Masculinities and primary schooling : two case studies
This thesis is a study of the ways in which hegemonic masculinity is constructed in two primary schools. Its principal perspective is feminist, though it draws heavily on the substantial body of work on masculinities within sociology. Connell's (1987) understanding of hegemonic masculinity which informs much of the work in this area, underpins the theoretical framework for conceptualising how a school constructs specific forms of masculinities which are powerfully shaped by ideologies and structures in wider society. The notion of 'critical incidents' is employed to ascertain how social processes come together in specific combinations in order to explore hegemonic and other modes of masculinities. This study is a feminist analysis of masculinities in school settings. As such, methodological/theoretical issues occupy a central role. The research on which the study is based was conducted with teachers and children in two primary schools located in different socio-economic areas of the same city. In one school the focus was on a class of 6-7 year olds, and in the other, on 9-10 year olds. The study adopts a qualitative methodology in the form of ethnography in order to explore teacher-pupil classroom behaviours and the peer relationships and social interaction of children, with a particular focus on boys. The study both confirms findings of other research on masculinities and primary schools which show the importance of locale on constructions of hegemonic masculinity and draws attention to previously unacknowledged issues. Locating the research in a middle- and a working-class school enabled a comparison of the ways in which the characteristics of a social area influence the processes of masculine constructions in a school. Also, the study considers the impact of the Education Reform Act (1988) on constructions of dominant masculinities in schools. Importantly, these two ethnographic case studies have been undertaken from a feminist position and the researcher's relationships with, and explorations of the relationships between, male teachers and boys contribute new insights into how hegemonic masculinity is constructed, at the level of the school, through various discourses.