simultaneously accentuate their femaleness, their difference. Cadets who were interviewed navigated these institutional waters by strategically emphasizing sameness, overcompensating in achievement, establishing informal networks of support, and emphasizing conventional femininity in social situations. The authors highlight the ways these female cadets can inform us about the creation of equality grounded on difference, rather than on sameness.

    After sports, computers may be the second most masculinized school arena. John Willinsky begins with an understanding of the masculinity of computer technology and the boys' club atmosphere that surrounds its school presence. Assuming that emphasizing the social relevance of computing would increase girls' interest, Willinsky describes a computer curriculum that challenges the usual pedagogy, as well as the institutional social relations of computers. The Information Technology Management (ITM) program has been piloted in high schools in British Columbia, and its innovations involved self-directed learning, team projects in which male and female students rotated through positions from project manager to systems architect, and a broadening of computer topics. Willinsky argues that this tempering of the masculinities of technology is not complete, but there was change: Some boys gained greatly in their cooperative capacities; girls' presence was increased; and some girls valued the freedom to explore their own interests.

    Why are relatively few men in K-12 educational institutions actively involved in leading gender-based violence prevention efforts with girls and boys? In answering the question, Jackson Katz draws upon his work as an activist and argues that male educators must begin by breaking the customary silence among men about violence against women. He also suggests that violence prevention work should be framed as “leadership,” male and female teachers ought to work together and model collaborative relationships, and male educators must acknowledge their own experiences with hegemonic masculinity.

    After substantial efforts toward gender reform, educators and politicians now ask the seemingly inevitable question, What about the boys? Lyn Yates reviews some aspects of why and how boys and masculinity have moved to center stage. She investigates the discursive construction of the “popular” views that, first, boys are now losing out and, second, Australia (or the United Kingdom or United States) needs to respond by adapting the policies that have been successful with girls for use with boys. She reports that when schooling is connected to labor market employment, the impact of school gender reforms is mixed; that is, while women seem to have improved in some areas (e.g., more enter medicine and law), there is almost no change in women's access to a wider range of jobs and senior ranks. Yates raises a compelling issue: How do researchers and policymakers maintain an equitable focus on girls (the “old news” of gender equity issues) as they turn to the important work of documenting masculinities?

    What kinds of masculine subjects will feminism make? Brian Carr begins with feminist theorists' claim that feminism is about disidentification, about remapping commonsense categories of “male” and “female,” and then moves to question how feminism and pedagogy might disorient “masculinity,” at the same time wondering whether “women” will stop being a question when masculinities share the analytical space. Carr raises serious questions for theory and pedagogy, and he pushes toward pedagogies that disorient “masculine” and “feminine,” emphasizing that politics ground affinity, not vice versa.

    Next Steps

    The chapters in this volume are intended to contribute substantive understandings of gender relations and representations in school (especially U.S. schools, where fewer gender initiatives have occurred), as well as to incite further work. Read together, they do not promote one or another approach to teaching the boys, teaching the girls, or to incorporating feminist perspectives in school programs or policies. These remain open, debatable, and formidable issues, as Kenway and Willis's (1998) important report on the contradictory effects of gender equity programs in Australia attests. In closing this introduction, I want at least to raise some central issues in teaching the boys and the girls differently.10

    I began this introduction within recent media stories of white male violence that absent references to normative masculinity and toughness. I emphasized the position of hegemonic masculinity in the social imaginary: men being cool, tough, and eventually violent is “the dominant plot” (White, cited in Denborough, 1996, p. 103). Working to create and sustain “counterplots” (p. 104) becomes the aim of transformative gender education.

    I support three general principles for working toward fairer gender relations in schools. First, we need alternative constructions of masculinity and male-female relations to be “available,” that is, to be reasonable, possible, and desirable by boys and girls, and by men and women teachers. Of course, broad critique of gender relations must occur, as well as the pointing out and creating of alternative images, stories, and patterns of emotions. These efforts cannot be done from an authoritative teacher-telling stance, nor will they emerge from getting boys to express their true feelings. David Denborough (1996) provides a clear and insightful curricular model for analysis and critique of the dominant plot.

