Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Toward a Genderful Pedagogy and the Teaching of Masculinity

Academic journal article The Journal of Men's Studies

Toward a Genderful Pedagogy and the Teaching of Masculinity

Article excerpt

This special issue of The Journal of Men's Studies endeavors to underscore new scholarship on men in education, the disproportionate lack of male teachers, and the ways intersectional identities (i.e., gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability) complicate the emergence of a more inclusive teaching profession. Reasonable people can agree that a fundamental goal of education is to improve lives--culturally, spiritually, economically, and otherwise. Educators from pre-primary to the university levels are tasked with implementing curriculum and pedagogy in support of this lofty goal, although from our respective experiences, they do so in different ways with varied outcomes. We contend here that a comprehensive knowledge of gender is critical to that goal. More specifically, we hope to contribute to an ongoing conversation about the saliency of masculinity in and through pedagogy, arguing that gender in its fullest meanings is very much articulated by how men and masculinity are integrated into the project of learning. Where or how we begin this process toward a new ethos on gender and masculinity? In this article, we offer less of a traditional research study and more of a think-piece that engages with the complexities of teaching masculinity in courses marked as either overtly feminist (as are those offered by Brenda Weber through Indiana University's Department of Gender Studies) or those more tacitly coded as feminine (as are those offered by Shaun Johnson through Towson University's College of Education). In our discussion, we address and also trouble who has the legitimacy to teach about gender and in what ways notions of legitimation hinge on a sense of stable, sometimes even essentialized, sex/gender codes, even as those codes reveal their plurality.

As college instructors, we encounter a certain degree of cognitive distortion when we have taught topics perceived to be out of alignment with our own sex and gender location. Rather than adhere to a strict identarian-based curriculum that maintains an instructor can only "legitimately" teach subjects "proper" to his/her sex or sexuality, we seek to consider what kinds of pedagogical strategies might intervene in the way that the learning of gender holds saliency. One solution, it seems to us, is an emphasis not on a gender-free utopic culture where social identity markers no longer apply in some equivalent to "color blindness," but in a genderful pedagogy that acknowledges plurality and works to appreciate that different bodies, practices, and identifies can be identified as healthy and necessary. Because part of what we will examine is the degree to which perceptions about our own gendered and sexed identities intervene and sometimes augment the study of masculinity and the ways in which this genderful pedagogy is expressed, we begin our collective consideration with individual reflections on our respective classroom environments and experiences, then offering greater reflection that more fully elucidates our goal of a genderful pedagogy.

THE PROPER PLACE OF GENDER IN A PROFESSION BOUNDED BY THE PRACTICAL

I (Shaun Johnson) work in a discipline that is not "proper" for my sex. Recent rankings and estimates from the National Education Association (2008) indicate the percentage of male teachers hovers around 24 percent and decreases dramatically with the age of the student. International data from the same time in many developed nations shows a common ratio around 80 to 20 percent for women-to-men teachers, respectively (UNESCO, 2008). These figures reinforce the gendered notion that the care and education of children, particularly in grades K-12, is a feminine task. As a male and former elementary school teacher, I encountered a number of what Foster and Newman (2005) call "identity bruises," or pejorative comments directed toward male teachers for their unconventional vocational choices. A female colleague once blithely noted, for instance, that a fellow male teacher and I were "screwed" because we would never be able to "afford" women, in terms of bread winning and setting up households. …

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