Category Archives: Uncategorized

Adult Women Returning to Education: Care of the Self?

In the late 1960s, there was a major shift and unexpected occurrence in society, adult women were increasing their presence in colleges (Jones, 2009). The doors of academia that once were closed to women were opened and the admission policies that separated the genders had ended. Women began to expand into career fields outside of traditional female fields of study and (Jones, 2009) by 1980s women were earning the most undergraduate and graduate degrees.



Why are they going back?
Economics: Once child rearing becomes less of a focus, women find themselves at the crossroads in their lives, desiring to pursue occupational goals previously placed on hold for the benefit of their families (Hardin, 2008; Sweet & Moen, 2007). The intention behind pursuing a college degree for some women is the goal of attaining a higher position in the workforce that will (hopefully) lead to financial stability.
Life-Transitions: Major life events such as divorce, death of a spouse/family member, loss of employment etc. can trigger the motivation to return to education with the hope that they can re-create an identity or return to a past identity.
Self-Investment: The possible selves framework examines the self-concept as it refers to the future where the self evolves over time based on ones’ life experiences, psychosocial context, economic and current situation (Markus & Nurius, 1986). Rossiter (2009) believed the possible selves framework could provide insight into “understanding the adult learner” in transitions from one career to another and identity transition (p12). Frazier and Hooker (2006, as cited in Rossiter, 2009) outlined four theoretic anchors that when combined with adult development provides an overview of how possible selves can be used with nontraditional students. The first is that possible selves “demonstrates the self-directed nature of development” (p. 62) that individuals chart their own course. Second, possible selves are contextual, that this self is defined and shaped by their interaction with their environment. It is also a source of motivation for the things that they do or do not do. Third, in the developmental process possible selves is a power motivation toward shaping a person’s’ course. Fourth, the personality is a personal action construct that affects self-regulation.
Questions and quote to consider
Are adult women returning back to education because of who they think they should be? And, are they creating (or re-creating) an identity based on who they want to be or who higher education thinks they should be?

“The self-directed, self-managed individual is encouraged to identify with the university and the goals of higher education policy: challenging the terms of reference is not an option.”

Does this provide them with more control over their lives?

The Nature of Relationships
Relationships for a majority of women, and most adults, returning to college play an integral role in the success of not only returning but attaining the degree. Shore and Wright (2000) mention that “to be effective, audit technologies must somehow re-fashion the way people perceive themselves in relation to their work, to one another, and to themselves. In short, they are used to transform professional, collegial, and personal identities” (pg. 62).

Family and Culture:

img_2884 get-married-make-babies


Two different women pursuing similar degrees can have different relationships with their peers particularly when there is a vast difference in age.


1st woman: Woman is in a classroom with students who are in their mid-late 20s. The younger students in the course have oriented the woman into the role of the mother–a role which she has already undertaken with her own child.

2nd woman: Woman is in a cohort with student who are in the mid-late 20s and early 30s. The woman has oriented herself into the role of the mother and the students as her daughters.

This raises the question: how do women self-fashion themselves in a classroom?
Hardin, C. J. (2008). Adult student in higher education. New Directions for Higher Education,
144(49-57). doi: 10/1002/he.325
Jones, S. (2009). Dynamic Social Norms and the Unexpected Transformation of Women’s
Higher Education, 1965-1975. Social Science History, 33(3), 247-291.
Markus, H., & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954-969.
Rossiter, M. (2009). Possible Selves and career transition: Implications for serving nontraditional
students. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 57(2), 61-71.
Sweet, S., & Moen, P. (2007). Integrating educational careers in work and family: Women’s
return to school and family life quality. Community, Work and Family, 10(2). 231-250.
doi: 10.1080/13668800701270166

On an Ethic of Care- Tasha + Alison

Friend Zone/Friends with benefits


The most intriguing aspect of gay identity for Foucault is how homosexuality can lead to new ways of relating. These new ways of relating Foucault refers to as ‘friendship.’  


“That toward which the developments of the problem of homosexuality tend is the problem of friendship.”


In Foucault’s view, gay men are confronted with the task of transforming the self (ascesis – a work to transform the self) in hopes of achieving a new way of living.  


“They must invent from A to Z, a relationship that is still formless, which is friendship: that is to say the sum of all the means through which they can give each other pleasure.” (Friendship, 136)

Foucault argues that gay men should work to “escape the two readymade formulas of the purely sexual hookup and the lovers’ fusion of identities.” The only way homosexuality is accepted is on the ground of pure sex or true love – this way homosexuality is coherent within society’s already established fields. It’s comprehensible to view homosexuality as a hook-up because it aligns with the idea of crazy young men having ‘unbridled’ and uncontrollable lust and “cancels all that can be troubling in affection, tenderness, friendship, loyalty, camaraderie, companionship, things that our rather sanitized society can’t allow a place for without fearing the formation of new alliances and the tying together of unforeseen lines of force.” (Friendship, 136)


A new ‘friendship’ has developed through the sexual revolution – the new non-romantic (w/o intention of marriage) heterosexual friendship. Men and women can be friends now without romantic implications. (Also to think about there being a time when men and women were prohibited from having a friendship.. as if friendship was too intense or personal?) In addition, friendships of people who happen to be having sex – ‘friends with benefits.’  New ways of relating act as strategies to avoid relationships that confine us into roles with an understanding of expectations – girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, etc. Though, it still seems as though society is urging us in the direction of established romantic relationships – with tons of literature on “how to be the perfect girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband/etc”- there have been psychological studies with published results on why men and women really can’t be friends. And there is the widely regarded warning to young boys to avoid the ‘friend zone.’


Love vs. friendship?

Judith Butler, Foucault, + The Opt Out Movement

When I consider Judith Butler’s (2004) question, “What makes for a livable world?” and then her point that

It becomes a question of ethics, I think, not only when we ask the personal question, what makes my own life bearable, but when we ask, from a position of power, and from the point of view of distributive justice, what makes, or ought to make, the lives of others bearable? Somewhere in the answer, we find ourselves not only committed to a certain view of what life is, and what it should be, but also of what constitutes the human, the distinctively human life, and what does not. (p. 17)

It is from a place of humanness that I hope to do education differently— from my position of power as an educator, I want to interrogate: what can my actions do to make the lives of my students more bearable? Moreover, how can I create a (classroom) space that enables children to claim their own doings and reclaim the ways in which their doings have been undone? At the moment, I think that what I can do surrounds problematizing curriculum— for me, this is a kind of undoing (Butler, 2004).

In a similar vein, Foucault says

There is a whole network of relationships of power, which can operate between individuals, in the bosom of the family, in an educational relationship, in the political body, etc. . . When an individual or social group manages to block a field of relations of power, to render them impassive and invariable and to prevent all reversibility of movement- by means of instruments which can be economic as well as political or military- we are facing what can be called a state of domination. It is certain that in such a state the practice of liberty does not exist or exists only unilaterally or is extremely confined and limited.


(Bernie Sanders’ signature on a Scantron that reads “opt out.”)


“Liberation opens up new relationships of power, which have to be controlled by practices of liberty” (p. 4).

Enter in: the Opt Out movement ( a practice of liberty).

Butler (2004) explains that “the experience of a normative restriction becoming undone can undo a prior conception of who one is only to inaugurate a relatively newer one that has a greater livability as its aim” (p. 1). When considering curriculum, it can be helpful to have conceptions of models, but also to know that one does not have to choose from a set of already established curricular models/options— instead, one can make their own, make what they can imagine, what feels right, and has a greater livability for themselves and their students. Through the lens of curriculum theorists William Pinar, Lynn Beudert and Marissa McClure (2015), curriculum theory is a means for educators to think about ideas, purposes of, and actions within curriculum/experiences by paying “systematic attention to the question of what we should teach” (Kliebard, 1977, p. 260) in addition to how and where curricula are implemented (p. 24). What if one reconceptualized and theorized a curriculum by struggling “to resist curricular absolutes by engaging in discourses that are contingent upon the ideas, opinions, and lived expertise of those individuals who comprise a community?” (Cherryhomes; cited by Garaoin, 1999, p. 141).


Is this even realistic? And, what would it take to bring this systemic reconceptualization to fruition?

Diane Ravitch on Opting Out:

Want to end the obsession with standardized testing? Opt your children out of the state tests. Ignore the threats from state and federal officials. The tests today have taken over too much of the school year. Teachers should prepare and give tests that cover what they taught.

What if all students opted out of testing? That’s democracy in action. The elected officials who mandate these tests would take notice. They might even discover that no high-performing nation in the world tests every child every year.

The tests today are pointless and meaningless.

The tests are meaningless because the results are returned months after the test, when the student has a different teacher. The tests are meaningless because the scores provide no information about what the students learned and didn’t learn. The teacher is not allowed to find out what students got wrong.

Officials claim that the tests help students and teachers and inform instruction. Balderdash. The tests rank and rate students. Worse, the developers of the Common Core tests selected a passing mark so high that the majority of children are expected to fail. The passing mark is a subjective judgment. What exactly is the value of telling children they are failures when they are in third grade?

Schools have cut back on the arts, civics, science, history, and physical education because they are not on the test.

The tests are given online because it is supposed to be cheaper. But many states and districts have had technological breakdowns, and the testing period starts all over again. Students who take pencil and paper tests get higher scores than similar children who take online tests. It may be cumbersome to scroll up and down or sideways, wasting time.

In some states and districts, children with disabilities are expected to take exactly the same tests as children their age, regardless of the nature of their disability. Florida became famous for trying to force a test on a dying child. He cheated the state by dying before they could test him.

When students write essays online, most will be graded by computer. The computer understands sentence length, grammar, and syntax. But the computer does not understand MEANING. A ridiculous essay that is complete gibberish can get a high score.

The testing regime is destroying education.It is driven by politicians who think that tests make students smarter and by educrats who fear to think an independent thought.

There are two ways to stop this madness. One would be to require legislators and policymakers in the states and federal government to take the tests they mandate and publish their scores. This would prove the value of the tests. Why shouldn’t they all be able to pass the 8th grade math test?

Since this is unlikely to happen, the best way to restore common sense to American education is to stop taking the tests. Parents should discuss the issues of testing with their children. Explain to them that the tests can’t measure what matters most:   Kindness, integrity, honesty, responsibility, humor, creativity, wisdom, thoughtfulness.

The best and only way to send a message to the politicians is to let your children refuse the tests. Do you really care how their scores compare to those of students in other states? If you want to know how they are doing, ask the teachers who see them every day.

Gary Stern, veteran education writer in the Lower Hudson Valley, has an insightful well-informed understanding of the New York opt out movement. He knows why it started and why it continues: parents want real changes, not promises of change.

In contrast, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post ridicules the parents as crybabies who refuse to accept that their children are not so smart after all (shades of Arne Duncan!).

Stern writes that the State Education Department imposed the new standards and tests without adequate preparation. The result was distrust and opt out.

