Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Childhood Education and Literacy Studies

Major Professor

Stephen Graves, Ph.D.

Keywords

Masculinity, Caribbean, Homophobia, Underachievement, Hegemony

Abstract

This multi-case ethnographic study examined the gender beliefs of two teachers and 12 parents and the gender identity of thirty 8-10 year old boys in two primary schools in Jamaica. The study was conducted against the background of gross underachievement among Jamaican boys and the research literature pointing to gender socialization as a factor in the declining results and interest in academic studies. Through 10 weeks of observations, interviews and focus group discussions answers were sought for the following questions: 1. What beliefs do teachers hold about gender? 2. What beliefs do parents hold about gender?

3. What are boys' perceptions of their gender identity? From the data collected it was revealed that teachers' expressed beliefs was not always consistent with their classroom practices; teachers traditional methods even though recognising that girls and boys have different learning styles; boys arrived at school far less prepared to work than girls; they were more likely to be off task than were girls; they identified strongly and early with traditional masculinity in the process devaluing anything feminine; parents, particularly mothers felt powerless to change the attitudes of boys towards school work; they allow their boys far more latitude to play at home and in many instances failed to help them develop a sense of responsibility. Parents held traditional gender beliefs guided mostly by religious teachings. In the matter of careers however, they were prepared to allow their sons to work in traditional female careers.

The findings suggest the need for a radical redefinition of what it means to be masculinity, one which will allow boys to embrace feminine values and attitudes. The central education authorities in Jamaica need a clear gender policy for schools; schools need to work closer with parents for a greater level of consistency in the socialization of boys. Finally, teacher preparation programmes need to pay more than lip service to gender in the education process. Teachers in training need to understand that their socialization practices are driven by their beliefs and impact the development of boys and girls' identities.

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