Poststructuralism is broadly considered to be a particular movement of thought that emerged in France during the 1960s in response to a range of philosophical approaches such as modernism and structural linguistics. Poststructuralism has been extensively explored across philosophy, cultural studies, politics, and numerous other fields. It has also received significant attention in education, particularly in relation to education policy, although much less so in relation to educational leadership and administration. Nevertheless, it is important to identify some of the main thinkers who have been associated with poststructuralism, examples of how their work has been used and drawn from in educational leadership, and explore how these ideas might be useful in providing alternative perspectives to much of the existing research in educational leadership and administration.
Paola Valero and Auli Arvola Orlander
How mathematics and science curricula connect to democracy and justice is understood through the examination of different perspectives of mathematics and science education as political. Although frequently conceived of as neutral, these school subjects have been central in recent modern education for governing the making of rational, science-minded citizens who are necessary for social, political, and economic progress. Three main perspectives are identified in the existing research literature. A perspective of empowerment highlights the power that people can acquire by learning and using mathematics and science. A perspective of disadvantage focuses on how the pedagogies of mathematics and science intersect with categories such as ability, gender, class, ethnicity, and race to generate and reproduce marginalization. A perspective of subjectivation examines the effects of mathematics and science curricula within the context of historical and cultural processes for the making of desired modern, rational, and techno-scientific types of citizens, thus creating categories of inclusion and exclusion. All together, these perspectives point to the ways in which mathematics and science, as privileged forms of knowing in contemporary school curricula, simultaneously operate to include or exclude different types of students.
Discussion of sex and/or gender in education has a long history, raising the difference gender makes and questioning also whether gender should make a difference and even how gender comes to be constituted in diverse ways. Many of the theorists and researchers working in these related areas examine role education plays in creating and exacerbating gender differences. They also note that when gender differences are highlighted by institutions, the resulting hierarchy of value tends to work to the advantage of male privilege and heterosexuality. Gender and sexuality difference are then used to stabilize and justify both sexism and heterosexism. This entry explores how the early philosophical theorizing that brought attention to the difference gender makes and the problems with gender-related hierarchy, setting the stage for later discussions of how and why schools need to challenge gender inequity. Exploring Anglo-American educational and related research, this entry distinguishes among theories that stress gender difference (e.g., arguing for women’s particular educational needs and strengths), theories that explore how gender differences are produced by institutions, how intersections of race challenge stable notions of what gender means, and finally, discussing how poststructural theories disrupt the normative gender binary, opening new possibilities for transgender students and other challenges to gender norms.