Education, Gender, and Anxiety

Education, Gender, and Anxiety

Education, Gender, and Anxiety

Education, Gender, and Anxiety

Synopsis

This interdisciplinary text explores the scope for applying psychoanalytical ideas to gender inequalities that are inherent in the educational system. Although modern education aims to egalitarian and meritocratic, it is still true that in most cases it does not improve the life chances of girls to the extent that it ought to, or does for boys. Based on literature gathered from North America, Europe and Britain, this text argues for an 'object relations' approach when analysing gender differences in subject choice and polarisation in reading, writing and drawing, and stresses the need to pay close attention to the unconscious processes which school settings mobilise. Analysing the concept of 'in Loco Parentis', it presents parenting as the emotional substructure of education, and suggests challenging areas for future empirical work.

Excerpt

All books have an imaginary reader, a character to whom the argument is addressed. This one has several. On the one hand I imagine a parent, a teacher, an educational administrator or an undergraduate studying sociology, women's studies, or for a BEd or PGCE. Such a reader picks up a book like this because they wish to find a new angle on what has become a fairly familiar topic. But I also nurse the hope that it will be read by therapists, counsellors, depth psychologists or others with clinical experience and a psychoanalytic background; at any rate by those with more experience of 'the inner world' than me, but who may not, routinely, concern themselves with the 'outer world': for the arguments presented here are provisional and need to be confirmed or disconfirmed by data that is only available in the consulting room.

There are, of course, different levels of thinking about gender and the way that sociologists approach the concept, still often through role and status and power, is markedly different from one in which being male or female is regarded as a shifting, confused and partial category. Indeed my imaginary reader, steeped in psychoanalysis and clinical experience, may have no specialist interest in gender at all, and may even be inclined to reject the concept altogether. Still, they may, as part of their daily work, see in greater detail some of the connections that I am trying to draw. If the book is to be of any use it needs those in the position to do so, to say 'Yes, I see that everyday in my work' or, 'No, that is not quite right'. Then, perhaps, a dialogue will grow between gender and education specialists and those with psychoanalytical expertise.

However, perhaps my most fleshed-out 'reader' is a past or present women and education or women's studies MA student at the University of Sussex, most, but not all, of whom were women. Rather like the 'chorus' in Greek tragedy which observes and comments on the action, it was they who

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