“The state should have anticipated this year’s high opt-out rates (in some places, even higher than last year when 20 percent of kids statewide sat out exams). We had Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who once passed himself off as the state’s “lobbyist for the students,” bashing the tests and calling them largely meaningless. We saw the election of a new Board of Regents Chancellor, Betty Rosa, who said she would opt out her own kids if they were still of school age. Plus, there has been so much upheaval during the past year or two — reviews of and revisions to education policies that few understood — that only wonks and activist-types could possibly keep up.

The flipflopping, the unknowns and the promises of future change made the whole thing reek of politics. The continued mess further frustrated those parents keenly watching the process, and likely overwhelmed many others. Why not opt out until things settle down in a year or two?

“Here’s what we need to see before we can anticipate an opt-in movement:

*New York standards. Revisions to the Common Core are underway, and must reflect what the state’s educators want. Rosa, the Board of Regents and Elia will have to explain and sell the changes they endorse, likely to be a difficult task.

*Clear goals. It’s not enough to chant that students must be “college and career ready.” It’s time to explain where our benchmarks come from.

*Better state tests. Elia has promised to cut the ELA and math assessments from three days to two, and to involve New York educators in the development of questions. The tests need to reflect what kids are learning, not the other way around.

*Useable or formative test data. We need test results that can be used to improve instruction, not merely to conclude whether students hit targets. Elia has pledged to release all future test questions and to produce results earlier, so teachers can address kids’ academic needs quickly.

*A review of testing and graduation requirements for special-education students. Many parents and educators believe that students with disabilities have fared worst of all during the reform era.

*A complete rewrite of the state’s loathed teacher- and principal-evaluation system. Elia agrees that it was designed to punish teachers. She has vowed to involve educators in rewriting it. But Elia and Rosa may have to take on Cuomo, who changed his tune on other education matters, but seems committed to the failed evaluation model he championed.

“The opt-out movement was created and energized by ordinary, well-meaning parents. It wasn’t the teachers’ unions, who jumped on the bandwagon late. And please don’t accept the stereotype of clueless, selfish suburban parents who refuse to accept their kids’ low test scores or worry their special snowflakes’ psyches would be damaged by rigor. Or that suburbanites don’t care about holding under-achieving urban schools accountable. It’s an offensive, cartoonish narrative that sells parents way short.

“Parents build strong connections with their local schools. When the teachers they know and the principals they trust were becoming demoralized by state directives, moms and dads started paying attention. Many didn’t like what they saw.

“New York’s “reform” agenda was dropped out of the sky by state officials, eager for the federal dollars attached, who were so convinced that they were right that they didn’t bother to prepare parents for what was coming….

“Former state Education Commissioner John King dismissed parents’ concerns, and former Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch could not seem to grasp them….

“The state will need to sell its changes — new standards, new tests and (please!) a new evaluation system. But it can’t expect parents to buy only promises of change. Some will need to see it before they send their kids into testing rooms again.”

→ Transcript of what Hillary Clinton told the Newsday editorial board:

An ethic of play and liberation in public early childhood education

“Q: You say that liberty must be practiced ethically? MF: Yes, for what is morality, if not the practice of liberty, the deliberate practice of liberty?” (p. 4).

School’s Out:

Rasmussen (2006) invokes Foucault’s notion that identity politics and identities can be used for the affirmation of rights, but may be deployed for more sinister ends.  In “refusing existing lifestyles” (Jagose & Halberstam, 1999),  Jagose and Halberstam show value in “proliferating sexual and gender identities as a strategy to disrupt regulatory hetero-normative practices and “reimagine[s] the complex set of relations between sexuality, gender, race, and class” (Rasmussen, 2006).

Early in Rasmussen’s work, she explores the victim narrative of LGBTQI* individuals in schools and identifies the discourses of protection that are written about in teacher education matierals that emphasize alienation and isolation. She also discusses the heralded coming-out discourses that focus on heroic tales and celebratory narratives, that fail to represent the inadequacies of terms and the lived experiences of people outside of that narrow window of identity that that discourse seems to priviledge.

Binaries are a simplistic form of categorization and understanding for much more complex and complicated subjects. Rasmussen identified the existence of the in-out dichotomy as a “powerful narrativization of sexual and gender identity” and further states that “sexual and gender binaries… are the linchpins of heteronormativity.”

Heteronormalization and heteronormativity are concepts that reveal the expectations, demands, and constraints that are produced when heterosexuality is seen as normative within a society. This can show it itself through beliefs such as the so-called natural binary of the existence of men and women, and privileges the sexual relationships of one man and one woman being normal and natural, which is the “counternarrative of conservative religion.”


February 28, 2016: The Charlotte City Council  voted on a non-discrimination ordinance. The non-discrimination ordinance aims to amend the city code, adding marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression to the list of protected characteristics in commercial non-discrimination, public accommodations, and passenger vehicles-for-hire ordinances. The council voted in favor of the ordinance by a 7-4 vote. Governor Pat McCrory reached out to council and has said that any ordinance that would allow a male anatomy to enter a women’s restroom or locker room would likely prompt immediate state legislative action.

The North Carolina “Bathroom Bill”



Foucault (1982) outlines “three moves of objectification that ‘transform human beings into subjects: (1) dividing practices, (2) scientific classification, and processes of subjectivization'” (Rasmussen, p. 75) to categorize, distribute, and manipulate.


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Sexy Cyborgs

This week’s topic is the biopolitics of science fiction.

The two poles of Foucault’s biopolitics are summarized below.

Both are described as existing now, although the species body is still emergent

Body as machine – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Species body

Anatomic                                                                    Biological

Optimizing performance                                            Process of life

Systems of efficient control                                       Intervention and regulation of life

US Supreme Court decisions

Diamond  V. Chakrabarty (1980) and Moore V. Regents of the University of California (1990) commodified life, that is, these decisions determined that life can be property. The former established the patenting of genetically modified organisms. The second: a person loses commercial rights to their cells when someone else commercializes their cell line.

Blood donations in the US are unpaid. However, other waste tissues such as infant foreskins and aborted embryo stem cells are sold to companies which make products such as artificial skin and cell lines for research, these are part of what constitutes a tissue economy (Vint, 2011). The unemployed and underpaid are also lured into clinical trials by compensation (Vint, 2011).

Given that parts of humans can now live apart from their donors, how do we ethically separate things from human subjects?

How long do we ethically keep someone alive in a coma to harvest their organs?

If someone had a twin, and that twin were in a coma, what are the ethics of that person paying to keep their twin “alive” as long as possible for the purpose harvesting the organs?

What are the ethics of harvesting parts of the brain?

If we can someday grow human brains outside of bodies, what are the ethics of clinical research?

In The Ship Who Sang, Ann McAffrey wrote of a future where the brains of infants with severe birth defects are transplanted into a succession of robot bodies. The parents consent to the process, believing that a robot life is better than no life at all. The cyborgs develop similar to children, but are always/already the property of the sponsoring company. The cyborgs “grow up” to be the brains of various facilities, the smartest become space ships. This is a case of literal “body as machine”. Let us assume that this may one day be possible, what are the ethics of preserving the life of children, when the consequence is that they become things?

Spider-goats are goats with spider genes which produce spider silk in their milk.

Spider-goats exemplify biopolitical governance of capital (Vint, 2011), they are financial speculation by the University of Utah, for being able to synthesize large quantities of spider silk, a super-strong material, has the potential of being hugely profitable (Vint, 2011). The next step, according to scientists, is to mix alfalfa and spider genes.

If we accept this, then…

…animals that can produce human milk with all the immune-buffering advantages

…plants (or chicken eggs) that contain contraceptives (or sexual inhibitor)

…animals that produce less waste (poop and farts)

…eggs that contain medicine

…plants that contain vaccines

…a virus that makes people happy (or enhances memory)

Which of these would be beneficial overall to society? What do we mean by “overall”?

Yes, some of these things already exist, along with glow-in-the-dark cats.


Radical feminist Shulamith Firestone (1970) proposes a number of ways to ultimately sever women’s biopolitics, and perhaps human biopolitics, from nature. It is important to note that Foucault did not have a theory of nature. Some of her proposals are prescient and some are still pure speculation. Firestone:

The freeing of women from the tyranny of their reproductive biology by every means available, and the diffusion of the childbearing and childrearing role to the society as a whole, men as well as women. There are many degrees of this. Already we have a (hard-won) acceptance of “family planning,” if not contraception for its own sake. Proposals are imminent for day-care centers, perhaps even twenty-four-hour child-care centers staffed by men as well as women. But this, in my opinion, is timid if not entirely worthless as a transition. We’re talking about radical change. And though indeed it cannot come all at once, radical goals must be kept in sight at all times. Day-care centers buy women off. They ease the immediate pressure without asking why that pressure is one women. (p. 233)

In addition to 24-hour child-care centers, Firestone argues that the logical way to “free women from their biology” is to develop artificial wombs and to have a universal basic income for all people, including children. What makes the later more radical than welfare is that it would allow us to live independent of the adult/child cultural family unit. This would mean that mothers and fathers would not be subject to governmentality of responsibility for raising their children, and that many children more children, perhaps most, would grow up in child-care centers and adolescent dorms.

1) children raised in 24-hour child-care centers and adolescent dorms available every day until the child reaches an age considered mature, say 16.

2) artificial wombs

3) it is the responsibility of the state or some group contractual unit to raise children, parents have no responsibility to biology

4) children are able to live independent of their parents if they choose

Which of these would be beneficial to society? If any?

In Kirinyaga, Mike Resnick writes of a future where an African scholar, concerned that  neoliberal hegemony has nearly destroyed the cultural integrity of his race/nation, builds a mini-African savannah inside an orbiting asteroid and then “colonizes” that space with a group of black African volunteers who have only known the lifeworld of urban poverty. The protagonist takes on the role of the wise witch-doctor/mentor and, over two generations, teaches the colony a traditional way of living, a strategy which proves sustainable and nearly self-sufficient. However, the program is not without problems. First, he runs into conflict with the white technicians visiting the colony when he kills an infant who is born feet first. He explains that, according to tradition, a child born feet first is a demon and therefore must be destroyed. He argues that this is the authentic and irreducible way of his people and their culture is an intricate web of customs and values which tie them to each other and to the delicate balance of the landscape (which is also a space station). In another incident, a girl comes to him and asks that she be allowed to learn to read. He tells her that girls do not receive an education by custom because if they did, they might want to leave and that would threaten the delicate balance of tribal life. Reading is not important to her role and responsibilities in the community, and if she does feel discontented she has no where to go, there is no escape from village life and no room or resources for an alternative community.

In Resnick’s book, the patriarch of the village, who has both knowledgeable of his people’s traditions and several degrees from western universities, practices biopolitics at both ends of the spectrum.

How does precariousness of the colony’s situation, both their existence in Africa and their existence on the space station, impact the ethics of his bioethics? If at all.

Foucault did not know about global climate change and saw only the beginnings of neoliberalism. Therefore, we do not know the extent of his loyalty to anarchism. Still, I will assume this is a non-Foucauldian questions: What are we willing to accept/give up in order to stop, or at least survive, the slow motion train wreck of capitalist development and global climate crisis?

