There has been growing scholarly interest in Black girls’ and young women’s matriculation across the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) pipeline. This interest is fueled by the STEM field’s maintenance of a largely White and male culture, despite the passage of Title IX laws in the 1970s. This exploration of Black women’s and girls’ STEM participation has been incredibly important for extending what is known about this group. Less discernible from the extant literature is Black women’s and girls’ first-person sensemaking about the moments, people, incidents, and environments that determine not just their participation but also their persistence into and through higher education to complete a STEM undergraduate degree. The language of trajectories implicates life course, growth, and development in ability over time with age and experience. The various environments influencing young Black women’s and girls’ learning about STEM, and their decisions about how or if to participate in STEM, are informed by constantly evolving understandings of their intersectional race–gender identity. This identity is changing over time as they grow older and come into contact with various STEM learning opportunities, people, and places. Young Black women and girls are keenly aware of race–gender limitations imposed on them by dominant cultural norms, institutional agents, and experiences with institutional policy and practice. Such perspectives are shaping how they come to view themselves aside from STEM and the decisions they make at each point on the STEM pipeline specific to their desire to own a STEM identity despite their subject position as a race–gender minoritized person in STEM subjects and majors.
Kara Mitchell, Carla Wellborn, and Chezare Warren
Education as a right has been integral to a more than a century-long struggle by women for liberation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The region is vast and diverse in its history, culture, politics, language, and religion. Therefore, in the study of women and education in the MENA region, it is imperative to consider particularities of each nation’s different historical and political formation in tandem with universal forces, conditions, and structures that shape the success or failure of women’s access to and participation in education. Historically, the greatest leap forward in women’s education began from the mid-20th century onward. The political, social, and economic ebb and flow of the first two decades of the 21st century is reflected on women’s education. Thus, the analysis of the current conditions should be situated in the context of the past and the provision for the future. It is crucial to make references to earlier periods, especially where relevant, to anticolonial and national liberation struggles as well as modern nation-building and the women’s rights movements. The empirical evidence aptly demonstrates that in most of the countries in the region, women’s participation in secondary and higher education is surpassing that of men. However, neither their status nor their social mobility have been positively affected. Women’s demand for “bread, work, democracy, and justice” is tied to education in several ways. First, education is a site of social and political struggle. Second, it is an institution integral to the formation and expansion of capitalist imperialism in the MENA region. Last, education is constituted through, not separated from, economic and political relations. The absence of some themes in the study of women and education reflects this structural predicament. Topics less studied are women as teachers and educators; women and teachers’ union; women and religious education and seminaries; women and the missionary schools; women in vocational education; women and the study abroad programs; girls in early childhood education; women and mother tongue education; women and the education of minorities; women and continuing education; women and academic freedom; and women and securitization of education. To study these themes also requires a range of critical methodological approaches. Some examples are ethnographical studies of classrooms, institutional ethnographies of teachers’ unions, analysis of memoirs of teachers and students, and critical ethnography of students’ movements. The proposed theoretical and methodological renewal is to contest the tendency in the study of education in the MENA region that renders patriarchal state and capitalism invisible.
Crystal Machado and Wenxi Schwab
Early pregnancy is a global issue that occurs in high-, middle-, and low-income countries. Although the teen birth rate in the United States, which is high on the Human Development Index (HDI), has been declining since 1991, it continues to be substantially higher than that of other Western industrialized nations. For countries that are lower on the HDI, the teen birth rate is higher, partly because early marriages, pregnancy rates, and infant mortality rates are higher and more common in these regions. Except for some influential articles written by scholars in the Global south, much of the scholarship related to early pregnancy has been written by those in the Global north. Nevertheless, analysis of available scholarly literature in English confirms that several sociocultural factors—child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence/dating violence, family-related factors, poverty, early marriages, and rurality—lead to early pregnancy and/or school dropout. Although pregnancy can occasionally increase pregnant and parenting teens’ desire to persevere, the scholarly literature confirms that the majority need support to overcome the short- and long-term ramifications associated with early motherhood, such as stigma, expulsion and criminal charges, segregation, transition, strain and struggle, depression, children with behavioral problems, and financial instability. Based on the availability of human and financial resources, educators can use U.S.-based illustrative examples, with context-specific modification, to empower this marginalized group. Providing pregnant and parenting teen mothers with thoughtfully developed context-specific school and community-based programs has the potential to promote resilience, persistence, and a positive attitude toward degree completion. Schools that do not have access to federal, state, and locally funded programs can help teen moms thrive in the new and uncharted territory with inclusive community or school-driven policies and procedures such as the use of early warning systems (EWS) that generate data for academic interventions, mentoring, counseling, health care, and day care for young children.
