Sexuality, Gender and Schooling: Shifting Agendas in Social Learning

Sexuality, Gender and Schooling: Shifting Agendas in Social Learning

Sexuality, Gender and Schooling: Shifting Agendas in Social Learning

Sexuality, Gender and Schooling: Shifting Agendas in Social Learning


The sexuality of young people arouses controversy and remains a source of concern for parents, teachers, policy-makers and politicians. But what young people really think about sexuality and gender and how these issues impact upon their lives is often marginalized or overlooked.Based upon extensive ethnographic research with young people and teachers, Sexuality, Gender and Schooling offers a telling and insightful account of how young people acquire sexual knowledge and how they enact their understanding of their own gender. It highlights the ways in which young people's constructions of gender and sexuality are formed outside the school curriculum, through engagements with various forms of popular culture - such as teen magazines and television programmes - and through same-sex friendship groups.Offering a fresh perspective on a subject of perennial interest and concern, Sexuality, Gender and Schooling provides accounts from the inside - some of which may challenge and eclipse current approaches to sexuality education. It has significant implications for policy and practice in Personal, Social and Health Education and is also an excellent introduction to key debates and issues in the study of gender and sexuality.


Like all research and writing, Sexuality, Gender and Schooling comes out of particular dialogues, traditions and networks. It belongs to a distinctive body of work that has focused on the sexual cultures and sexual and other identities of young people in Britain, especially in the context of the schools. As Mary Jane Kehily herself suggests, there are affinities and continuities between her own work and Paul Willis' Learning to Labour (1977), Angela McRobbie's work on popular culture and femininity (1978a, 1978b, 1991, 1996) and much of Christine Griffin's work from Typical Girls? onwards (1985). If these are older brothers and sisters, so to speak, there is a peer group too which can be seen in the published work of Debbie Epstein, Mairtin Mac an Ghaill, Anoop Nayak, Rob Pattman and Peter Redman (see the bibliography to this volume), all of whom studied in and around the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham in the late 1980s and early 1990s-and who have often continued to work together in different ways.

In this Foreword I want to draw out some threads in this skein of work, then suggest some ways in which Mary Jane Kehily's study extends it in particular ways.

First, the focus on young people's cultures has stemmed from a number of commitments which are as much personal, political and ethical as academic. As Kehily herself puts it in her Introduction:

The emphasis on student cultures can be seen as a way of 'giving voice' to school students who receive the curriculum but play no part in the structuring of the school as an organisation or the planning of the curriculum and the teaching of lessons.

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