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Sociology: Education: Subject Choice & Gender Identity: Revi

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Jack Morris

on 14 April 2014

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Transcript of Sociology: Education: Subject Choice & Gender Identity: Revi

Subject Choice
The introduction of the National Curriculum reduced pupils' freedom to choose or drop subjects by making most subjects compulsory until 16.
Boys and girls tend to follow different "gender routes" through the education system and there are some clear gender differences in subject choices. This is shown in National Curriculum option, AS and A Levels, and vocational courses.
Gender Identity
This section examines how pupils' experience in school reinforce their gender and sexual identities.
These experiences may all contribute to reinforcing what Connell (1995) calls "hegemonic masculinity" - the dominance of heterosexual masculine identity and the subordination of female and gay identities.
Sociology: Education: Subject Choice & Gender Identity: Revision
Subject Choice & Gender Identity

Early Socialisation
Oakley (1973) said "sex" refers to inborn physical differences between males and females, whereas "gender" refers to the learned cultural differences between them. Gender role socialisation is the process of learning the behaviour expected of males and females in society.
Norman (1988) notes, from an early age, boys and girls are dressed differently, given different toys and encouraged to take part in different activities. Parents tend to reward boys for being active and girls for being passive.
Byrne (1979) shows that teachers encourage boys to be tough and show initiative and not be weak or behave like sissies. Girls on the other hand are expected to be quiet, helpful, clean and tidy.
Due to socialisation, boys and girls develop different reading tastes. Murphy and Elwood (1988) show how these lead to different subject choices. Boys ready hobby books, while girls read stories about people. This explains why girls prefer English and boys prefer science.
National Curriculum Options
Stables and Wikeley (1996) found that where there is a choice in the National Curriculum, girls and boys chose differently. For example, although design and technology is a compulsory subject, girls tend to choose the food technology option whereas boys choose graphocs and resistant materials.
AS and A Levels
Gendered subject choices are more noticeable at A Level as students have more freedom in terms of subject choice. For example, there are big gender differences in entries for different A Levels, with boys opting for maths and physics and girls choosing subjects such as sociology, English and foreign languages. These differences are mirrored in subject choices at university.
Vocational Courses
Vocational courses prepare students for particular careers. Evidence shows a similar but more exaggerated pattern to that or A Levels. Gender segregation is very noticeable feature of vocational training. For example, only 1 in 100 construction apprentices are girls.
Gender Domains
Browne and Ross (1991) argue that children's beliefs about "gender domains" are shaped by their early experiences and expectations of adults. By gender domains, they mean tasks and activities that boys and girls see as male or female "territory" and therefore as relevant to themselves.
Children are more confident when engaging in tasks that they see as part of their own gender domain. For example, when they are set the same math task, girls are more confident in tackling it when it is presented as being about good and nutrition, whereas boys are more confident if it is about cars.
Murphy (1991) set primary and lower secondary pupils open-ended tasks where they were asked to design boats and vehicles and to write estate agents' adverts for a house. Boys designed sports cars and army vehicles, whereas girls designed family cars. When doing the estate agents task, boys focused it on garage space, whereas girls focused on decor and kitchen design. This study shows that boys ad girls pay attention to different details even when tackling the same task.
Gendered Subject Images
The gender image that a subject "gives off" acts who will want to choose it. Kelly argues science is seen as a boys' subject because the teachers are more likely to be men, the examples in textbooks focus on boys and boys dominate the lab.
Colley (1998) notes computer studies is seen as a masculine subject because it involves machines (male gender domain) and tasks are tended to be abstract and teaching styles formal, with few opportunities for group work which girls tend to favour.
According to DfES (2007) study, pupils who attend single-sex schools tend to hold less stereotyped subject images. For example, they are less likely to see science as a boys' subject.
