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ERIC Number: ED569726
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 157
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3039-6139-7
Inappropriate Lessons: Elementary Schools and the Social Organization of Sexuality
Boas, Erica Misako
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley
This dissertation responds to the question: How is sexuality organized in elementary schools? I argue that despite the absence of overt discussions on sexuality in elementary schools, sexuality is "organized" through social processes that are recursively linked to ideology. Due to the widely held belief that "children" and "sexuality" occupy separate social realms, the pairing of elementary schools and sexuality rarely makes an appearance in education research. The study focuses on teacher treatment of sexuality as it arises in elementary school sites and offers a critical examination of the ways in which sexuality manifests and is managed, organized, contested, and reproduced in urban elementary schools. The dissertation furnishes a critical examination of the ways in which sexuality manifests and is managed, organized, contested, and reproduced in urban elementary schools. The driving argument of the dissertation is that elementary schools organize the meanings ascribed to sexuality by regulating children's behavior and speech--mainly through punitive measures or by pushing perceived sexual behaviors out of the school--which has the effect of producing normative understandings of sexuality. These actions work in contrast to the idea that "children" and "sexuality" occupy separate social realms, a common belief that has contributed to maintaining a void in education research on elementary schools and sexuality. In this study I further propose that sexuality and gender are organized and structured through enduring systems of race and class. One of the key findings is that while elementary school teachers and administrators do confront ongoing issues of sexuality on school grounds, they have limited strategies to deal with them. As a result, sexuality in its various forms is rendered a problem of social transgression. Methods for this study include ethnographic focus on one school located in an urban area in Northern California and 15 interviews with teachers, the research data and analysis offer practical and theoretical tools for elementary school teachers, curriculum, and policy with regards to sexuality. Participant observation was conducted during the 2010-2011 school year in a main fourth grade classroom on average three days a week for the entire school day. The schoolyard during recesses, around the grounds before and after school, on field trips, and during school assemblies, open houses, and parent-teacher conferences were also observed. Continuous and detailed documentation through field notes and analytic memos written during and after each site visit facilitate in-depth analyses of the complex organization of sexuality on school grounds and beyond with a focus on teacher as the main human subjects of the study. This research demonstrates that sexual ordering is "already" present in all aspects of social life, including spaces like elementary schools where there is an organized silencing of sexuality. Some examples of this are media-driven debates on bullying, sex education, curriculum on homosexuality, and health education in elementary schools. These debates organize sexuality through disciplining efforts that require labels for behavior, frameworks for sexual maturation and development, morality, and normative understandings of the body and mind. Such educational frameworks are based in ideology and produce cultural manifestations, such as dress codes and sex education. The research finds that although sexuality is organized in elementary schools, teachers are under-trained in dealing with the various sexuality-related issues that erupt in schools. They also desire formal instruction in this domain. As a result of feeling unqualified to teach on or discuss sexuality, they default to pushing it out of the classroom and school. Such practices within a liberal framework maintains a culture that is shameful and punishing of sexuality while claiming that it is "natural" and "normal." [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 4; Intermediate Grades
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California