Gender diversity has started to take over as a norm in modern society, challenging the conventional binary view. As a more divergent world welcomes each individual’s freedom in identifying themselves – whether as male, female, or LGBTQ – the long-established social values have become more and more disrupted.
Issues about gender have always been presented throughout the progress of human civilization. It is agreed that human’s main tool of development – education – should be focused on the inner intellect rather than other factors such as physical features or sexualities. However, several researchers found the modern-day education system instead keeps reproducing the concept of sexual binary, worsening inequality and blocking human’s true potential of self-improvement.
Education and gender equality
More education does not always equal less inequality. A 1984 research by Mary R. Jackman and Michael J. Muha, called Education and Intergroup Attitudes: Moral Enlightenment, Superficial Democratic Commitment, or Ideological Refinement?, found education retained positive reinforcement to individualism. Therefore, individuals in the education system would think distribution of equality only means distribution of equal access. They believed it would be fair enough to give everyone the same educational opportunity. If they performed well or badly afterward, that would be up to each person’s capabilities. Consequently, it ignored an equal distribution of resources, discrimination, or several other factors that contributed to inequality both in the education system and society in its entirety.
Certainly, there are a variety of dimensions to inequality. Gender discrimination has been a major complication to equality in education. The traditional values of gender remain commonly presented in textbooks. The root causes to this problem include social expectations on gender roles, the bias in biology, and the gender power gap.
Emily W. Kane’s 1995 study in the United States said although social status and genders could both affect individuals in terms of education, the scale of impacts was significantly different. As gender bias among men was systematically reinforced by education, women would actively be deprived of access to higher education by that problematic reproduction of inequality. Even now, the US still has fewer female college students than men, especially in science and engineering, as it remains strongly believed women are biologically weaker than men.
Kane added that higher education could guarantee a person an access to higher social classes where they could have an influence over the economy. While men appeared to have benefited both economically and socially with higher education, it was not the same case for women. It was found that well-educated women wished for a status quo that goes beyond just the recognition of their different gender.
Kane’s research did not include other considerable factors such as gender diversity in the LGBTQ community. However, with a large number of women in her study feeling the impact of inequality, it could be assumed that other non-binary gender groups might be facing much more serious problem, especially in societies where they are not openly accepted.
Not only is gender discrimination a serious problem for students, but also for teachers in regard to a recruitment process. In many areas around the world, those who identify as a non-binary are still not welcome in the profession out of fears they would “wrongly influence” their students.
A 1981 study by David E. Newton and Stephen J. Risch, called Homosexuality and Education: A Review of the Issue, found the discrimination against the LGBTQ was religious-based. Several religions, including Christianity, preach that homosexuality is a sin, or something “unnatural” that could improperly deviate others from the established customs. Therefore, members of the LGBTQ community were kept from getting jobs deemed “honorable” such as doctors, nurses, lawyers, soldiers, including teachers.
School reform – a key step forward
It is clear that the level of gender discrimination in education has long been troubling, therefore educators from every relevant agency should be paying more attention to it.
Every two years, The Massachusetts Department of Education conducts its National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. It found that LGBT students in the US in 2002 were five times more likely to commit suicide than students who identified as straight male or female. Even more worrying, it said the LGBT students were three times more likely to skip classes or avoid going to school because they felt unsafe.
Maralee Mayberry’s 2006 research, called School Reform Efforts for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Students, said many schools declined to acknowledge the existence of their non-binary students by turning a blind eye to school environment that would pose danger to them. Worse, some schools even employed “Policing Gender Behavior,” having their staff forcing students to have “appropriate” sexual behaviors as deemed by the conventional social norms. For example, school sport teams would not accept those who didn’t appear straight.
To solve the problem sustainably, Mayberry said schools must be encouraged to overhaul their entire ecosystem, not just mending one problem at a time. The change must be systematic, starting from a new teacher recruitment process to getting rid of the old ones, with the aim to create a new culture in school that upholds fairness above all.
The proposal was similar to what Mathew L. Ouellett said in his 1996 study Systemic Pathways for Social Transformation: School Change, Multicultural Organization Development, Multicultural Education and LGBT Youth. He said to move school customs past gender bias, a range of alteration would be needed in curriculum, social exercises, access to educational resources, supportive recreational activities, including positive reinforcement to improve behaviors.
In conclusion, a single fix or a single prevention would not help solving the problem. The whole system needs to be reformed.
Although the world’s education system has been greatly modernized, its constant glorification of individualism would continue to exacerbate gender inequality, fortifying women’s glass ceiling or downplaying the discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
As society is focusing on rehabilitating students’ learning efficiency post-pandemic, the reproduction of gender inequality by education has been an oversight. A large number of students and education workers are being actively pushed out of the system merely because of their gender.
Schools therefore are the starting point to change the educational ecosystem at every level, in order to make it as inclusive as possible. Although school reform might not be able to immediately shift society as a whole, it is the first step educators should take to move closer to equality in the world post-COVID, when students and education workers are again back in classrooms.
- Jackman, M., & Muha, M. (1984). Education and intergroup attitudes: Moral enlightenment, superficial democratic commitment, or ideological refinement?. American Sociological Review, 49(6), 751-769. doi:10.2307/2095528
- Kane, E. (1995). Education and beliefs about gender inequality. social problems, 42(1), 74-90. doi:10.2307/3097006
- Newton, D., & Risch, S. (1981). Homosexuality and education: A review of the Issue. The High School Journal, 64(5), 191-202. Retrieved July 11, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40365156
- Mayberry, M. (2006). School reform efforts for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered students. The Clearing House, 79(6), 262-264. Retrieved July 11, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/30182141
- Ouellett, M. 1996. Systemic pathways for social transformation: School change, multicultural organization development, multicul- tural education, and LGBT youth. Journal of Gay, Lesbian and Bisex- ual Identity 1 (4): 273.
- Case Western Reserve University. Statistics. สืบค้นเมื่อ 12 กรกฎาคม 2564, จาก https://case.edu/lgbt/safe-zone/statistics