Katie and Marika – The History of Sexuality: An Introduction (vol 1) part 1


In the first chapters of The History of Sexuality, Foucault focuses on the discourses of repression, confession, and sexuality as a medicalized, juridical, and scientific issue. Essentially, he describes, or attempts to describe the genealogy of prohibitive discourses of sexuality beginning from the 17th century, leading up to more modern discourses, showing that the discourses surrounding sexuality are multiple and not necessarily based in prohibition. In this Wiki entry, however, we are going to focus on two distinct contemporary issues related to sex and sexuality. In the process, we will point out which of Foucault’s concepts may be related to or can be applied to the current discourses of same-sex marriage and sex and sexuality in university culture. We’ll conclude by providing a few of our criticisms that arose from the readings thus far.



“People often say that modern society has attempted to reduce sexuality to the couple – the heterosexual and, insofar as possible, legitimate couple” (Foucault, 1978: 45).

Same-sex marriage has been a topic of debate in the United States for the past couple of decades. Subsequent to the recent Supreme Court  (SCOTUS) decisions on United States v. Windsor in 2013 and Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015 same-sex couples are now able to obtain federally recognized marriage licenses in every state. The road to obtaining “equal” rights, however, was long and difficult. While the proponents of same-sex marriage appealed to human rights and individual rights, the opponents cited biological and religious reasons why same-sex marriage laws should not be passed. The opponents points seem closely related to Foucault’s discussion of a medicalized sexuality. Consider the following quote from Hollingsowrth v. Perry:

COOPER: Yes, Your Honor. The concern 
is that redefining marriage as a genderless institution 
will sever its abiding connection to its historic 
traditional procreative purposes, and it will refocus, 
refocus the purpose of marriage and the definition of 
marriage away from the raising of children and to the 
emotional needs and desires of adults, of adult couples (Hollingsworth v Perry, p. 23). 

Above, Mr. Cooper is saying that marriage (such as Foucault would note some think of sex and sexuality) is directly linked to procreation. Thus, he is making connections between the institution of marriage and sexuality by claiming that sex is a prerequisite of marriage, but that qualifying sex is for procreative purposes. This would exclude same-sex couples from entering the institution (check out work on queer ecologies). On the other hand, Foucault says “One of the great innovations in the techniques of power in the eighteenth century was the emergence of ‘population’ as an economic and political problem […]” (25). We could, then, also make connections between the opposing side’s claims and population control, at least to an extent.
Furthermore, the simple fact that this is an issue debated in the Supreme Court clearly shows that sexuality a juridical issue, as Foucault also notes. Of course this is, at least from our point of view, a slightly better legal issue to be debating than the criminalization of homosexual acts, such as sodomy (the last state laws banning consensual sodomy were struck down by SCOTUS in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas). “The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species” (Foucault, 1978, p. 43) seems to be an accurate statement. 

The issue of (same-sex) marriage, however, isn’t simply a legal one, but a semantic one as well. For decades, lesbian and gay couples failed to meet the definitional prerequisites for marriage – a term that was defined as a union between a man and a woman (Mercier, 2008). This definition was also the federal definition of marriage as outlined in Section 3 of DOMA, which was eventually struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor. This definition, however, was used again and again to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. Other similar institutions, and terms, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions, were created instead. Prior to the legalization of same-sex marriage, the terms husband and wife were also unavailable to same-sex couples, at least in their definition as a man or a woman who is married, or someone is married to. However, despite many same-sex couples rejoicing the newly gained ability to marry, some have experienced conflicting feelings and resistance toward the issue, and have not been keen to adopt the relationship terms either.

“For the effect of sexual liberation has been not, or not only, to free us to express our sexuality but to require us to express – freely, of course – our sexuality. Although we can now choose more easily how to be sexually free, we can no longer choose so easily whether to be sexually free, what to count as sexual freedom, where to draw the distinction between sexual and nonsexual expression – or how to interrelate our sexual behaviors, our personal identities, our public lives, and our political struggles” (Halperin, 1995, p. 20).


“SANDRA:  umm I was attracted to women before I even thought about being attracted to men… umm… but… despite that I always I never really thought of it as something that I would pursue or that was an option because my family was so conservative so all the while being attracted to women I always in my head envisioned I’m gonna grow up I’m gonna get married I’m gonna have a husband I’m gonna have the house and the picket fence” (Criss, 2015b, p. 12).

In light of the recent legal changes, and past restrictions on marriage, people regardless of their sexual orientation, are having to revisit their notions of marriage. No longer is marriage something that is restricted to two members of the opposite sex. In addition, new terms have emerged to describe unions between two individuals of the same sex, much as Foucault described the emergence of discourses to describe acceptable sexualities, sex acts, as well as perversions and classifications of perverts.

An examination of the SCOTUS arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, U.S. v. Windsor, and Obergefell v. Perry revealed that the justices and lawyers were using two different terms to refer to marriage between two individuals of the same-sex: gay marriage (7) and same-sex marriage (38). Overwhelmingly, thus, “same-sex marriage” was preferred over “gay marriage,” and they seemed to be used interchangeably (Criss, 2015a). Although there is not enough data to generalize any findings, it seems “gay marriage” is used when in opposition of the new legal changes, whereas “same-sex marriage” is viewed as a more neutral term.

To complicate things, an examination of the transcripts from two Finnish parliamentary plenary sessions dealing with same-sex marriage laws in Finland revealed a slightly different set of terms used: equal marriage (tasa-arvoinen avioliitto) (13), gender-neutral marriage (sukupuolineutraali avioliitto) (2), same-sex marriage (samansukupuolisten avioliitto) (1), gay/homo marriage or union (homoliitto/homoavioliitto) (5). As with the SCOTUS cases, no definitive conclusions could be made as to the potential contextual uses of each term, but in this sample “gay/homo marriage” was exclusively used by the opponents of same-sex marriage (Criss, 2015a).


(Do you want to change marriage, thousands of years old, into a sex union between a man and a man, or a woman and a woman?)

So, all the legal and political mumbo jumbo aside, what are gay and lesbian individuals saying about the term “marriage?” Did we accidentally assume that they would, of course, love to just use the same term as heterosexual couples? Oops. We may have. In fact, there are many members of the “gay community” (for a lack of a better term, I do not agree that there, in fact, is a community) who did not want their relationships to be represented in the same manner as heterosexual relationships, nor do they want to use the same terms to describe their relationships (Bernstein & Taylor, 2013, Criss, 2015b, Whitlow & Ould, 2015).
To give an example of the complexities of the situation, we’ve added excerpts from Marika’s data from her focus group interview with 3 lesbian/gay couples:

BILLY BOB:     it’s a heterosexual term I don’t wanna be associated with that because they tried they tried to take it from me and tarnish it in my head it’s so much more than what they have. their marriage leads into divorce most heterosexual  marriages are you know fifty percent sixty percent split up within the first five years and for me it’s like I don’t want what they have I don’t want their pigeonholes and the lifestyle that they have because for me they’ve they’ve tarnished it. it’s like kind of like saying this part of the town was nice and new then somebody goes in and trashes it you don’t wanna live there because they’ve made it look crappy yeah you can go in and build it up make it look better later on and probably better than it was before but I don’t wanna go through the process of building that when I can build this and make it a lot better I want them to want what we have  

SANDRA:  you know in a certain respect I actually think what you said… earlier about you don’t want to have a marriage you want something that is brand new and it applies to only to what we have and tying that to the fact that we addressed there are so many divorces with straight people and I think what that is is you grow up in a culture that says this is what you do you meet somebody you date you get married you have kids


so maybe we should have our own word

(Criss, 2015b)

In the above examples, Billy Bob strongly feels the term “marriage” is a heterosexual term, and does not feel comfortable adopting it to describe his own relationship. Sandra, responding to Billy Bob, suggests another term be coined. The participants did specify that they did not want a separate term, but rather that we get rid of the term marriage, and call everyone’s relationships by a new name, such as “registered partnership.” Here, it seems, the participants are resisting restrictions placed on the discourses of marriage as an institution.

“Hence, power is not intrinsically, nor is it only negative: it is not just the power to deny, to suppress, to constrain – the power to say, no you can’t. Power is also positive and productive. It produces possibilities of action, of choice – and ultimately, it produces the conditions for the exercise of freedom (just as freedom constitutes a condition for the exercise of power) (Halperin, 1995, p. 17).

Placed back into the larger political context, the issue of same-sex marriage was not just about the power of the dominant group to deny rights to same-sex couples. The restrictions along with other legal and societal realities, also determined what types of actions were possible to take to change the system. In this case, one possibility was an attempt to integrate same-sex couples into the same marital institution as heterosexual couples – of course following an unsuccessful attempt at creating what can only be called institutions of separate but equal, such as domestic partnerships. However, it seems now a new set of possibilities has been created, and some of the participants were already embracing these possibilities (i.e. could we start thinking about a new kind of legal relationship that is not related to an institution of exclusion?). In this sense also, the opponents of same-sex marriage who claimed that the inclusion of same-sex couples would eventually lead to the recognition of other types of relationships, may have not been entirely wrong.

To wrap it up, here is a recent commentary capturing what some children think about gay marriage. Perhaps because they are largely excluded from discourses on sex, they have yet to form the “normalized” opinions on the issue and speak more honestly about the issue:

We have to applaud the last boy. He clearly understands the distinction between gay and lesbian, and is highly gender conscious (we also think “gay” and “gay marriage” are inappropriate terms to be used to describe lesbians).


The relationship terms related to marriage are generally the gendered ones of husband and wife, and for dating partners, boyfriend and girlfriend. Some couples also use non-gendered terms such as partner or spouse. For same-sex couples, the decision to use gendered relationship terms to refer to their significant others (SO) in conversation, typically means exposing their sexual orientation. Using the term wife or husband may, on the other hand, mark pride in their newly gained right to marry as well (Whitlow & Ould, 2015, Olsen, 2013). The participants in Marika’s study, varied in terms of which term they chose. Two out of 5 participants chose the genderless variant, partner, while 3 chose the gendered boyfriend/girlfriend. In the future, if and when they decided to get married, all but one out of the four male participants planned on calling their SO husband.

BILLY BOB:     I think spouse is too informal I think partner is the general term that those people with gay orientation fall into… husband and wife I mean I think people do go that route the reason I don’t refer to husband umm in this is because… umm… is mainly because of… the… it was just never obtainable like I never thought to myself marriage would be available for me… growing up and whenever I started having serious relationships with people of the same sex I never thought to myself well marriage is something I can have because marriage is always been told… that… a heterosexual normative lifestyle

AARON:        he and I… I would say joking as we don’t take it seriously but we always say future husband but… to me when that time comes saying actually – – actually saying husband kind of like what he said saying husband sounds weird because I’m so used to the whole… stereotypical on TV like heterosexual stuff of husband and wife and then I’m thinking… I’m a dude I have a husband I’m like…

(Criss, 2015b)

It seems, then, that the participants were not as keen on creating new relationship terms, as they were creating a term for their legal relationship. However, to an extent they did have difficulties in orienting to the existing (heterosexual) terminology.

