SECTIONSBooks - Sh-shushing The Girls - Gender and the Language of Religion
Sh-Shushing the Girls is a classroom study that finds boys talk nine times more than girls in teacher lead discussions. It is a personal account of the first year-long Canadian classroom study to focus on a single class. This class is a grade two English language learning classroom at a Canadian Punjabi Sikh school where all the students share the Punjabi Sikh heritage. Dr. Jule tapes and transcribes teacher-lead discussions revealing that the boys occupy more linguistic space (use more words) than the girls by a ratio of 9:1 (boys: girls). This finding is supported by hundreds of other studies around the world lending credence to Dr. Jule's claim that gender, as a variable, figures prominently in education.
Book review - Journal of Sociolinguistics 9/2, 2005
"This book would be a wonderful resource for any Teacher Education Program, as it deeply explores the effects of a well meaning teacher on the linguistic, intellectual, social and personal development of her students and how without realizing it teachers' can inhibit or limit their students' participation through preconceived stereotypes about gender or home culture."
Laura Hill Bonnet, Gervitz Graduate School of Education,
University of Santa Barbara
The book examines how it is that the girls' silence may have something to do with the construction of gender roles within the classroom and something that emerges as a result of teacher methods. That both gender and ethnicity can be constructed inside a language classroom is "an intuitive truth" that Dr. Jule believes needs to be explored in as many ways as possible and better debated among language educators.
The girls in the classroom Dr. Jule studied were very quiet prompting her to ask why this was. She wondered "Did they just happen to be quiet in temperament or, were they primed to be quiet by their culture? Or was it something in the classroom itself?" The idea that the students might have been constructed into silent participation by the habits and practices of their classroom is explored. Dr. Jule challenges accepted ways of thinking about primary language classrooms as benign or neutral sites, claiming instead that they are sites of struggle. Struggles on the part of students, she asserts, need to be better understood. What is the struggle? Language is central to learning. So what are the implications of student silence? Are silent students learning less and if so, less of what?
Dr. Jule suggests that the girls in the grade two-classroom she explored were silenced by their teacher and by the teacher methods. As such, she wonders what teachers and teacher education can do to balance linguistic space in language learning situations? Dr. Jule believes that language teachers need to pay more attention to who is speaking. She believes that awareness on the part of language teachers that linguistic space may be disproportionately allocated and that simple tactics like waiting longer for replies from girls or specifically asking girls to participate in conversations may go a long way to supporting and validating a language learner.
Dr. Jule's concluding thoughts settle on the early feminist view (as early as Wollstonecraft 1791, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman) that males are often the legitimate participants in mixed public group settings (such as in schools, courts, workplaces) and that most participants (both males and females) collude to allow males greater linguistic space. In Dr. Jule's case study this collusion is seen in the amount of male-talk and the vibrancy of it. Ultimately, the girls seem to serve the role of audience to the richer dynamics between the teacher and the male students. She hopes that her book will invite further exploration of gender and education and suggests a need to specifically examine gender construction in classrooms as seen in language use. She urges teachers to be aware that children are sensitive to the issue of belonging and that measures need to be taken to ensure that all students of all ages and of all ethnic backgrounds are claiming and using linguistic space, ensuring their participation and inclusion.
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