Investigating Gender: Contemporary Perspectives in Education

By Becky Francis; Christine Skelton | Go to book overview

7
Gender and the post-school
experiences of women
and men with learning
difficulties

Sheila Riddell

Stephen Baron

Alastair Wilson


Introduction

It is often possible to learn a great deal about a field by looking not at the welltrodden ground, but at the gaps, the absences and the silences. Until relatively recently, the sociology of disability has been a very underdeveloped area (Barton 1994), a fact that has implications for studies of educational settings. As a broad field of study, education draws on a wide range of disciplines and it is not accidental that in some areas (for example, special educational needs) the ideas and methods of psychology are often used, while in other areas (for example, youth culture) the ideas and methods of sociology are adopted. This chapter begins by looking at three distinct areas which have remained in relatively watertight compartments, but which could provide new and interesting insights if brought together. These three areas are the sociology of education, the sociology of disability and feminist social research. It is argued that the reason for the separate development of these fields is far from accidental and betrays a limitation in their fundamental vision and concerns. Subsequently, an example is given of a piece of research which attempts to draw creatively on each of these fields. This research explores individuals' experience of learning disability in the context of lifelong learning, drawing out gender and class differences. While identifying social barriers, the researchers wished to understand the different ways in which these are experienced by women and men in particular situations. Although there is a burgeoning literature on lifelong learning, very little has been written about the experiences of people with learning difficulties within the learning

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