Sex and gender : a case-study of sex education in one comprehensive school
The thesis examines Sex Education lessons integrated to the fourth and fifth year core curriculum of a mixed comprehensive school. It studies their stated objectives, contents and implementation in the classroom and analyses how pupils interpret curricular meanings with regard to their gender expectations from sexuality, employment and domesticity. A variety of qualitative methods - in particular, participant observation and informal interviews - has been used. The first chapter argues that sexual and gender socialisations must be understood from a materialist position and that the Sex Education curriculum may be structured by the fundamental functions of schooling in a gender - and class - divided society. The second chapter locates the marginal position of Sex Education within the Health Education course of the deeply divided school. Strategies for control over curriculum and classroom social relations developed by both Sex Education teachers and pupils constitute the theme of the third chapter with illustrations from the lesson on childbirth and pregnancy. Contraception, sexual intercourse and marriage are discussed in the next three chapters which follow the same pattern. Each considers the selection of curricular meanings, their transmission in the class and boys' and girls' perceptions of these topics. The last chapter underlines the dominance of traditional views on sexuality, gender and marriage in teachers' and pupils' perceptions alongside a liberal reformist theme. Both dominant and negotiated meanings form the ideology of personal relationships which blends objective information with commonsense knowledge of sexual and gender conflicts. Consistent with the social democratic views of education, this ideology serves to negotiate the fundamental contradiction between the socialisation of pupils to ascribed positions (sexual, familial and occupational) and individuals' self-determination with regard to these. By and large, pupils' accommodative strategies based on conflicting sexual - and gender - interests validate this ideology but also give them some limited control over definitions of appropriate behaviour.