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Gender, Girls, and Schooling  

Marnina Gonick

The schooling of girls has, across different times and places, often been a matter of heated public debate. From the 1800s to the present, contentious issues such as the purpose of girls’ education, curriculum content, and the meanings given to girls’ bodies within educational sites have led to varying discussions, opinions, and policies. At the center of these debates are the questions of how gender is understood; how it is used in a given place and time in the division of labor, the economy, and the family; and how it is assumed that young girls and women should be instructed for eventually taking up the positions deemed appropriate for their time and place. It is impossible, however, to simply talk about girls’ schooling as if this refers to a singular group of people. Differences in class, race, ethnicity, region, citizenship, sexuality, and other characteristics shape both the contours of the debate and the experience of schooling. Thus, any discussion of the issue of gender, girls, and schooling needs to take an intersectional approach—one that takes into consideration the ways in which identity categories work together within and across differences to produce experience, identity, and meaning. Currently, the question of girls’ education finds its strongest articulation in relation to the Global South. International organizations and major corporations alike have used their platforms to advance the cause of educating girls in the interests of national and global development. This has proved to have consequences that do not always take into account the complexity of girls’ lives in their local contexts. Issues of gendered inequalities in the Global North are sometimes mistakenly assumed to have been resolved, things of the past. However, girls in schools continue to face issues such as sexual harassment, cyberbullying, and discrimination. As a result, their issues are often misunderstood or marginalized within school communities.