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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Running threads : a critical discourse analysis of B.C.’s sexuality education curricula Shearer, Andrea Lynn


Sexuality education is a contested arena in which multiple sexual discourses compete for dominance. These discourses have the potential to empower or marginalize students (and teachers) based on constructed social identity categories. The purpose of this study was twofold: to determine which sexual discourses are reflected in British Columbia's secondary-level instructional resource packages (IRPs) that address sexuality issues, and a selection of their recommended learning resources; and to explore how the sexual discourses inherent in these documents construct or perpetuate social inequalities through the positioning of sexual subjects according to gender, sexual orientation, age, race, class and physical (dis)ability. The selected IRPs were Career and Personal Planning, 8-12; Science 8- 10; Biology, 11-12; Home Economics, 8-10; and Home Economics 11-12. The selected recommended learning resources were AIDS: Allie's Story (video); Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life, Eighth Edition (textbook); and The Living Family: A Canadian Perspective (textbook). The relevant curricula were subjected to a critical discourse analysis informed by both critical feminism and a pragmatic, Foucauldian theory of discourse. This analysis was carried out using sexual discourse categories developed by Alexander McKay (1998) and a set of open-ended questions derived from several sources. The results of the analysis suggest that the selected curricula and recommended learning resources adhere for the most part to Romanticist and/or Progressive sexual discourses, employing sub-discourses of danger, control and individual responsibility. Related to these discourses is the texts' marginalization of the reader or viewer, primarily on the basis of sexual orientation and gender, but also significantly on the basis of age, race, class and physical disability. It is argued that the documents examined have the potential for perpetuating stereotypical identity constructions and social inequalities through the lens of sexuality. Recommendations for future curriculum development are included.

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