Pregnant with Meaning: Teen Mothers and the Politics of Inclusive Schooling

By Deirdre M. Kelly | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Inconceivable Conceptions: The Politics of Silence at Town School

. . . silence is meaningful when it represents avoidance of an issue that is divisive if mentioned.

—Murray Edelman

Feminist and other progressive scholars have noted the “layers of silencing” in North American public schools around issues of sexuality (Fine, 1988; Sears, 1992; Belyea & Dubinsky, 1994). In both Canada and the United States, “plumbing and prevention” (Lenskyj, 1990) themes continue to dominate the curriculum. Neither government takes an active role in providing public information about reproductive health, and sexuality education programs vary considerably by province or state and by school district. Divisive issues such as contraception, abortion, and sexual orientation are routinely ignored.

In this context as well as within British Columbia, Town School represented an ordinary high school. In a province-wide survey on adolescent health, students at Town School ranked in the middle on the range of behaviors asked about, and, according to a researcher on this project, the school was selected as a follow-up case study because it was so “average” (field notes, 11/29/94). Town School was also ordinary in the sense of veering between two sets of polarized attitudes in British Columbia. In large urban centers such as Pacifica (where City School was located), sexuality educators were given fairly wide latitude to address controversial topics in a progressive manner. Other towns and small cities had adopted abstinence-only guidelines for sexuality education. One small indicator of Town School's middle path was its decision to allow condoms to be sold but only in one set of out-of-the-way washrooms.

In an ordinary high school, where little that is innovative is happening in the area of sexuality education, would it make a difference if teen

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