The theorizing of gender, sexuality, and borders emerged from borderland theory as conceptualized by Chicana lesbian writer Gloria Anzaldúa. Enacted in this theory are racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender identities and relationships to land, and the U.S.–Mexico border in particular. Borderland theory embraces the immigrants, the exiles, the mixed-race, the queers, the nonnormative, the crossers of binaries, broadly defined. Borderland pedagogies build upon borderland theory, encouraging recognition of diverse experiences, critical and flexible thinking, creativity, and acceptance of one’s contradictions. Popular culture serves as an important tool for borderland pedagogies, both as a resource for classroom teaching and as a broad-reaching medium to promote public learning. Music, film, literature, and television provide rich sources for learning and unlearning. Gender and sexual diversity in borderland popular culture are the outliers of heteronormativity and challenge dualistic notions of sex and gender. The borderland provide the symbolic location of the restrictions and wounds caused by binary thinking, as well as the place to recuperate, to heal, to learn, and to transform.
Karleen Pendleton Jiménez
The topic of gender differences in reading, writing, and language development has long been of interest to parents, educators, and public-policy makers. While some researchers have claimed that gender differences in verbal and language abilities are disappearing, careful evaluation of the scientific research shows otherwise. Examination of nationally representative samples of educational achievement data show that there are moderately sized gender differences in reading achievement favoring girls and women (d = −0.19 to −0.44 across age groups), and substantially larger gender differences in writing (d = −0.42 to −0.62), spelling (d = −0.39 to −0.50), and grammar (d = −0.39 to −0.42). Explanations for observed gender differences in verbal and language abilities suggest a complex network of biological, social, and cultural forces rather than any single factor.
Kathryn Herr, Kathleen Grant, and Jeremy Price
Sex segregated schooling in the United States is one of the fastest-growing movements in education in the 21st century. The current movement toward single-sex schooling is embedded in a national discourse of school choice and an adoption of market principles in education. This framing espouses that when schools compete for educational consumers, the needs of those currently underserved in U.S. schools will be better served and their academic performance will improve. Scholars argue that there are three main rationales typically put forward for sex segregated schools: they will eliminate distractions and harassment from the other sex; they can address the espoused different learning styles of boys and girls, and, finally, they can remedy inequities experienced by low-income students of color. Many of the single sex schools have large proportions of low-income youth of color. In general, while the sex segregated structure of these schools seems to offer opportunities to disrupt gendered stereotypes, there is little evidence that this occurs. Instead, as society’s conceptualizations of sexuality and gender evolve, single-sex education upholds a largely heteronormative and cisgendered understanding of gender and sexuality. Much of the research documents a reinforcement of gendered stereotypes and heterosexism. The literature on single-sex schools for boys also presents a puzzling mix of academic success for some boys, and no significant difference for others. There is little attention to the accomplishments and current experiences of girls in single-sex schools at the K–12 levels. Research shows that successful schools, whether they are single-sex or coeducational, tend to have factors in common like creating strong mentoring relationships and keeping smaller class sizes. In sum, research would indicate that the rationales noted earlier to justify the development of sex segregated schools are not much realized in the research.
Peer-led and youth-led sex education primarily involves young people teaching other young people about sex, sexuality, and sexual health. This approach gained in popularity during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s–1990s, as community organizations sought to address the unique sexual health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth, many of whom had been underserved in traditional sex education spaces. Since then, peer-led and youth-led sex education pedagogies have been implemented by researchers, educators, and community organizations working across a range of sites around the globe. Peer-led and youth-led sex education generally draws on assumptions that young people are better situated than adults to talk to their peers about sexual health and/or to model positive sexual health behavior. However, some have noted that this perspective constructs young people as a homogenous group and ignores the ways in which sexuality and sexual health intersects with other social factors. Furthermore, there is a general lack of consensus across interventions around who constitutes a “peer” and what constitutes “peer-led” sex education, resulting in the development of interventions that at times tokenize young people, without engaging them in meaningful ways. As a result, evaluations of many peer- and youth-led sex education pedagogies suggest that even as these pedagogies improve young people’s knowledge of sexual health-related topics, they often don’t result in long-term sexual health behavior change. However, many evaluations of peer- and youth-led sex education pedagogies do suggest that acting as a peer educator is of immense benefit to those who take on this role, pointing to the need for program developers to reconsider what effective sex education pedagogy might look like. A “social ecology” or “systems thinking” approach to youth sexual health may provide alternative models for thinking about the future of peer-led and youth-led sex education. These approaches don’t task peer- and youth-led sex education with the sole responsibility of changing young people’s sexual health-related outcomes, but rather situate peer-led sex education as one potential node in the larger confluence of factors that shape and constrain young people’s sexual health.