    A second principle is that schools must help boys and girls negotiate their ways through alternative masculinities and femininities, which means addressing the charged emotional investments in particular gendered identities and positions, and thereby the related power of distinctive masculinities and femininities. Various authors note the contradictions of mandating students' participation in these efforts, which suggests that students' participation is optimally voluntary (but recruitment and incentives strategies need to be developed) and must involve good pedagogy (Denborough, 1996; Kenway & Willis, 1998). Maxine Greene's (1995) emphasis on developing social imagination through the arts—visual, literary, musical, and performative—can be utilized as part of creative and enjoyable transformative gender education.

    Third, teaching the boys and girls must be accompanied by teaching the men and women in the school; that is, the culture of the school as a whole and its masculinizing dimensions must be scrutinized and a process of change begun. School reformers for the past 100 years have found educational institutions resistant to change; however, committed administrators, teachers, students, and parents can have an impact.

    Of course, I imply neither assurances in these approaches nor innocence, for each reform will affect new power arrangements. Nevertheless, my responsibility to teach toward a transformative gender regime in all schools is sustained by the collective commitment of the scholars in and out of this volume who help me imagine and negotiate counterplots of masculinity and femininity.


    1. I borrow this evocative phrase from Bernard Lefkowitz's (1997) book by that title.

    2. Cliff Cheng (1996) notes that the attribution “nerd” participates in the dominant masculinist gaze with its Eurocentric, heterosexist, patriarchal, and sporting values (p. 193).

    3. See also the American Association of University Women (1992) report, How Schools Shortchange Girls.

    4. In addition to the work of Connell and Mac an Ghaill, see Askew and Ross (1988), Heward (1988), Lee (1993), and Skeggs (1991) for explications of masculinities and education.

    5. See also Eder (1995) and Miedzian (1991).

    6. On the topic of men as victims, see Farrell (1993) and Browne and Fletcher (1995).

    7. See Peter Lyman's (1987) portrait of fraternity joking and gender relations.

    8. Jeffords (1989) provides a useful and compelling analysis of the remasculinization of the United States after the Vietnam War via film and memoirs; she emphasizes the realignments between white men and men and women of color, as well as white men's relationships to the U.S. government.

    9. Barrie Thorne (1993) presents a detailed portrait of the development of these necessarily linked boy-girl relations in two elementary schools, which she terms a sense of “opposite sides.”

    10. I cannot review all the scholarship on transformative gender strategies in schooling, but I rely heavily on the ideas of Connell (1996), Denborough (1996), Kenway and Willis (1998), McLean (1996), and Salisbury and Jackson (1996).

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  • About the Contributors

    Brian Carr is a graduate student at the University of California, Irvine. His work has also appeared in Cultural Critique.

    Diane Diamond is pursuing doctoral studies in Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

    Jackson Katz, Ed.M., is the founder and director of MVP Strategies, an organization that provides gender violence prevention training and materials to the U.S. military services, colleges, high schools, law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and small and large corporations. He is the cocreator of the multiracial, mixed gender Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Program at Northeastern University's Center for the Study of Sport in Society. His film, Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity, was released by the Media Education Foundation in the fall of 1999.

    Michael S. Kimmel is Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. His books include Changing Men (1987), Men Confront Pornography (1990), Men's Lives (4th edition, 1997), Against the Tide: Profeminist Men in the United States, 1776–1990 (1992), The Politics of Manhood (1996), and Manhood: A Cultural History (1996). He edits Men and Masculinities, an interdisciplinary scholarly journal, a book series on Men and Masculinity at the University of California Press, and the Sage Series on Men and Masculinities. He is Spokesperson for the National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) and lectures extensively on campuses in the United States and abroad.

    James R. King is Professor of Childhood/Language Arts/Reading at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he teaches literacy and qualitative research. He has taught in a span of classrooms from first grade to graduate students. His studies with faculty at Western Michigan and West Virginia Universities resulted in two graduate degrees in reading and literacy. He has taught with colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, Texas Woman's University, and the University of British Columbia. Currently, he is researching queer theory in education and the construction of error and accuracy in writing and reading pedagogy.

