Becoming Ryan: lines of flight from majoritarian understandings of masculinity through a high school reading and mentoring program. A story of possibility
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Within literature relating to the broad field of boys' education attention is regularly drawn to the significant difference between essentialist and anti-essentialist accounts of "the boy problem" and the limitations of gender-based educational reforms which rely upon deterministic notions of what boys are 'really' like and, by extension, what they 'really' need. While these deterministic interventions have been widely critiqued in academic literature they nevertheless continue to dominate school and media based discussions about how to best support alienated, disengaged and at risk boys. This raises questions about the extent to which anti-essentialist approaches can be made more accessible and meaningful to teachers in schools. It further suggests the value of developing detailed accounts of real world interventions that have had a demonstrably positive impact upon the boys involved without reinforcing essentialist notions of masculinity. Adopting an attitude of "educated hope" (Giroux, http://www.units.muohio.edu/eduleadership/anthology/OA/OA03001.html, 2003) and drawing upon the resources of (Deleuze and Guattari, A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1987), this paper examines one such case of anti-essentialist reform involving three Australian schools. It explores one particular boy's experience of an intervention known as Boys with Books and argues that Ryan's journey can be conceptualised as a line of flight away from traditional forms of masculinity: a journey in progress that has impacted positively upon his relationships with peers and teachers and changed his beliefs about his possible future options. The paper, therefore, illustrates the capacity for teachers and schools to display anti-essentialist understandings about masculinity while responding in practical and 'do-able' ways to the needs of at risk, alienated and underperforming boys in schools.
Australian Educational Researcher
Copyright 2014 Australian Association for Research in Education . This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal website for access to the definitive, published version.
Gender, Sexuality and Education