Dawn N. Hicks Tafari and Janeva Wilson
Institutionalized racism in the American education system has resulted in a crisis plaguing young Black boys from their preschool years and continuing into their pursuits in higher education. This is manifested as various forms of racial and gendered oppression, which is causing a disparate gap in Black males’ educational success and achievement. Racism and bias on the individual and systemic level have short- and long-term implications for Black male students and Black male teachers. Negative experiences in primary and secondary education make it more difficult to recruit and retain Black male teachers. The presence of Black male teachers is not only imperative to diversify a field dominated by White women but to also enhance the educational experiences of young Black boys. The diversity of students is not reflected by those teaching them, which exacerbates issues facing Black males in primary education, Black male preservice teachers, and new teachers. Understanding and addressing the barriers that young Black men face in education can yield efforts to support their success not only as students but as teachers. Establishing an inclusive and encouraging space where young Black boys can flourish in school can promote a more inviting place for Black male teachers to shine. Young Black boys who see educators that resemble them are positively impacted in areas of academic performance and personal growth. Young Black boys being introduced to mentors that understand and relate to them is instrumental during their formative years, as they can witness Black men succeeding in the face of adversity. An increased presence of Black male teachers in education is not the sole solution for the troubles and oppression that young Black boys face in education. However, they are a valuable asset to the education system, as well as the lives of students who benefit from their existence.
Elina Lahelma, Tarja Tolonen, and Sirpa Lappalainen
Feminist ethnography in education has in so-called Western countries developed in the late 1900s into a research approach with its own identifiable characteristics. Starting points are in feminist theorizations that draw from perspectives of different marginal groups, raised in the context of cultural radicalization of the 1960s and 1970s. In Finland, feminist ethnography took the first steps in the 1990s and achieved a stable position in educational research in the early 2000s. This emerging research has provided possibilities for subtle analysis in educational institutions on gendered, spatial and embodied practices, which have impact on intersectional inequalities. A theoretical and methodological invention developed by the first Finnish feminist ethnographers in the 1990s is differentiation between the official, informal, and physical layers of the school. Teaching and learning, the curriculum, pedagogy, and formal hierarchies belong to the official layer. Interaction among teachers and students, including informal hierarchies and youth cultures, takes place in the informal layer. The physical school refers to temporality, spatiality, and embodiment. These layers are intertwined in the everyday life of the school; the distinctions between them are analytical. This differentiation is one illustration of nuanced ways to conduct analysis of gendered, classed, and racialized processes and practices in schools. This analytical tool was elaborated in the large ethnographic project, Citizenship, Difference and Marginality in Schools—With Special Reference to Gender (1993–1998). The project was conducted in schools in Finland, collaborating with a similar project in the United Kingdom. The collective project was conceptualized in comparative reflections on contemporary educational politics and policies in both countries and included cross-cultural ethnographic analysis. The layers were used as tools in constructing the theoretical-methodological layout of the project and in focusing the ethnographic gaze in the field, as well as in analysis, interpretation, and writing. Using the layers of the school as an analytic tool passed on to later studies and have further been developed in novel ways, demonstrating the usefulness of collaborative feminist work in national and international networks.
Hayarpi Papikyan and Rebecca Rogers
The growth of empire in the 19th century went hand in hand with a concern to address girls’ education. Girls’ schools developed within the British, French, Dutch, Ottoman, and Russian empires and, despite the variety of spatial boundaries and the differing nature of core-periphery relations, girls’ schools were the object of ideological pronouncements centered around visions of femininity. The ostensible goals for this education often shared a similar commitment to the training of good wives and mothers in order to improve the familial morals of colonized territories. In reality, the nature of girls’ schooling was far more complex and played in particular into broader political debates about the role of education in the development of enlightened female subjects and later citizens. National movements in colonized areas generated discourses about women as “mothers of the nation,” with an emphasis on domesticity, not dissimilar from earlier colonial rhetoric, while the development of girls’ schooling led a minority of women into skilled professions that challenged without upsetting existing gender relations.
Jenny E. Kassen
As more young people find language to describe their gendered experiences, education as a field is reckoning with how to best support and affirm them in schools. Research centering on the experiences of transgender and gender diverse students (TGDSs) has brought to light many issues that impact on their school experiences, such as lack of curricular visibility, in-school support, and lack of appropriate facilities, illuminating the systemic forces at play that hamper TGDS participation and livability in schools and drawing attention to the violence that is enacted against them through erasure and overt transphobia. Examining the pervasive violence that TGDSs face at school through a framework of epistemic injustice provides an entry point conceptualizing of violence as extending beyond direct physical or verbal victimization to include the harm done when an individual is disqualified by others as a knower of their own experience. Cultural cisgenderism, the systemic erasure of TGD people in all aspects of society, is the vehicle by which epistemic injustice organizationally and instructionally informs and creates school climates where TGDSs come to be subject to verbal and physical aggression. Understanding the violence that impacts on every aspect of TGDSs’ academic trajectories as expressions of cultural cisgenderism and epistemic violence provides educators with options for intentionally examining the ways in which school systems are complicit in the production of a silence and invisibility around gender diversity which cultivates unsafe gender climates and thus facilitates more overt forms of harm. Examining the more insidious and normalized forms of epistemic violence opens up space to probe more deeply into how a positive—not merely bearable—school experience might be imagined for and with TGDSs.
