Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

James Cavendish

Keywords

discourse coalitions, education, narratives, social movements, youth activism

Abstract

School reform efforts, such as those to form high school gay-straight alliance clubs (GSAs), are often met with resistance by school personnel and local community members. Using a sample of newspaper articles related to school reform GSA controversies in two Southern states (N=83) drawn from an initial sampling frame of GSA controversies receiving newspaper coverage between January 2006 and August 2011 (N=631), I use narrative analysis-- including a discourse coalitions approach--to identify common themes of resistance in the narration of characters, plot, setting, and morals which GSA members and allies must overcome to successfully form GSAs. Substantively, I locate four major narration strategies in my analysis of the stories used to support or oppose GSAs: 1) character construction strategies that make positive or negative claims about stakeholders including school personnel, the GSA club, and its members, 2) counter narration strategies which attempt to portray the GSA as promoting sexual activity, 3) counter narration strategies which seek to oppose the GSA based on an idea that a GSA club and its members will recruit other students to become gay or lesbian, and 4) setting- talk narratives based on notions of `small town' or Christian morality to show why or why not a GSA is wanted or needed. Methodologically, I locate one major finding for future scholars of narratives: the demarcation of setting-talk in narratives which story the setting as implicitly containing the morals of the story. In my particular cases, setting-talk implicates acceptable religious or moral boundary expectations of the local citizenry. Overall, this thesis serves as a call for scholars to examine narratives in education and social movement research while informing researchers and educators of common resistance themes in GSA formation.

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