“What escapes from relations of power…does not escape from the reach of power to a place outside power, but represents the limit of power, its reversal or rebound. The aim of an oppositional politics is therefore not liberation but resistance” (Halperin, 1995, p. 17-18).

Liberation, or freedom for that matter, is not being allowed into an existing system and operating within it, but being able to transform or reject that system. Here we may be witnessing a change in progress.

University culture as a discourse of sex

Within the plethora of discourses of sex, Foucault says little about who gets away with what and why, and who is ultimately punished? What are the consequences of making a “hushed,” private discourse public? In James T. Sears’ thoughtful and powerful ethnography Growing up Gay in the South, he shows how the intersections of race, class, sex, and gender ultimately (dis)allow young people the freedom to be and display homosexuality. Halperin comments that “…the kind of freedom that sexual liberation has produced imposes on us an even more insidious unfreedom….it enslaves us to a specific mode of freedom and thereby makes the exercise of other freedoms almost unthinkable” (p. 20). The more we are forced to show ourselves for who we really are to the public, the more we are scrutinized.

In making their abuses semi-public via a Facebook page in 2015, Penn State fraternity house Kappa Delta Rho was suspended for three years, specific members also individually accused of offenses, for taking nude photos of women, many of whom are unconscious, and posting them to the account. The “proper” discourse on handling this emerged from university heads marking the behavior as “shocking” and “inappropriate,” the kind of language that might assuage the public eye, but that also allows for such behavior to continue at other campuses, as no one is fooled that this behavior is shocking whatsoever for fraternity houses throughout the nation. In the commentary area below some of the online articles on the offense, however, other discourses emerged in attempts to “normalize” the behavior as “boys will be boys,” or connect it to the immoral nature of Penn State, a campus and surrounding community that is still trying to repair its national reputation after the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

PSU on CNN: 

Another “private” space gone public takes the form of the “resistance” that Foucault speaks of when countering normalizing actions of power. Emma Sulkowitz graduated from Colombia University in 2015, after spending her final year protesting the campus’ handling of her alleged rape by a male student by carrying her mattress around everywhere she went, including to class and her graduation ceremony. What had begun as a consensual endeavor, according to Sulkowitz became non-consensual during intercourse when the male student Paul Nungesser began unwanted actions on her. The university ultimately decided that the young man was not responsible for the allegations.

Colombia rape victim carries mattress:


Sulkowitz’s actions perhaps are reminiscent of the anti-quietism of the ACT UP movement that Halperin discusses. Blocking traffic on the Golden Gate, stopping the New York stock exchange, and managing to disrupt a CBS News broadcast, ACT UP was politically engaged about the problem of AIDS, just as Sulkowitz was so publicly engaged in her political message. And just like Foucault’s critics who amounted his activism to “self-indulgent radical chic” (p. 24) and to getting involved in “fashionable causes” (p. 24), Sulkowitz’s critics found her to be an attention-seeking whore.

But the young man accused of rape also has a story. To his credit, only two people know what really happened that night, and he is one of many young men in the news as of late that may unduly suffer for a potentially perceived wrongdoing. Part of the article reads:

Nungesser has since sued the university, saying it failed to protect him from harassment when Sulkowicz went public with her claims, which were dismissed by law enforcement. According to the suit filed April 23, Nungesser’s “day-to-day life is unbearably stressful, as Emma and her mattress parade around campus each and every day.”

Nungesser “…called Sulkowicz’s accusation ‘untrue and unfounded’ and Mattress Performance an act of bullying. These competing narratives swirling around the discourse of consent in sexual encounters, especially in the context of university life, are battling for “truth”, while the public is left judging the actions of Nungesser and Sulkowitz. The online magazine The Federalist called her performance “sophomoric” and irresponsible: “Here is a man who was found innocent of all charges but whose primary accuser has actually been given course credit for continuing to call him a rapist—and making national news in the process.”

Ultimately we have an incitement of discourses, and although “…the discourse on sex has multiplied rather than rarified…[and] has carried with it taboos and prohibitions” (Foucault, 1978, p. 53), those discourses blend, contradict, fight for legitimacy, and can even both be true at once: In Sulkowitz’s alleged case, that single sexual action came to include both consensual and nonconsensual sub-acts. How, then, do legal discourses disentangle this? And since it is a private act, meaning no one else was around to see it, what evidence do legal discourses have in order to rule on it?


Halperin (1995) is the first piece we have read (we think) that begins to look at critiques of Foucault. However, Halperin’s aim is to show how critics have ultimately misunderstood Foucault’s notions of power. We critique Foucault from a feminist standpoint and ask why he is overwhelmingly male-centric in whom he analyzes (both from a heterosexual and homosexual context). We see little discussed from the point of girls, women, and lesbians, and the politics of female sexuality. For someone who spent his academic career creating genealogies and archaeologies, he sure did a shitty ass job of representing the “subaltern” knowledges that he says he is dedicated to unearthing. What about the history of girls and women in his genealogy of sex? What about non-Western societies’ discourses on marriage, homosexuality, etc? It seems Foucault was very preoccupied with his own penis.

King (2004) writes in “The prisoner of gender: Foucault and the disciplining of the female body that “…despite his preoccupation with power and its effects on the body, Foucault’s own analysis was curiously gender-neutral. Remarkably, there is no exploration or even acknowledgement of the extent to which gender determines the techniques and degrees of discipline exerted on the body” (abstract, p. 29). Based on the first couple of chapters of the History of Sexuality, it seems Foucault is more interested in male sexuality. In part, the impression may be related to issues of translation, and the highly gendered nature of the French language. However, it seems he is not working hard to question the dominance of male sexualities over female sexualities. It seems, in fact, that female sexuality is an afterthought, if a thought at all. Not that this is surprising or new. If people have been preoccupied with discourses of repression, we would argue, they have specifically been preoccupied with discourses of repression of female sexualities without acknowledging that they are preoccupied with female bodies.

To provide contemporary examples of practices related to female/male sexualities, consider the differences in the perceived appropriateness of advertizing male sexual enhancements (e.g. Viagra). How often have you seen similar advertisements for women? In fact, it seems that women are supposed to just be happy their male sexual partners can get it up, with no regard to how pleasurable the act is to the female counterpart.

While they have no qualms about the abnormal and unnatural practice of elderly or unhealthy males being able to have sex, it seems politicians are very keen on regulating the procreative rights of women (e.g. abortion, “the pill”). Furthermore, to manage our monthly expressions of fertility, it seems to be acceptable to have women pay a hefty fee men are exempt from (sanitary towels, tampons, and often, ibuprofen).


Unfortunately, male sexualities are valued more in minorized communities as well. If there were such a space as a  “gay community,” that would certainly be the appropriate term. While the imagined members of the community may have similar goals in terms of politics, more exposure is given to gay men. Lesbians and bisexual women are constantly being brushed to the side (it should be noted here that the “lesbian community” is not always inclusive of bisexual women).

As an aside, today’s news brought this to our attention: the policing of community members in all its glory, “Waitress stiffed for not looking ‘normal’”:

“What we ultimately have to liberate ourselves from may be nothing less than “freedom” itself–that is, from the liberal concept of freedom as a regulative or normative ideal of responsible and self-respecting human conduct” (Halperin, p. 20-21).

Media discourse: representation of marriage:



Bernstein, M. and Taylor, V. (2013). The Long Journey to Marriage: Same-Sex Marriage, Assimilation, and Resistance in the Heartland in Bernstein, M. & Taylor. V. (eds.), The Marrying Kind? Debating Same-Sex Marriage within the Lesbian and Gay Movement. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Criss, M. 2015a. Gender-neutral marriage, Equal marriage, Same-sex marriage, or Gay marriage? An examination of the same-sex marriage debate in the U.S. and Finland. (Unpublished).

Criss, M. 2015b. (Same-Sex) Marriage: To conform or not to conform? (Unpublished).

Foucault, M. (1978). The History of Sexuality: An Introduction. Vol 1.

Halperin, D. (1995). Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hollingsworth et. al. v. Perry et al., 9th Cir (2015). No. 12–144.

King, A. The prisoner of gender” Foucault and the disciplining of the female body. Journal of International Women’s Studies, 5(2), 29-39.

Mercier, A. (2008). On the Nature of Marriage: Somerville on Same-Sex Marriage. The Monist, 91(3/4), 407–421.

Obergefell v. Hodges, 6th Cir (2015) (No. 14-556).

Sears, J. T. (1991). Growing up gay in the south: Race, gender, and journeys of the spirit. New York: Haworth Press.

United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013) (No. 12-307), available at

Whitlow, J. and Ould, P. (2015). Same-sex Marriage, Context, and Lesbian Identity: Wedded but not always a Wife. Lexington Books.  


Tasha & Alex, “Foucault, Power, and Education” ch. 2-3 and Boldt, Failing Bodies

1. Pedagogy: Failing Bodies and Foucault’s Lectures In “Failing Bodies”, Gail makes a very brief comment that prompted us to think about pedagogical power relations. Referring to a teacher’s strict expectations and technique, Gail writes –

“This teacher may have been harsher than many but she was not doing anything that other teachers (including myself) don’t do in friendlier, perhaps less obvious (and perhaps therefore more manipulative or insidious) ways” (Boldt, 95).

There was an evident shift from teacher-centered to child-centered (learner-centered) curriculum approaches in the twentieth century. Students are seen as passive and considered the sole learner within the relationship and education/knowledge is conveyed from teacher to student in a traditional didactic manner in the former teacher-centered curriculum in contrast to the child-centered curriculum where students are more active and agentic in the learning process, instead of knowledge primarily transmitted from teacher to student students are encouraged to use communication, inquiry, critical thinking, problem solving, etc. to construct knowledge. The child-centered approach is seen as a co-learning experience between the teacher and students. But has this shift in curriculum really dissolved or suppressed the power relations? Or just reorganized them?

Foucault gives an interesting perspective on a similar topic. By substituting ‘teacher-centered’ with ‘lecture’ and ‘child-centered’ with ‘seminar’ (or, even still interesting, leave the lecture/seminar concept) this Foucauldian view could be used to inform the idea of a reformulation of power relations.

  • “.. (Foucault) argues that the lecture, that apparently non-reciprocal and unequal power relationship, is more honest and less devious than the seminar about the relationships of power which inevitably invest each of them. A lecture which is tentative about its truth-claims and which exposes itself to criticism might neutralize power relations by rendering them more visible; whereas the ostensible freedom and reciprocity of the seminar may disguise power relations to the extent that students uncritically absorb what is only the informed opinion of the teacher. On this basis Foucault felt that seminars, whilst necessary, might be better suited for training in methods than for the development of free and critical thinking. It follows that one-on-one tutorials, group research programmes and group work are at least as likely to manipulate students as a traditional ‘chalk and talk’ method. Tutorial politics depend inordinately heavily on personal qualities, amicable interaction, and firm commitments, and are not well-suited for the average learner; group work, though less elitist, may enhance inter-peer politics at the risk of promoting unequal participation and domination by a few ….. In the lecture, he says, in spite of appearances, there is less of a relation of power between the teacher and the students than in a seminar. The auditors of a lecture can freely adopt a take it or leave it approach to the content and could admire the lecture (or not) as one would admire a well-crafted shoe” (Deacon, 2006).