Marnina Gonick and Judith Conrads
Gender and sexuality are key aspects of identity that intersect with other social categories such as race, class, ethnicity, and ability to shape life experiences. While these forces are at work throughout one’s lifetime, adolescence is a particularly important time of discovery, negotiation, and resistance. Most young people in Western countries spend an enormous amount of time in schools, grouped together by age with others from their communities, including teachers and other school personnel. Schools are, therefore, important sites of sociality where young people are faced with the social and power dynamics of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion. The forms these processes take include forming friendships and romantic relationships as well as bullying and violence. Gender and sexuality are central to how these dynamics play out. Young people who do not conform to dominant binary versions of gendered expressions of femininity and masculinity as well as heterosexuality often encounter barriers to inclusion and recognition. Social relations among youth are central, but school curriculum, policies, teacher-student interactions, and how schools are physically organized all contribute to the shape that gender and sexuality will take in a particular context or location. Beyond the official curriculum, schools are sites where an unofficial curriculum of the body, gender performance, and gendered and sexed relations is learned through interactions with others and through encounters with powerful regimes of normativity. Young people are social agents who are actively involved in negotiating their gendered and sexed identities. However, they do so within the constraints of the discourses available to them to make meaning of their experience.
Miwa A. Takeuchi and Ananda Marin
From the era of European empire to the global trades escalated after the World Wars, technological advancement, one of the key underlying conditions of globalization, has been closely linked with the production and reproduction of the colonizer/colonized. The rhetoric of modernity characterized by “salvation,” “rationality,” “development,” and nature-society or nature-culture divides underlies dominant perspectives on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education that have historically positioned economic development and national security as its core values. Such rhetoric inevitably and implicitly generates the logic of oppression and exploitation. Against the backdrop of nationalist and militaristic discourse representing modernity or coloniality, counter-voices have also arisen to envision a future of STEM education that is more humane and socioecologically just. Such bodies of critiques have interrogated interlocking colonial domains that shape the realm of STEM education: (a) settler colonialism, (b) paternalism, genderism, and coloniality, and (c) militarism and aggression and violence against the geopolitical Other. Our ways of knowing and being with STEM disciplines have been inexorably changed in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which powerfully showed us how we live in the global chain of contagion. What kinds of portrayal can we depict if we dismantle colonial imaginaries of STEM education and instead center decolonial love—love that resists the nature-culture or nature-society divide, love to know our responsibilities and enact them in ways that give back, love that does not neglect historical oppression and violence yet carries us through? STEM education that posits decolonial love at its core will be inevitably and critically transdisciplinary, expanding the epistemological and ontological boundaries to embrace those who had been colonized and disciplined through racialized, gendered, and classist disciplinary practices of STEM.
Nickie Coomer and Chelsea Stinson
Historically, Western hegemonic order has been established through cultivating and legitimating social categories of difference. Schools, among other institutions, reinforce difference through marking ability, race, and gender to signify which bodies are productive, deficient, or dangerous and therefore in need of control. This process of differentiation and control is evident in the social, political, and education contexts of disabled youth whose race, gender, and sexuality are read, controlled, and resisted through policy and pedagogy. Through the processes of hypervisiblity, pathologization, and underserving of Black girls in schools, and especially within special education, this animates the nexus of gender, race, and disability. Parallels are drawn to paradigms of the female body and femininity, where difference is constructed as inferior to the normative male body. Similarly, special education policy, practice, and literature conceptualize disability as subtractive difference, wherein what is considered a “deficit” relies on a subtractive interpretation of a normative body or a normative way of being. In this regard, disability, gender—and, crucially, race—are often thought of as a negative departure from a normalized embodiment. In special education, such normalized, essentialist approaches to gender, race, and disability contribute to the disproportionate overidentification of some social identities and the underidentification of others, most often along raced and gendered lines. Importantly, disabling processes are institutionalized in education through the mechanism of special education, which not only serves as an instructional and academic response to a student’s disability but also acts as an institutional process that determines a student as disabled. The determination of a student having a disability is mediated through law, policy, and interpersonal interaction between school professionals and parents and caregivers. Disproportionate identification has been the focus of research, and studies show that overidentification occurs most often in disability categories that are considered “subjective”: for instance, specific learning disabilities and emotional disturbances. Such identification has an impact on students’ learning; opportunities to interact with their peers in general education settings; access to high quality, challenging curriculum; and opportunities to engage critical thinking in educational activities that go beyond direct instruction. Disabling processes in schools related to the intersection of disability, gender, and race, in particular, are mediated by the local, cultural interactions of school personnel and are evident in the ways in which Black girls, in particular, are disabled in school.