Challenging dominance in the education sector: Why is it important and how can I do it?

Kathleen F Cooper

Abstract


Dominance in any sector prevents minority voices from being heard. Challenging dominance can be vulnerable, especially if the challenger identifies as part of a minority group. Marginalisation and silencing of issues pertaining to the gay community have long been the accepted norm in the education sector (Lee & Duncan, 2008; Robinson 2002). Furthermore, being an openly gay person in a teaching environment has proven challenging, mainly due to the dominance and acceptance of the heterosexual construct (DeJean, 2010a; Jarvis & Sandretto, 2010; McKenzie-Bassant, 2007; Sumara, 2008). The experiences of four lesbian teachers located in urban Aotearoa New Zealand and how they challenged heteronormativity in their early childhood education (ECE) settings was the focus for this research. Heteronormativity was one barrier which prevented teachers speaking about lesbian and gay topics. As a result of this barrier, acceptance of lesbian and gay issues is still a contentious issue within Aotearoa New Zealand ECE settings. A feminist poststructuralist and queer theory paradigm was used to frame the analytical approach. Data was gathered using individual interviews and a focus group. Strategies that participants used to challenge heteronormative dominance were examined. Although the participants did disrupt and challenge the dominance of heteronormativity, this was not without challenges or discomfort. The findings indicate that a collective approach from all teachers to challenge heteronormativity would benefit both peers and children. This collective approach would enable lesbian and gay teachers to be better able to be authentically engaged teachers.


Keywords


Heteronormativity; silence; dominance; lesbian teacher

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DOI: 10.15663/wje.v22i3.371

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© Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Te Kura Toi Tangata Faculty of Education, 2015