  • ‘I see myself more as an artisan crafting an object and offering it for consumption rather than a master making his slaves work’. On the other hand, seminars with discussion meant that by the end of the series, students could no longer be sure whether their ideas were their own or had been subtly and insidiously moulded by the seminar leader during the course of discussion.’  (Foucault, ‘Conversation avec Michel Foucault’, Dits et Ecrits, vol II, p190-191.)

We have a few seemingly unrelated discussions here  (failing bodies & lecture/seminar, social hereditarianism in ECE, eugenicist thought in social welfare & nonprofits) but we hope to discuss each in terms of some of these big concepts in Foucault & Ball’s work.

  • Critique: Foucault’s critique reveals “unconsidered modes of thought [on which] the practices that we accept rest…” (Foucault in Ball 82)- “not to uncover the development of rationality, but the ways new forms of control and power are legitimated by complex discourses that stake a claim to rationality and that are embedded in diverse institutional sites” (Olssen in Ball 81). The purpose of critique is “not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are,” but rather “a matter of pointing out… assumptions” (Foucault in Ball 85). We don’t seek to criticize pedagogical strategies or private non-profits (today, anyway), but rather to come to new understandings of the discourses and power relations involved. We’re left thinking, again, that ‘everything is dangerous’, in some ways, but we’ll ask – how do these educational and welfare services sit with you, now?
  • Problematization: Dan Goodley (2010) explains Foucault’s problematisation in a particularly succinct and accessible way: “…methodology of problematisation poses two questions: How did something become constructed (e.g. the self)? How did something become a problem (e.g. the disabled self)?” We trace instances of social hereditarianism in ECE and eugenicist thought in a private non-profit to understand how particular individuals, behaviors, and physical, mental, social, and environmental conditions become constructed as problematic. Foucault was also concerned with why something becomes a particular kind of problem and why a certain way of problematizing appears at a given point in time, within his broader concern, pursuing a ‘history of truth’. For each of our applications, we may also consider how these problems come to matter differently for each involved party, and how problematization might be used to justify present practices instead of critical attitudes toward them.
  • Our practices as always Implicated (as members of this society, but especially as academics, as teachers, as non-profit workers): to return to our discussion from two weeks ago, we may revisit the way that certain knowledges take hold over others: how things came to be the truth or better truths than others. Ball writes that “our own knowledges and practices as sociologists, pedagogues, policy analysts, are historically implicated, and continue to be implicated, in the practices of the management of the population, and the construction and maintenance of social and racial divisions” (88).
  • The question of Intent and Intentionality: again, there is a difference between an individual’s intention and what affects the actions that are the result of those intentions. Sources of intention are diverse and result in unintended consequences.
    • Eugenicists vs. Sociologists: what are the problematics? what did the work of each produce? “Both positions sit firmly within the problematics of the population as a resource to be managed” (Ball 90, more through 91).
      • While the decision to exercise power is always intentional, the mechanisms of power that individuals use to exercise power are inherently non-subjective, because they do not depend on the existence of those individuals for their own existence.  Power mechanisms, because they are structured and reproduced by a multiplicity of power-relations that are not reducible to the individuals who exercise them, are necessarily incapable of being controlled by any particular individual
      • “individual’s use of power can be non-subjective” as well due to the “inevitable disjunction between an action’s intention and its actual effect
      • “While constantly being injected with aims, purposes and calculation, power is not reducible to the ambitions and decisions of any individual subjects. Nowhere can one find an all-powerful individual, a master under whose control the working of power might be.”
  • Eugenicist Thought/ Eugenicist Strands: Ball points out that the “interventionist/welfarist/disciplinary approach” and education policy today are rife with eugenicist influence: “alongside the residues of genetic accounts of normality and difference, forms of culture, lifestyle and relationships within the family, were identified by sociologists as a new grid of intelligibility within which educational success and failure could be located” (91).
  1. Social Hereditarianism in ECE (primarily elementary education): Burt, Ball (92), describes “cycles of disadvantage” whereby “the failures of the family are ‘passed on’ as a form of social heredity”. Certain homes are perceived as fostering “an educative climate”, with “attitudes and orientations” that  “are congruent with the demands and the aims of the school”. In contrast, we see some working-class or poor families:
  • In “Failing Bodies”, Gail (2001) highlights an experience involving a minority family whose practices and views conflicted with that of the child’s school. A student teacher complained of a student who only attended school a few days out of the week while going to the beach and watching t.v./playing video games at home the other days. The few days the child did make it to school she could be found sitting off to the side unable to participate in the current lesson with the rest of her peers because of the make-up work she was assigned to complete. Because of this, the opinions of the father were less than favorable among the teachers with the student teacher going as far as saying, “Her father is wrecking her life by not making her come to school” (102).
  • Expectations of working class family support outside of school… not helping with homework, lack of tutoring resources related to SES, and associated values
  1. Nonprofit Social Services: using critique, problematization, implication, intent, eugenicist thought and social hereditarianism to newly consider a range of programs. In addition, we want to pay particular attention to the ways in which families and individuals are managed, and the use of language for different programs and social groups served. What “entanglements and blindness” are at play? (Ball 82). Also important here is Graham and Slee’s (2008) idea that “to include is not necessarily to be inclusive”, or “the inclusion paradox” (Ball 84). Using Foucault to examine social work is not a new idea… there is work about managing welfare and particularly social hereditarianism and controlling women’s reproductive rights.
  • “… biopolitics have given birth to technologies, experts and apparatuses for the care and administration of life for each and all, from town planning to health services to schools… there is, he argues, little clear distinction between preventative medicine and eugenics, between the pursuit of health and the elimination of illness, between consent and compulsion” (Rose, of Foucault, in Goodley 107).
  • “… the regulation, control and management of ‘welfare clients’ has been managed through neoliberal paternalism, which shifts the locus of social responsibility – responsibility for collective welfare or well-being – onto the individual, family and community. It also aids understanding of how service professionals, such as childcare workers and social workers, become complicit in disciplining and managing service users” (Webb & Grey 177).
  • “… under the neoliberal social investment regime, social workers are increasingly enlisted to discipline, blame, and target disadvantaged social groups, especially single mothers, through welfare-to-work and child protection programmes” (Webb & Grey 177).

Family Service Association of Bucks County: a private, 501 (c)3 nonprofit celebrating 60 years in the Bucks County (started in 1953 – we might consider the trajectory of these programs alongside other timelines of social policy and exclusion.) and surrounding communities with the following programs:

    • AACES (Aspergers Awareness Education and Support Program), where I spent most of my time as an FSABC employee
      • Clients “must have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome, PDD-NOS or High Functioning Autism)”, “be able to attend programs independently and navigate adjoining mall without support” and “have an IQ score of 70 or above”.
      • “Techniques of post/modern biopower – statistics, demographics, assessment, education, measurement, and surveillance – expand as knowledge from the human and social sciences grow and institutions of society become more pronounced. These techniques generate discourses of the self that people have come to know and constrain themselves by” (Goodley 106).
      • “Testing used to identify different ‘ability levels’ matched to ‘appropriate’ learning experiences” (Ball 96). In classifying learners or people based on definitive objectives, asking what children/people are capable of obtaining a particular result
      • “one might argue that disability is a product of modernist bio-power (Foucault 1981), that is, an effect of the medical management of people with impairments. One could conclude, in other words, that impairment itself is a product of medico-welfare discourse” (Tremain, 82)
      • Coffeehouse, workshops, job counseling and placements: “interventions that are designed to ‘fix and repair’ divergence from the norms of pacing knowledge” (Ball 100).
  • Teen Center: “The Bucks County Health Improvement Project identified ‘adolescent problems’ as a major area of concern during a 1993-1994 health assessment. This prompted the opening of a Teen Center at the Oxford Valley Mall. We are the Management Agent and coordinator of this initiative”.
    • AIDS Program (started in the 1980’s in response to the AIDS epidemic) and Bucks Villa


  • “Bucks Villa is an independent living facility for people who are HIV positive or living with AIDS… Residents are single men and women eighteen years of age and older, all of whom are living with a disability documented by the Social Security Association. All residents are capable of self-care and join in the spirit of communal living. The Villa is an environment free of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs

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  • “…overlapping genealogies of classifications and of blood, or what Foucault calls ‘the model of exclusion’ and its concomitants ‘disqualification, exile, rejection, deprivation, refusal and incomprehension… an entire arsenal of negative concepts’… arise despite and in part because of their articulation with ‘positive’ techniques of ‘intervention and transformation” (Foucault in Ball 84).
  • The exile and the leper
  • Emergency Homeless Shelter: taken over from the Red Cross in 2012, when I served as Volunteer Coordinator: “as a result, shelter residents now receive intensive case management services… a new Electronic Medical Records platform that will expand opportunities for communication with our clients and other health care providers”.


Sources Cited

Ball, S. J. (2012). Foucault, power, and education. Routledge.

Boldt, G. M. (1999). Failing bodies: Power and identity in the elementary classroom.

Deacon, R. (2006). Michel Foucault on education: a preliminary theoretical overview. South African Journal of Education26(2), 177-187.

Foucault, M. (1994). Conversation avec Michel Foucault. Dits et écrits, 2, 182-193.

Goodley, D. (2010). Disability studies: An interdisciplinary introduction. Sage.

Gray, M., & Webb, S. A. (Eds.). (2013). The new politics of social work (pp. 209-225). Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.

Foucault, Biopower, and Politics

Flint water crisis

What do we know

  • Share what we as a class have read, watched, heard, or discussed about the unfolding situation


  • Who was privileged and who was sacrificed?
    • From a State/Gov’t what is the crisis achieving consciously or subconsciously

Children’s lives/health were impacted


“When I say ‘killing,’ I obviously do not mean simply murder as such, but also every form of indirect murder: the fact of exposing someone to death, increasing the risk of death for some people, or, quite simply, political death, expulsion, rejection, and so on.” –pg. 256


Who lives and who dies? And, do we determine this? If so, who gets to determine this and how?

Can we make any tentative connections between Foucault’s “letting die,” indirect murder, and exposure to potentially deadly substances with lasting mental developmental and health issues that the government may have a hand in?


“It is the power to ‘make’ live and ‘let’ die” –pg. 241

“Making live and letting die.”–pg. 247

“What must live and what must die.”–pg. 254

How can the power of death, the function of death, be exercised in a political system centered upon biopower? –pg. 254


New revelations uncovered in Flint


EPA faces fallout

Marika and Katie: Society must be defended: Linguistics Wars

Theoretical background

If politics is the continuation of war by other means (p. 15), this continuation emerges and is pushed forward by discourse. Foucault, “…invoking the name of J.L. Austin, argued that the description of a statement was not complete when one had defined the linguistic structure of the statement, that the analysis of discourse could not be reduced to the combination of elements according to linguistic rules that therefore, ‘discourse is something that necessarily extends beyond language’” (p. xix, emphasis ours).

