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Crossing Divides

An Argument Catalogue of Submissions to the 2000 Australian Government Inquiry into the Education of Boys

Deborah Hartman

This article describes a study of a sample of submissions to an Australian government Inquiry into the Education of Boys, using a relatively new methodology for reviewing literature, called an argument catalogue. The study examines the usefulness of the methodology to an analysis of the complex field of boys’ education. The author argues that the argument catalogue approach offers a way of including and analysing all voices within the field, particularly the previously under-represented views of parents and practitioners and that despite complexities, there are commonalities that can be built on, which are critical to any positive change in this field.

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Gender Differences in Perceptions of School Life and Self-Concept

Considerations for Addressing Gender in Secondary School Settings

Victoria Clay

It has long been argued that gender considerations are an important factor in educational outcomes for students. The impact of social and of cultural beliefs concerning the value of education has often been implicated in gender differences in outcomes of schooling. While social constructions of masculinity warrant scrutiny both in society in general and in education, a focus on the social determinants of behaviour and attitudes does not always allow for full consideration of individual factors, such as affective or social-emotional determinants of responses to situations. This paper discusses the findings of a qualitative study of student perceptions of quality of school life and of student self-concept that was conducted in six different Australian schools. The findings of this study show that as well as gender differences, there were differences related to the school location, the socio-economic group the students belonged to, and the age of the student. These findings point towards the need to investigate gender in schools using an ecological model of gendered perceptions of school life that can take account of both individual and environmental factors.

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Gender Policy in Australian Schools

A Missed Opportunity?

Deborah Hartman

This paper describes the rise of boys’ education as a substantial social and educational issue in Australia in the 1990s, mapping the changes in Australian discourses on boys’ education in this period. Ideas and authors informed by the men’s movement entered the discourses about boys’ education, contributing to a wave of teacher experimentation and new ways of thinking about gender policies in schools. The author suggests that there is currently a policy impasse, and proposes a new multi-disciplinary approach bringing together academic, practitioner, policy, and public discourses on boys’ education.

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"I Feel Older"

Investigating the Impact of a Father and Son

William John Jennings

This article reports on the impact of a school based father and son, “rites of passage” program on its participants in two Australian Catholic boys’ schools. The author conducted a mixed methodology study investigating quantitative differences between 15- to 17-year-old adolescent participants and non-participants in how they rated their “father relationships” and the impact that specific program elements (the “rite of passage,” planned conversations, and public acknowledgements) had on both program participants. The research found evidence to support the program’s positive impact on father-son relationships. As a result of planned conversations with their fathers in the program, participants reported feeling “older” and more mature.

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Michael C. Reichert and Richard Hawley

In a large-scale survey of effective teaching practices with boys conducted in 2008 across 18 schools in 6 different English-speaking countries, we collected lessons in a wide variety of subject areas (math, literature, science, art) shaped to fit boys’ particular learning needs and preferences. At a time of widely-published claims about boys’ relative failure to thrive in contemporary school settings, we surveyed schools dedicated to boys in particular—boys’ schools—in hopes of discovering the outlines of a pedagogy that might have broader relevance for boys everywhere. Nearly 1,000 teachers responded with detailed descriptions of teaching approaches that succeeded in engaging boys. Boys themselves—1,500 of them, aged 12-19—corroborated the features of effective instruction reported by their teachers. We suggest that the practices identified were “chafed” into being by sustained interactions between teachers and their male students. In this mutually-attuned, coordinated interaction between boy learner and adult instructor, we found qualities of responsiveness and connection echoing regulatory communication commonly associated with earlier periods in child development. Given current concerns about widespread gaps in many boys’ school performance, these stories affirming educational relationships could point the way to a clearer understanding of how best to engage boys in scholastic endeavor.

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Suzan Hirsch

This paper reports on case studies spanning four consecutive years (2005-2008) focused on addressing and challenging Australian primary school boys’ disengagement with English, particularly reading, using an action research process informed by both quantitative and qualitative data. Primary participants were all male and ranged from 8 to 11 years of age. Boys were identified and selected for each case study based on the questionnaire and interview results from whole grade surveys of both males and females. The data results identified the boys with negative views of literacy and boys who identified reading as being a feminine activity, thereby narrowing their perceptions of masculinity. These boys were involved in a reading/mentoring program with high profile professional Rugby League players. The celebrity rugby league players were involved in ten weekly mentoring and reading sessions with male participants each year. These sessions focused on building positive male identity, shifting negative attitudes to reading and challenging negative stereotypes of both professional sportsmen and boys as readers. After each of the case studies, quantitative and qualitative data indicated a positive change in the participants’ attitudes towards reading as well as their perceived stereotypes of males as readers and increased involvement in voluntary reading.

