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Gender and Education

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Gender and sexual diversity in schools, by Elizabeth Meyer


Ryan G. Pollya a California Institute of Integral Studies, Shelburne, VT, USA Online publication date: 18 March 2011

To cite this Article Polly, Ryan G.(2011) 'Gender and sexual diversity in schools, by Elizabeth Meyer', Gender and

Education, 23: 2, 230 232 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/09540253.2011.558746 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09540253.2011.558746

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Book reviews

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where these stakeholders enact gender, including policy, mission statements, classroom interactions, textbooks, physical education fields, discipline, teacher roles, student leadership, family responsibilities, and more. Attending to these many dynamics provides the reader a fuller picture of the ecology of gender in the countries presented. The qualitative approach of the collection has both positives and negatives. On one hand, it is the best approach for answering questions the authors had about the processes of schooling that reproduce gendered inequalities. On the other hand, though, in most cases the small numbers of participants make the generalisations made about country-wide contexts ring hollow. Also, many though not all the authors failed to capitalise on what makes qualitative approaches so powerful by including only limited thick descriptions and raw interview data. Still, each chapter is very thorough in its presentation of the context, and this could only have been accomplished with rigorous qualitative engagement. Overall, because it does not present, build on, or develop theory to any great degree, scholars of gender and education will find little that is particularly new in Exploring the Bias beyond the specific contexts of the countries studied. Nevertheless, this book might be of great interest to comparative and international education scholars and those practitioners who work in development contexts, particularly because of its strong focus on locating gender bias across the schooling ecology. Marcus B. Weaver-Hightower Department of Educational Foundations and Research, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, USA mwh@und.edu 2011, Marcus B. Weaver-Hightower

Gender and sexual diversity in schools, by Elizabeth Meyer, New York, Springer, 2010, 152 pp., US$29.95 (paperback), ISBN 978-9400704879 In the wake of teenage suicides and issues of school-based bullying and harassment, Elizabeth Meyer provides an easy-to-read and thought-provoking argument for inclusive curriculum in schools that includes awareness and understanding of sexual and gender diversity. Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools adds to the growing collection of literature in the field of education that addresses the need for a safe and inclusive environment for all students. The book targets teachers, school administrators, and youth workers; however, Meyer provides sound research and theory that should appeal to scholars and policy makers. Although Meyer focuses on educational equality, the book fits within the discourse of feminist and queer theory. Anyone interested in gender and sexual equality should benefit from reading this book. The book is well written and organised, broken down into two sections. The first section, Understanding Gender and Sexual Diversity, consists of three chapters that provide a foundational understanding of gender, sex, and sexual orientation. The first introductory chapter explores the importance of an inclusive school environment. As an educator, Meyer writes in a relatable tone and begins by focusing on issues that many educators are already concerned about: student engagement and success, physical and emotional health, student safety, and diversity and equity. She continues by providing an overview of the gripping reality of hostility and bullying faced by

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students on a regular basis. Meyer concludes by providing the reader with several different theories of education that support inclusivity. Both Chapters Two, Understanding Sex and Gender, and Three, Understanding Sexuality, offer the reader a foundational understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality. Meyer relies heavily on the work of queer and transgender theorists such as Bornstein, Feinburg, and Cromwell to challenge the hegemonic understanding of sex and gender. Chapter Two reads as a persuasive argument against the gender binary viewpoint. Meyer eloquently states that the rigidity of the gender binary is what causes problems for variant people, not their own identity or embodiment (p. 44). Meyer is careful to explain that her focus is not on why there is diversity in sex and gender, but on how to respect and appreciate the diversity. Unfortunately, this chapter fails to offer practical advice on how to value sex and gender variance in school. The overall tone of the book shifts significantly between Chapters Two and Three. While Chapter Two felt intellectual, Chapter Three felt educational. In this chapter, Meyer begins by defining sexual orientation, identity and behaviour. Interestingly, in her effort to explain sexuality, Meyer reinforces the binary understanding by exclusively focusing on genetic sex. This chapter could have been stronger if Meyer had included a brief section on the diverse sexuality of gender-variant individuals. Following the definitions, Meyer continues by discussing the history of homophobia and its impact on education, and unlike the preceding chapter, Meyer concludes with specific suggestions for creating schools that value sexual diversity. The second section, Experiencing Gender and Sexual Diversity, consists of four chapters offering suggestions for creating an educational climate that values gender and sexual diversity. Chapter Four, Integrating Gender and Sexual Diversity Across Curriculum, offers educators and administrators realistic and practical suggestions to create an inclusive environment. This chapter is meticulously organised and comprehensive. Meyer covers both elementary and secondary curriculum including History, English, Biology, Health, Mathematics and Fine Arts. Meyers experience and genuine passion is evident throughout this chapter. In Chapter Five, Meyer provides an overview of Canadian and American law and policy that impacts inclusive education. Meyer utilises case studies to support her argument by illustrating the legal consequences of discriminatory practice as well as the positive impact of inclusivity. In Chapter Six, Understanding the Impacts of the School Environment, Meyer provides an in-depth analysis of the consequences associated with ignoring gender and sexual diversity including: lower academic performance, absenteeism, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicidal ideation and attempt. Meyers compelling argument examines the problem and explains how the educational system may be reinforcing rather than mitigating it. The final chapter, Transforming School Cultures, moves beyond the educator by speaking to administrators and policy makers. The chapter offers a systematic process of school-based cultural transformation. Meyer offers real-world suggestions that can be implemented in any school. She discusses resistance to change and potential barriers, offering suggestions to overcome them. In this concluding chapter, Meyer writes with great fervour. It is evident that she is truly striving for change. Meyer concludes the book by restating the impact of discrimination and oppression and acknowledging that the many facets of diversity must be recognised and valued. In Gender and Sexual Diversity in Schools, Elizabeth Meyer provides a beautifully written and engaging discussion of the need for inclusivity in schools. Meyer offers a realistic and systematic process for transforming schools into inclusive and comfort-

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able environments for all. As an educator, and queer theorist, I believe that this book is an exceptional contribution to the field of education. Although the book focuses on North American educational policy, Meyers suggestions should benefit educators worldwide. I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in diversity and inclusion. Ryan G. Polly, M. Ed. California Institute of Integral Studies, Shelburne, VT, USA ryanpolly@comcast.net 2011, Ryan G. Polly

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