In arguing this, Foucault counters Chomsky’s generative grammar, a linguistic theory that views grammar as a system of rules intended to generate combinations of words which form perfect sentences. Language, then, is an exact science, and the unit of analysis is the sentence coming from an ideal native speaker (Mitchell, Myles, & Marsden, 2013). Language is a biological, innate capability in humans, appearing as an instinctive mental capacity, the Language Acquisition Device (LAD), in the child’s brain. Arguments for this view of language are that children move through developmental stages in language, that these stages are very similar among all children learning the same language, they are similar cross-linguistically, child language is rule-governed and systematic, though the rules of the child are not necessarily correspondent to the adult’s; and children’s processing capacity limits the number of rules they can apply at any one time, and they will use older hypotheses when more than one rule is competing simultaneously (Mitchell et al., 2013, p. 65). Chomsky would say that the social and environmental are important, but that they are not language.

But language is not a “hard” science. It is housed in the language arts, and the social sciences, and beginning in the 1970s and continuing through what is known as “the social turn” of the 1980s and 1990s in language acquisition studies, more academics began to argue that language is not innate, that it is emergent in participation, it is a doing, it is an action, it is a social activity. It is dynamic, contingent, made up of choices and dependent on resources and multicompetencies. If one is coming through the door with a full bag of groceries in her hands, she need not yell the complete sentence, “Someone please open the door!” at her children. She needs only to scream, “Door!” as her children imply meaning from that and come running to help. If one says, “You were a real big help today!”, Chomsky’s grammar does not allow for an analysis of pragmatics — was that said literally or sarcastically? Children don’t naturally know this. In fact it takes years for children to register pragmatics, adult humor, irony, and other parts of language outside of its mere syntax. Yes, language is partly biological, and Chomsky contributed much to the study of language. Language is also majorly social and environmental. In fact, without the social and environmental, if one merely relied on biology, language would not occur.


An overwhelming amount of evidence from fields as diverse as neurolinguistics (fMRI studies prove that there is no LAD), sociolinguistics (study after study shows that culture and environment shapes language, not the other way around), supports Foucault’s argument that “… “a statement is not complete when one has defined the linguistic structure of the statement, that the analysis of discourse could not be reduced to the combination of elements according to linguistic rules, that therefore, ‘discourse is something that necessarily extends beyond language’” (p. xix, emphasis ours). Language and discourse are emergent in action; it is not “language,” but “language-ing,” a verb, a process, a movement that moves us forward while at the same time connecting us backward — in dialogue with the past, present, and future all at once.

For Bakhtin, it is the utterance, not the sentence of Chomsky’s theory, that is the unit of linguistic analysis, and is marked by “addressivity” and “answerability” (always addressed to someone and it always anticipates a response). Discourse, then, is dialectic and dialogic and historically contingent: occurring within, and indivisible from culture, history, and place. Foucault urges us to consider the facts of discourse as strategic games, discourse as a strategic field, a battle. It is a performative act of war, and “[t]he historico-political discourse of war puts forward a truth that ‘functions as a weapon’” (p. xxi). This leads us to the battle of knowledges and the discourses constructing what constitutes legitimate versus subaltern knowledges.

Scientific discourse and literacy / Subjugated knowledges

Foucault defines subjugated knowledges as “disqualified as nonconceptual knowledges, as insufficiently elaborated knowledges: naive knowledges, hierarchically inferior knowledges, knowledges that are below the required level of erudition or scientificity” (p. 7). In essence, this means a devaluation of local knowledges, which have not been scientifically or politically validated.

To do research ‘right,’ it has to be done according to “scientific principles.” Research in the humanities, such as linguistics, draws from methods used commonly in the natural sciences – systematically, and preferably using at least some quantitative methods. Looking back at the history of linguistics, this is exactly what the earliest researchers were trying to do. This helped establish linguistics as a legitimate “science” in academia, perhaps even education. Today, we can peer down from our ivory towers and claim our knowledge is better than your knowledge because we allege to be a science.

However, it is worrisome how we arrive at these knowledges we possess and preach. Thinking about Second Language Acquisition research, for example, much of our knowledge is derived from quantitative studies. Assessing language proficiency and development is largely reliant on various types of assessments, which need to be quantifiable. Although researchers have attempted to take social, cultural, and other factors into consideration, in terms of producing legitimate research and ‘knowledge,’ the “other” gets pushed aside in favor of cleaner, more straightforward analyses. As such, there is an element of power in numbers – numbers produce careers. However, as mentioned in the previous section, language is not a hard science, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that – just that knowledge produced any other way is not recognized.

Foucault also raises the question of “What types of knowledge are you trying to disqualify when you say that you are a science?” (p. 10). In terms of local knowledges and language education this means western academics can suppress knowledges regarding what constitutes ‘good’ language education in remote areas, for example. Suresh Canagarajah talks about this in his article “Teacher Development in a Global Profession: An Autoethnography.” Essentially, he recounts his own experiences with western academics coming to Sri Lanka and telling the teachers there that their ways of teaching are, well, wrong, despite the local ways working just fine. This sense of inferiority was also instilled in the local educators – they believed and legitimized the negative discourses regarding their local practices.

Furthermore, on page 10, Foucault says “[…] what subject of experience and knowledge are you trying to minorize when you begin to say ‘I speak this discourse, I am speaking a scientific discourse, and I am a scientist.’” This resonates with academic discourse in general, and how powerful fluency in academic language can be. Not only are you giving legitimacy to your knowledge by proclaiming you are a scientist, but participation and the effect of your words are intimately tied to proficiency in academic discourse.
National English-Only Movement in the U.S.

If politics is war, just the continuation of war by other means (p. 15), we can look at English only movements in the United States as an extension of past conflict: “Power relations are anchored in a relationship of force that was established in and through war at a given historical moment that can be historically specified” (p. 15). In this way, “We are always writing the history of the same war, even when we are writing the history of peace and its institutions” (p. 16).

A common implicit ideology in language policies is that monolingualism is a solution to leveling out socioeconomic inequality and ensuring future success. Thus, requiring or encouraging everyone to acquire a dominant language may, as a result, seem like the common sense approach (Tollefson, 1991). However, one need only to look at the linguistic descrimination of the African American community to see The United States has for decades had a war on bilingualism, or perhaps more accurately, a war on diversity. In terms of Foucault’s reversal of Clausewitz’s aphorism, that policy can become an instrument of war this might be an instance in which that applies. In other words, the ‘war’ on diversity was already ongoing, but policies were enacted to support that war, and discourse created to support the commonsensical view.

Also note the double-standards: the American dream is unattainable to most Americans, yet we are holding immigrants to this nonexistent standard – learn English, become successful. This discussion also excludes the fact that Spanish-speaking Puerto Ricans do not have to pass English proficiency tests to become American citizens (Ricento, 2006).

So who exactly are we talking about when we say “immigrant?” Is there a difference between ex-pats and immigrants? Marika identifies as an immigrant, but others might insist she is an ex-pat. In fact, this happened not too long ago, Marika was questioned about using the term “immigrant” to refer to herself. The interlocutor corrected her and offered the term “ex-pat” instead. Marika’s insistence on sticking to the original term led to an awkward comment about “America needing more blonde, blue-eyed immigrants.” It is probably not a coincidence that race also plays a part in bilingual education. Although all immigrants/ex-pats are foreign to the country, not all incomers were created equal.

Although the U.S. does not have an official national language, there have been attempts to change this to protect the status of English. Despite the unofficial status of the language, it is clear that many consider English a de facto language of the United States, and that all immigrants should acquire English as soon as possible. The reasoning is that in order to succeed in this society, one must speak the dominant language. Dr. Hayakawa, a former California Senator, said  “Bilingualism for the individual is fine, but not for a country.” He even went as far as founding U.S. English, “a foundation that contends that learning English quickly and learning it with peers is the best way for learners to get ahead academically and socially” (U.S. English Foundation). This view completely disregards immigrants, especially young immigrants, needs for other types of education and support. Language skills are equated with success, with no reference to other (socioeconomic) factors.

Although this sentiment is fairly common, and even immigrants such as Dr. Hayakawa himself subscribe to it, this ideology has also had an adverse effect on bilingual education. The focus seems to have shifted from demanding a common language to fighting diversity.

Proposition 227: “English for the Children” Act, California (1998)

According to Krashen (1995) and Collier (1997), acquiring a native language is a continuous process that human beings engage in their entire lives. The same is true for developing fluency in another language. Current research indicates that it can take up to seven years for school-aged children to develop the second-language (L2) skills necessary to perform at grade-level in that language (Thomas & Collier, 1997). Collier (2005) explains:

It is important to recognize the complex, lifelong process that we go through in acquiring our first language and the parallels in second-language acquisition…. [C]hildren add reading and writing skills [to listening and speaking skills they acquired as toddlers]….An adolescent entering college must acquire an enormous vocabulary in every discipline of study ….through adulthood …we…acquire new subtleties in pragmatics, as well as the constantly changing patterns in language use that affect our   everyday oral and written  communication with others. (p. 315)

If acquiring language, then, is a never-ending and always-changing process dependent on the context that surrounds it in a particular point in time, then Proposition 227, the 1998 California initiative that requires all immigrant children to take intensive English instruction for one year (California Secretary of State, 1998), contradicts what Second Language Acquisition (SLA) researchers and language teachers know about the social, cultural, and cognitive aspects of language learning. Disregarding the knowledge that it takes up to seven years to master a second language, Proposition 227 requires that Limited English Proficient (LEP) students move from special classes to regular classes once they have acquired a “good working knowledge” of English, that these special classes will teach almost completely in English, and that they will normally last no more than one year (California Secretary of State, 1998). This paper emphasizes this contradiction by presenting Proposition 227 against current research and pedagogical practices on L2 acquisition and featuring changes in teachers’ classroom practices in order to comply with the law. Further, the sociocultural implications of the law give evidence for a language socialization framework for language pedagogy. Politicians, researchers, and educators must acknowledge the necessity for greater communication in order to provide immigrant children a socially relevant and fair education in English that allows them to find value in their first language, culture, and home community, while still being able to compete academically with their native-English-speaking peers.

Notice how the proponent is citing figures to support his claims? But what is he not saying? Were more heightened methods of surveillance imposed on these bilingual classrooms that someone wanted eliminated? Where is the data from English-only mainstream classrooms and subject literacy, for example. Where is the data on how older children and teen immigrants do with such intensive immersion? 

School districts responded in vastly different ways to the new mandates of Proposition 227, and had to adjust or forgo their teaching theories to attend to the goals of the law. Those that “had relied on a largely English-only strategy for educating their English learners tended to abandon dual language instruction altogether and adhere closely to a conservative interpretation of the new law. Districts that had a strong commitment to the idea of bilingual instruction, and a corps of qualified bilingual teachers, were much more likely to help parents seek waivers from English-only instruction” (Gándara, 2000, p. 2). Some teachers forwent their theories about contextual learning, replacing activities that develop student literacy in both their native language and English, like storytelling and sequencing activities, with those that would help students pass standardized English tests (Gándara, 2000, p. 7). Because of this, children often were not formulating meaning within the context that they were learning. In Gándara’s (2000) ethnographic accounts of the “Post-227 era” she describes the following obstacle of an English learner: A teacher instructed students to “circle each long vowel sound in each of the sentences and write this word in the long vowel column” (p. 6). The young boy started to perform the task; however, when he repeated the sentence out loud multiple times, he said that the sentence did not “make any sense,” even though he continued to write down the correct words with long vowels. Gándara concludes that the boy could decipher the goal of the exercise, but that he had “no idea” of the meaning of the words in the sentence (p. 7). The boy was learning how to be a good test taker, not learning how to speak, write, and understand English.