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Crimen Sollicitationis

Tabooing Incest after the Orgy

Diederik F. Janssen

Late modernity’s binary intrigue of child sexuality/abuse is understood as a backlash phenomenon reactive to a general trans‐Atlantic crisis concerning the interlocking of kinship, religion, gender, and sexuality. Tellingly dissociated from 1980s gay liberation and recent encounters between queer theory and kinship studies, the child abuse theme articulates modernity’s guarded axiom of tabooed incest and its projected contemporary predicament “after the orgy”—after the proclaimed disarticulation of religion‐motivated, kin‐pivoted, reproductivist, and gender‐rigid socialities. “Child sexual abuse” illustrates a general situation of decompensated nostalgia: an increasingly imminent loss of the child’s vital otherness is counterproductively embattled by the late modern overproduction of its banal difference, its status as “minor.” Attempts to humanize, reform, or otherwise moderate incest’s current “survivalist” and commemorative regime of subjectivation, whether by means of ethical, empirical, historical, critical, legal, or therapeutic gestures, typically trigger the latter’s panicked empiricism. Accordingly, most “critical” interventions, from feminist sociology and anthropology to critical legal studies, have largely been collusive with the backlash: rather than appraising the radical precariousness of incest’s ethogram of avoidance in the face of late modernity’s dispossessing analytics and semiotics, they tend to feed its state of ontological vertigo and consequently hyperextended, manneristic forensics.

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"The Individual Can . . ."

Objectifying Consent

D.H. Mader

The issue of age of consent for sexual activities has been bedevilled by the absence of any objective standards or criteria for what is meant by or involved in "consent." Despite this absence—or because of it—the social and political response has been to reach for blanket prohibitions on sexual activity by persons under particular ages—ages which have settled in the mid‐ to late teens. At the same time, the percentages of persons aged 15 and under who are sexually active in our societies indicate that young people are regularly consenting to sexual activities. Consent to sexual activity has also been a concern in relation to the lives of the cognitively or mentally impaired. In an attempt to clarify issues surrounding consent there, a significant proposal in regard to objectifying standards for consent was reported by Carrie Hill Kennedy, in her article “Assessing Competency to Consent to Sexual Activity in the Cognitively Impaired Population” (Journal of Forensic Neuropsychology 1:3, 1999), where she developed a two‐part scale for ability to consent, including twelve criteria involving knowledge and five criteria involving personal assertiveness and safety. Kennedy herself has maintained that there is no relevance for her research as applied to minors: adults have sexual rights, minors do not. However, it would seem clear that there is a certain relevance—if not in the use of a similar scale for assessing the competence of a particular minor to consent, then in generally comparing the age at which children attain the developmental level comparable with that implied by Kennedy’s five Safety standards, and using that information to critique the present, obviously unrealistic ages of consent. In relation to the Knowledge scale, the importance of sexual education becomes still clearer.

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Interrogating the Essential

Moral Baselines on Adult-Child Sex

Richard Yuill

In this paper I emphasize the multiple ways dominant moral and essentialist understandings feed into the wider regulatory norms and conventional thinking governing adult‐child sexual relations. Clearly, researchers are not immune from the ascendant material and symbolic hegemony enjoyed by child sexual abuse (CSA) paradigms. Indeed the experience of the seven critical writers and researchers cited in the paper, coupled with the author’s own experiences carrying out PhD research in this area, clearly reinforce this point. I contend that sociological and Foucauldian insights on age and sexual categorization can offer a helpful tool‐kit for unpacking the contested claims from CSA survivors, child liberationists, and the specific case of one respondent who resists victimological labelling of his sexual experiences with adults.

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Thomas K. Hubbard

Adolescent sexuality has been at the forefront of the recent “Culture Wars,” as is clear from the many news stories and political battles over issues such as sex education, teen pregnancy and STDs, Child Sexual Abuse, enhanced legal regulation of sex offenders, pedophiles on the internet, “sexting” and child pornography. On the one hand adolescents today are more sexually mature than at most historical periods: physical puberty occurs ever earlier (Moller, 1987), while children’s capacity to access the same media as adults grows ever more sophisticated. Already in 1982, Neil Postman presciently observed that electronic media had obliterated the historical technological superiority of literate adults relative to not‐yet‐fully-literate children (Postman, 1982). At that point, he was thinking mainly of television, but his observation has become even more true in the digital age, when adolescents are often the ones teaching their parents and grandparents. 1982 had not yet grasped what would be the ubiquity of MTV or cheap, highly graphic visual pornography in many parents’ closets, or if not there, on their kids’ computer screens. Children have become the most clever at accessing media at precisely the time when popular media culture is more saturated with verbal, musical, and visual images of sexuality than ever before.