Leonard (2006) found, this may result in them making less traditional subject choices. Analysing data on 13,000 individuals, she found that, compared to pupils of mixed schools, girls in girls' schools were more likely yo take maths and science A levels while boys' schools were more likely to take English and modern languages.
Peer Pressure
Subject choice can be influenced by peer pressure. Other boys and girls may apply pressure to an individual if they disapprove of his or her choice. For example, boys tend to opt out of music and dance because such activities fall outside their gender domain and so are likely to attract a negative response from peers.
Paetcher (1998) found that because pupils see sport as mainly within the male gender domain, girls who are "sporty" have to cope with an image that contradicts the conventional female stereotype. This may explain why girls are more likely than boys to opt out of sport.
Dewar (1990) found that male students would call girls "lesbian" or "butch" if they appeared to be more interested in sport than boys.
An absence of peer pressure from the opposite sex my explain why girls in single-sex schools are more likely to choose traditional boys' subjects. The absence of boys may man there is less pressure on the girls to conform to restrictive stereotypes of what subjects they can or cannot study.
Gendered Career Opportunities
An important reason for differences in subject choices is the fact that employment is highly gendered: jobs tend to be sex-typed as "men's" or "women's". Women's jobs often involve work similar to that performed by housewives such as childcare and nursing. Women are concentrated in a narrow range of occupations. Over half of all women's employment falls within four categories: clerical, secretarial, personal services and occupations such as cleaning. By contrast, only 1/6 of male workers work in these jobs.
Explanations of Subject Choice
Verbal Abuse
What Connell calls "a rich vocabulary of abuse" is one of the ways in which dominant gender and sexual identities are reinforced.
Lees (1986) found that boys called girls "slags" if they appeared to be sexually available.
Paetcher sees name-calling as helping to shape gender identity and maintain male power. The use of negative labels such as "gay" and "queer" are ways in which pupils "police" each other's sexual identities.
Parker (1996) found that boys were labeled "gay" simply for being friendly with girls or female teachers. Both Lees and Paetcher note these labels often bear no relation to the pupils' actual sexual behaviour.
Male Peer Groups
Male peer groups use verbal abuse to reinforce their definitions of masculinity. For example, Epstein and Willis show, boys in anti-school subcultures often accuse boys who want to do well of being gay or effeminate.
Mac an Ghaill's (1994) study of Parnell School examines how peer groups reproduce a range of different class-based masculine identities. For example, working-class "macho lads" were dismissive of other working-class boys who worked hard and aspired to middle-class careers.
Redman and Mac an Ghaill (1997) found that the dominant definition of masculine identity changes from that of the macho lads in the lower school to that of the real Englishmen of sixth form. This represents a shift away from a working-class definition based on toughness to a middle-class one based on intellectual ability.
Teachers & Discipline
Research shows that teachers play a part in reinforcing dominant definitions of gender identity.
Mac an Ghaill (1996) found that male teachers told boys off for "behaving like girls" and teased them when they gained lower marks in tests than girls.
Askew and Ross (1988) show how male teachers' behaviour can subtly reinforce messages about gender. For example, male teachers often have a protective attitude towards female colleagues, coming into their classes to "rescue" them by threatening pupils who are being disruptive. This reinforces the idea that women cannot cope alone.
Male Gaze
Mac an Ghaill said there is a visual aspect to the way pupils control each other's identities which is referred to as the "male gaze".
Male Gaze - the way male pupils and teachers look girls up and down, seeing them as sexual objects and making judgements about their appearance.
Mac an Ghaill sees the male gaze as a form of surveillance through which dominant heterosexual masculinity is reinforced and femininity devalued. It is one of the ways boys prove their masculinity to their friends.
Double Standards
A double standard exists when we apply one set of moral standards to one group but a different sent to another group.
Lees (1993) identifies a double standard of sexual morality in which boys boast about their own sexual exploits, but call a girl a "slag" if sh doesn't have a steady boyfriend or if she dresses and speaks in a certain way.
Feminists see double standards as an example of a patriarchal ideology that justifies male power and devalues women.
Form of social control that reinforces gender inequality by keeping females subordinate to males.
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