Insight into how two southern California schools changed their programs after Proposition 227 shows other significant impacts of Proposition 227. The Khmer bilingual programs at Walnut and Alamitos Elementary schools vanished after implementation of the law. Walnut and Alamitos Elementary schools were the only two schools ever in California to implement a complete Khmer bilingual program (Wright, 2007). In the early 1990s, the California Department of Education threatened to deny the district $8 million in funding unless they adhered to state laws enforcing bilingual education and ESL programs; thus, the schools implemented a Khmer bilingual program in 1993. The program was highly successful, employing and training over 20 Khmer bilingual teachers, and creating and translating materials, along with a “comprehensive authentic assessment system” (Wright, 2007, p. 4). Students in the programs at Walnut and Alamitos made “similar or greater gains in oral English proficiency as their peers in the English-only classrooms” and most “were reading at or about grade level in English by the end of third grade” (Wright, 2007, p. 5); however, they were also developing proficiency in Khmer, allowing children to hold on to their language and culture.

The programs at both schools ended in 2000 after implementation of Proposition 227. The schools tried to implement a bilingual program, Dual Literacy Plus (DLP), which allowed for “45-90 minutes each day to teach literacy in the students’ heritage language” if parents obtained a waiver from Proposition 227 guidelines (Wright, 2007. p. 6); however, the district told schools not to encourage parents to seek waivers. With the combination of Proposition 227 and high-stakes testing, teachers had to focus more on teaching to the test instead of teaching children their first language. Naturally, the programs died.  

Sociocultural Implications

Proposition 227 is not working as intended. According to Crawford (2003), it had a 92% failure rate in 2002, failing at least 1,479,420 children who remained limited in English. Unz and supporters claim that Proposition 227 has increased student test scores (Gándara, 2002, p.2); however, a review of data collection and the climate of educational policy in the past decade, test score increases cannot be attributed to the law (Wright, 2007, p. 17). Gándara (2000) states, “California has been in the midst of massive reform efforts over the last several years that have made it extremely difficult to separate the impact of one reform from another” (p. 4). Further, the statewide impact of the law on ELLs has varied considerably among districts, schools, and even classrooms in the same schools (Stritikus & García, 2003). It works well in certain schools with certain ethnic populations and economic backgrounds, and it backfires in other schools with other ethnic populations and economic backgrounds.

Acquiring a second language is a long, complex process, and learners, especially immigrant children, face a variety of obstacles while learning language. Issues arise within the home, community, and at school where children have to negotiate their surroundings, make meaning out of them, and attempt to find a space that accepts them for being, in many cases, both an immigrant and an American. English-only programs have created a great disconnect between immigrant parents and their children: “[Students] often felt that their parents were not resourceful and they did not perceive them as the best role-models in assisting them with their education or with advice in life. Parents were losing self-respect, and they mourned their children’s loss of their traditional values that had been passed down for many generations.” (Wright, 2007, p. 8). One parent in a recent interview for a San José Mercury News article says, “There are a lot of subjects that we haven’t been able to help them with, such as reading….We feel very helpless. I’m very worried” (Bazeley, 2008).

Not only do many children not get the homework help they need from their parents, but they also have a long day at school in intensive English programs, English tutoring, and after-school English programs where they do not understand most of what teachers and their English-speaking peers are saying to them. One teacher from Gándara’s work (2000) voices the following concern:

I feel like the children are forced into silence…they’re really not getting any opportunity to           express themselves as they normally would were they in a bilingual classroom. And I feel sorry for them….I don’t think they’re receiving an equal opportunity, equal education in the sense that they are not really learning to read. They’re learning to decode….But their decoding skills are coming along nicely but the problem is that second language acquisition takes time. (p. 8)

Students are simultaneously losing interest in their parents, in home life and in school. This shows in nationwide statistics: one tenth of White students, one fourth of African American students, one third of Latino students, and two thirds of immigrant students drop out of school annually (Stritikus & Garcia, 2005).


Global Englishes

On the topic of excavating subaltern knowledges over the fifteen-year period that Foucault references (we are assuming the beginnings of postmodernism and poststructuralism), he states, “I am not the only one to have been doing this… . Far from it” (p. 15). One such thinker is Walter Mignolo, who has written on what he calls “border gnosis,” or knowledge kept on the margins (2000, p. 9). A border thinking implies new forms of thinking that works toward the restitution of knowledge that colonialism erased.  His books The Idea of Latin America (2005); Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking (2000); and The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (2011) have proven to be highly insightful histories — and subaltern histories — of the colonizing of Latin America.

When it comes to language policy and planning, much of the world implements schooling practices born out of colonialism and that continue today through ideologies of globalization and neoliberalism, views that promise believers that they will become competitive in an ever-connected world market. The design of education policies and pedagogies often are created in light of “Western” epistemologies that shaped these structures for over 500 years through colonial rule. In the last sixty years, English as a foreign language has gained status as a highly sought type of social and political capital. Since the mid-twentieth century, however, non-Western epistemologies have called for de-colonialization in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on all levels of society, from philosophy to government, from community to school organization.

Although official colonial rule has come and gone in Latin America, it leaves many marks behind, including a linguistic one in the form of Spanish, Portuguese, and in some areas English and Creole English languages. In the past 20 years, English has emerged as the lingua franca of late capitalism. English language ideology, the myth of socio-economic mobility through English language attainment, is rife through the world and especially in countries in development. The truth is, implementing English language policy throughout the globe benefits some, but does not benefit a great many others (Ricento, 2015). The discourse bound up in the ideology of language policy finds its roots, still, in colonialism and the dependency that weak-economy nations have on global leaders, and it “…assumes that English is a neutral, beneficial, and freely chosen language, (equally) available to all” (May, 2014, p. 381).

On the contrary, research over the past 20 years has found that there is no correlation between English policy implementation and stronger economic growth (Macedo et al. 2003; Pennycook, 1994; Ricento, 2015; Tollefson, 1991). Despite this, countries like Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere behind Haiti (CIA Factbook, 2015), have recently implemented a policy requiring secundaria school youth (roughly the equivalent of U.S. high school) to have five years of English. Rural Nicaragua especially faces economic hardship. There is a high rate of illiteracy among those 15 years old or more (37% in 2000) (CEPAL, 2003, cited in Bartlett et al. 2011, p. 178), and only 17% of rural adolescents attend secondary education (IPADE, 2010, p. 53); education is required only through sixth grade and secondary education is not mandatory. Forty-three percent of secondary teachers nationwide have no formal training (FEDH, 2012). In a country where attaining literacy and educational opportunities in one’s first language is difficult, students — and teachers who have to teach English without knowing it themselves — feel overwhelmed. Classrooms are not equipped with electricity or books, and students have little more than a notebook and pencil. The malnutrition that children fact not only stunts their physical growth, but also physically changes their brains, their memory capabilities, and other functions.



A classroom in northern Nicaragua functioning with no electricity and limited resources.


Looking out at a vast landscape of mountains, volcanoes, and forest, one easily begins to wonder what purpose English is here and what apparent mobility it is supposed to provide.

However, even under the policy there is hope and a push to overcome dominant ideologies and make a space for unorthodox knowledges. One such program is called Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial (System of Tutor Learning), where teachers do not have to be experts, but are encourage to learn with their students and apply knowledge of math, science, literature, and now English as practically as they can to their local environments. Katie has spent the last seven years working with Nicaraguan teachers, doing professional development activities, exploring ways of increasing confidence as capable teacher leaders, and promoting other ways of teaching and learning that fall outside of traditional expectations. Even this, however, can have imperialistic undertones, as Katie is an outsider from the north, from a rich, English-speaking country who has benefited from several privileges in this lifetime. Does she have the right to intervene in the lives of teachers who are ultimately affected by their own choices? Is this just another form of imperialism? If Katie had the right to learn knowledge (including languages) that she thought might provide her socioeconomic mobility, who is she to tell others that learning English may or may not benefit their lives?


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Krashen, S. (1995). The cause-effect fallacy and the time fallacy. In J. Alatis; et. al. (Eds.),                          Georgetown University Round Table of Languages and Linguistics (pp. 346-360).                                    Washington, D.C: Georgetown University Press.

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Getting Into Trouble and Other Guy Stuff by Isaac Bretz

Chapter 6 Getting into trouble got me thinking about what a feminist intervention program might look like. Putting things in quotes –e.g., “victim”, “troublemaker”, “natural”- might be reflective practice, but it can also be a form of erasure. There is a certain valorization of the Carnival with a Foucauldian research perspective. As a result, I am left wondering about the quiet kids, or the ones who are willing to perform quiet for the sake of getting by. How does desire for something other than belonging intersect with race, gender, and class? Ferguson does not examine in any great depth what academic skills and knowledge are being taught and learned in the classroom. If anything. How do girls and non-expressive boys feel and learn in a class full of masculine performance?

From the blog Feminist Teacher ( ), Ileana Jimenez writes:

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In the past three years, I have taught a high school course on feminism titled Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Writers, Artists, and Activists. Each year, girls and boys sign up for the class and each year, these young men are awakened not only to injustices regarding race, class, and gender in national and global contexts but also to injustices regarding how they have been socialized as boys…

…I’ll never forget one boy’s reaction to these stories. Ian was so moved by his peers’ experiences that he submitted a post to May’s Hollaback! blog. In it he wrote:

It was during the session with Hollaback! that my eyes truly opened. The girls in my class started speaking about their past experiences with street harassment and the stories just didn’t stop . . . I was shocked at the kinds of things that were happening to my classmates and I was more shocked as to how clueless I was during all of this . . . If these women have gone through traumatic experiences from which they had lasting memories, then most definitely women I know even more personally have gone through this type of harassment as well. It is scary to think that all of these things are going on without ever being called out. It’s scary to think that a man can completely get away with making a woman feel uncomfortable or unsafe on the street or subway.

End Quote—–

There is a lot of talk these days on the necessity of teaching about privilege. Here is a list, there are many others, of the invisible masculine knapsack.

I am not convinced of the pedagogical effectiveness of using privilege to talk about racism and sexism. There are a lot of people with which it simply does not work. It is like global climate change, most people are cognizant that we are headed for environmental and social disaster, but those benefitting from hegemony do not want to change their lifestyles so they deny the obvious and grasp at straws to justify their lack of sincerity.

