Boys, Literacies, and Schooling: The Dangerous Territories of Gender-Based Literacy Reform

By Leonie Rowan; Michele Knobel et al. | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Introduction

The key idea we have tried to elaborate in this book is that a transformative approach based on an anti-essentialist perspective has the most to offer educators who want to address issues associated with boys, literacy and schooling. As we understand them here, essentialist mindsets assign natural characteristics and potentials to particular groups of people or things. From essentialist perspectives, phenomena like literacy, masculinity/femininity, technology and so on are seen as having some kind of inherent or fixed essence that defines who or what they are, how they will, can and should behave and operate, and how they are best responded to or interacted with by others.

As we have seen, essentialist accounts of boys, masculinity and literacy abound in educational literature. These encourage us to believe that there is some best way to teach literacy to boys based on the nature of literacy and the nature of boys, and that to make advances in this area is a matter of pursuing ever closer approximations to the final solution. The fact that different views of the right approach or solution exist does not undermine underlying essentialist beliefs and assumptions. It merely shows that people can be mistaken about how things really are, yet correct in assuming that they really are some way, and that there is a way to solve a given problem. In this context it is worth noting that essentialist positions are associated with ‘solutions’ of the ‘easy’, ‘quick fix’, ‘off-the-shelf and ‘one size fits all’ variety. As we have shown in previous chapters, most essentialist positions enable simple causal relationships to be made which either justify inaction or support simple reactions.

In contrast to essentialist positions, anti-essentialist perspectives emphasize the contingency of all socio-technical patterns and formations.

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