    Jeffrey J. Kuzmic is an Assistant Professor of Social Education and teaches a range of courses in the undergraduate and graduate programs in the School of Education, DePaul University. His research and scholarship have examined the relationship between schooling, society, and the curriculum as a way of understanding educational practice, teacher education, and social and educational change. In particular, his work has focused on the relationship between societal values such as democracy, individual freedom, community, and the purpose of schooling within a democratic society. In his current research project, he and seven beginning teachers are working together in a qualitative study that seeks to explore the lives and work of beginning teachers and their collaborative efforts to conduct research in their classrooms.

    Nancy Lesko teaches courses on curriculum, social theories, and gender in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is completing a book that examines the construction of adolescence in psychology and policy, Act Your Age! Developing the Modern, Scientific Adolescent.

    Máirtín Mac an Ghaill teaches in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Sheffield, England. He has research interests in questions of culture and educational arenas and emerging youth identities in a “post-colonial” society. He is the author of The Making of Men: Masculinities, Sexualities and Schooling. His most recent publication is Contemporary Racisms and Ethnicities: Social and Cultural Transformations.

    Laurie Mandel, Ed.D., conducts teacher training workshops on resolving issues of teasing, gender disrespect, and social conflict in schools and teaches at Dowling College. Her current research focus examines the social context of gender relationships through the arts at the elementary school level. In addition, she is researching the relationship between the media, body image and identity.

    Khaula Murtadha-Watts, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Indiana University, has published in the areas of African-centered pedagogy, cultural studies, and urban school teacher preparation. Her research interests include urban school leadership and women as leaders of organizational change. A mother of six sons and one daughter, she is acutely aware of the challenges facing those who are responsible for educating children in the urban context.

    Jan Nespor is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech. His research examines curriculum processes in different kinds of educational organizations. In addition to articles in journals such as Qualitative Studies in Education, Qualitative Inquiry, and Journal of Curriculum Studies, he has written two books, Knowledge in Motion and Tangled Up in School.

    Jeremy N. Price is Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Maryland, College Park. His teaching and research interests focus on understanding the lives of traditionally disenfranchised students and corresponding efforts to transform teaching and teacher education. His recent publications include articles in Curriculum Inquiry, Journal of Curriculum Studies, and Theory Into Practice.

    Kirby Schroeder earned his M.A. in Sociology at SUNY Stony Brook, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. He intends to focus his dissertation research on women's experiences in military education.

    Charol Shakeshaft, Ph.D., is Professor of Administration and Policy Studies at Hofstra University. Her primary research focus is gender and schools, and peer harassment. In addition, she has completed several studies that analyze the relationship between computer use and school achievement.

    Melody J. Shank is a doctoral candidate in Curriculum Studies at Indiana University. She has been involved in the Coalition of Essential Schools initiative in Indiana for seven years as a state facilitator and a high school-based restructuring coordinator. In 1998–1999 she served as codirector of the Indiana Essential Schools Network, a regional center for the Coalition of Essential Schools. Her research interests include transforming high school curriculum, collegiality and inquiry among practicing teachers, and creating cultures of inquiry within schools.

    John Willinsky is the Pacific Press Professor of Literacy and Technology at the University of British Columbia, and the author of Learning to Divide the World: Education at Empire's End (1998) and Technologies of Knowing: A Proposal for the Human Sciences (1999).

    Lyn Yates teaches in the Graduate School of Education at La Trobe University, Australia. She is the author of many publications relating to inequality, public policy, and feminism and education, including The Education of Girls: Policy, Research and the Question of Gender (1993) and the edited collection Feminism and Education (1993). She has been Director of Women's Studies at La Trobe University, and is currently President of the Australian Association of Research in Education. Her current major research project, now nearing completion, is the 12 to 18 Project, a qualitative, longitudinal study of young people, identities, and social and educational inequalities.

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