When I have brought up privilege to call someone out on what they said or wrote, the common rejoinders include:  pointing to some instance of when they saw themselves as victims of underprivileging, talking about when marginalized peoples benefit from “tokenism”, trivializing particular examples of privilege/underprivilege, or to just repeating the mantra: Things are getting better and all we need is more time. I think these defensive actions ( ) make it nearly impossible for many people to listen to privileging arguments.

What are the alternatives? Blogger Emily posted on the blog Anthro Doula

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As far as teaching teenage boys feminism, I think a good place to start would be to relate it to them, personally, and to stress how the system hurts us all.

How does the patriarchy limit their own expression as boys and men? How does it hold them back?

Men are often pressured to fit into a “Act like a Man” or “Man up” world where men can’t be sensitive, or have certain interests. It damages men’s emotional literacy. It limits them. They are pressured to always appear strong and not ask for help. It encourages promiscuity. It encourages aggression and violence. It perpetuates one-dimensional stereotypes that not all men identify with.

End Quote—

We can’t talk about a feminist education of boys and men without also talking about toxic masculinity. It is a lens which I think could add a lot to Ferguson’s work.


The misogynistic notion of sexual entitlement that is nurtured by pornography and mainstream media ( ) is a problem demanding critical media k-12 literacy. Of course, the difference between political awareness and political consciousness is that the later includes a desire for advocacy, we can never make kids “critical” enough to keep afloat in a sea of negative messages, they must also do the work of dismantling structures of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Small activism projects might be a nice way to start, as well as reading and discussing the history of collective action, with materials such as the movie Selma which de-centers individualistic images of leadership to focus on the work of group activism.

More technology

This app is interesting. I am taken in by the optimism; trusting in belonging (collectivism) is positively anti-capitalist.

I am also happy about the choice of actor to be the face of the app.

That said, I can see a likely Foucault critique:

The app is just another patriarchal institution. Users are disciplined into surveillance for the purpose of cyber/pseudo-affective consumption. It just another treadmill of consumptive capitalism –creating desire which will never be satisfied.

There is a ton of really smart material on YouTube for teaching about gender and justice.  The video below is one example. Unfortunately, Googling something along the lines of ‘teaching boys about feminism’ will also reveal just how misogynistic and patriarchal the online environment can be. Part of our job as gender and justice teachers is to wade through this crap to find the wisdom which will be most appropriate for our students.  I think providing an online syllabus of links is the best route.

Here are some questions I adapted from ( ) I think it is worthwhile to discuss our role as teachers in doing feminism.

How do we teach boys and young men to…

…listen to women about how being underprivileged affects them

…stop being a bystander and start calling people out

…stop raping, catcalling, telling sexist jokes

…believe women when they say something is sexist

…believe in the capable leadership of women

…be responsible for contraception, housework, emotional work

…be aware of the amount of space they take up (physically and in conversations)

…identify as feminists?

And some more tasks we might want to consider:

What should boys and men have to do in your classroom (at any level of education) to make a more feminist environment?

If gender and justice were mainstreamed as part of pedagogy, what should be required of students? What should be required of teachers?

From censorship to gender quotas to prison sentences and fines, we must decide how to enforce gender and justice laws with businesses and public institutions. What would a realistic timeline look like? How does that reflect your goals and values?

Finally, a free lesson plan for high school and/or undergrads:

Here are seven myths ( ) that could be used for poster discussion stations.

Real men don’t feel pain

Real men are independent

Real men never back down

Real men live for competition

Real men play the field

Real men fuck like pros

Real men suffer

Students work in groups. They go from one poster to the next and fill in a chart that looks something like this:


Where do you think this myth comes from Who benefits from this myth Why this myth is untrue


Afterwards, one member of each group shares key points with the class.



Kalyn and Alison: Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity (p. 1-99)

looking at a similar scenario of the use of the word fag in schools

Both Bad Boys and the ethnographic novel Dude, You’re A Fag expressed racialized masculinities. The “fag discourse” spoken about in the novel is labeling others, in a joking relationships as a fag. Pascoe finds through his study that it seemed to cement the relationship among boys. They called their peers a fag for numerous reasons. There was an undertone that at any moment a boy who was not displaying attributes of being sufficiently masculine would/should be called a fag. In the school, the black students were less likely to engage in this discourse than the other students. Instead these students teased one another for acting white.

Though the book focused on masculinity, sexuality, and heteronormativity, racialized masculinities came forth throughout his time in the high school. He found excessive discipline from school teachers and administration. In this book, even dancing too provocatively would lead to expulsion. In comparison, the white boys were dancing equally as provocatively. In this example Pascoe felt that the teachers did not attribute sexuality to the white students.  In another scenario, the one case that involved punishment using the word “fag” was with an African American student.

“Pascoe observed that teachers routinely ignored homophobic and sexist comments made by students. In fact, with one exception, she never saw anyone punished for using words like “fag,” “gay,” or “dyke.” The one incident that did result in punishment involved an African-American student who yelled out to the all-white, all-male wrestling team, “Why are you wearing those faggot outfits?” This is interesting considering her observation that African-American boys in her study did not use the word “fag” as much as white boys.”


In a recent Huffington Post article, Black Students In The US Get Criminalized While White Students Get Treatment troubling behavior does not stop at simply splitting at racial lines. Like the text, Black students are more likely to get suspended, or otherwise disciplined while White students are more likely to receive medical or psychological treatment. White students are also pushed in the direction of special education services. The study was conducted by a Penn State Professor of Sociology and Criminology, David Ramey, who looked at suspensions, expulsions, and police referrals 59,000 schools across the country. According to the study the increase and importance of standardized test scores could lead schools to suspend or medicalize low achieving students (in order to boost their test scores).  prisonpipelinegraphic

The majority of Ramey’s work however, is done in reference to the phenomenon addressed in Bad Boys. “The bulk of my earlier research looked at how, for the same minor levels of misbehaviors — for example, classroom disruptions, talking back — white kids tend to get viewed as having ADHD, or having some sort of behavioral problem, while black kids are viewed as being unruly and unwilling to learn,” Ramey said in a press release.

In a related study, published in July of 2015, Ramey continues with this topic by stating that poorer schools have a higher rate of Black students. These schools have a lower enrollment rate in government programs designed to stop discrimination on students with disabilities. He further suggests that the way students are governed may affect the way students are disciplined (or not disciplined and instead told to see medical treatment).  Also mentioned in the article was that school districts with a higher rate of hispanic students were less likely to report criminal charges, but that they too, were less likely to seek medical treatment instead of discipline.

Similar scenario outside of the classroom

The criminalization of black children, as one would suspect, is not one that stays inside the school (or playground). In 2010, there were two instances of young boys stealing and driving a car. Both children were 7 years old, one was black and the other was white. Lisa Wade, PhD originally wrote this posted this piece on The Society Pages in 2010. It was republished in 2013 in relation to the verdict of the George Zimmerman case. After the act, Preston, the White boy was given an interview on the “Today’s Show.” In the conclusion of the show, they conclude that with any kid, you never know what they can do.  Preston is shown as an over-all good child. His answers, which were actually spoken by the interviewee, were largely innocent and childish. I drew a comparison to one of the teacher’s favorite boys in Bad Boys. “Teacher’s perceptions of students are grounded in their own location in social categories of race, gender, and class.”   The teacher spoke about the white boy’s misbehavior in a kind of endearing way. For the white boy, this fooling around balanced him. For the black students at Rosa Parks School, the same misbehavior is seen as an inappropriate act.

Similarly, looking back the the news story, the only available story shown of the Black child was shot on the street (instead of a TV studio). The chase scene in this clip was actually sped up making it look more intense.  Unfortunately, Latarian said all of the “wrong things.” He likes to do “bad things” and even mentions “hoodrat things with friends.”  Lisa Wade reminds us that both of these children committed the same act and perhaps Latarian has began to internalize the way society has been treating him. “Black children, especially boys, are stereotyped as pre-criminals; not adorably naughty, like white boys, but dangerously bad from the beginning. And studies with children have shown that they often internalize this idea, as in the famous doll experiment in which both black and white children were more likely than not to identify the black doll as bad.” – link to the video

Bringing in Critical Race Theory (CRT)

Critical Race Theory, something we discussed in the Theories of Identity class, expresses skepticism for the colorblindness and objectivity in education (in our case). In a generalized sense, whites see racism as being aware of color while blacks as system of power.

Being introduced to Critical Race Theory (CRT) led to a multitude of questions and critically reviewing the instruction I used in my classroom.  What I began to question was first if I had fallen into a trap of teaching toward a middle class cultural capital, a concept borrowed from Lisa Delpit (1988) in “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy of Educating Other People’s Children.”  The article brought to light ideas that were not a focus in my undergraduate studies. Teachers have the responsibility to acknowledge that students come into their classroom with different content knowledge, some based on cultural upbringing. Delpit (1988) argues that there isn’t one correct way to teach students and that every classroom should prepare for these variances. Instead, each classroom would need a variety of different teaching strategies that cater to the different learners present that year.  “Rather, I suggest that schools must provide these children the content that other families from a different cultural orientation provide at home” (Delpit 1988, p. 296).  I am not suggesting that explicit instruction is the way I should have taught in my classroom. Instead, I am advocating that pre-service teaching students should learn to be critical of teaching philosophies. Every classroom needs to accommodate its students based on these differences.

Delpit stated that Black families may want something different from an educator than how I seemed to be running the classroom. “They want to ensure that the school provides discourse patterns, interactional styles, and spoken and written language codes that will allow them success in the larger society” (Delpit 1988, p. 286). The largest cultural differences in my classroom were not amongst my students, but rather, myself in relation to my students.  When I step back to reflect on the year, I acknowledge that the cultural frames of my students were ignored when creating and implementing lessons throughout the year.

The Hidden Curriculum

Ferguson suggests that the crucial element for creating and reproducing social inequality includes such taken-for-granted components of instructions as differences in modes of social control and the regulation of relations of authority, and the valorization of certain forms of linguistic and cultural expression (p. 50).

“This hidden curriculum reflects the ‘cultural hegemony’ of the dominant class and works to reinforce and reproduce that dominance by exacerbating and multiplying– rather than diminishing or eliminating– the ‘inequalities’ children bring from home and neighborhood to school.”

Regarding reward and punishment models of schooling and curriculum implementation, Foucault (1979) asserts that normalizing judgements are the most powerful instruments of disciplinary power– its function is not to suppress unwanted behavior or reform it, but rather

refer individual actions to a whole that is at once a field of comparison, a space of differentiation. . . It measures in quantitative terms and hierarchizes in terms of value the abilities, the level, the “nature” of individuals. It introduces through this “value-giving” measure, the constraint  of a conformity that must be achieved. Lastly, it traces the limit that will define differences in relation to all other differences, the external frontier of the abnormal. . . [It] compares, differentiates, hierarchizes, homogenizes, excludes. In short, it normalizes (p. 183).

These instruments of normalization thus act as the hidden curriculum of a school.


Ferguson, A. A. (2000). Bad boys: Public schools in the making of Black masculinity. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison (A. Sheridan, Trans.). New York, NY: Vintage Books.

These Labels were Made Up to Divide us.

Roberto Lugo’s Emerging Artist Presentation at the 2015 NCECA Conference