Discursive Performance of Gender, Power, and Recognition in the Sex Ed. Class

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type



Feinstein School of Education and Human Development

Department (Manual Entry)

Education Doctoral Program


In American Schools, students are rarely offered educational experiences about gender and sexuality. Programs that do address sexuality are rarely based on moral beliefs and democratic values of tolerance and inclusivity. Sexuality education is predominantly taught by health teachers, rather than human sexuality educators, and their focus is on facts, statistics, and controversial issues such as the prevention of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. This limited perspective on sexuality neglects the important role of gender identity and sexual orientation (Donovan, 1989; Haffner & De Mauro, 1991; Nelson Trudell, 1993)

Using teacher-researcher-participant-observer qualitative methodology, I examined the discourse of thirteen and fourteen-year-old youth in relation to the construction of meaning of gender in a comprehensive sexuality education program using a progressive curriculum named Our Whole Lives, Grades 7-9 utilized in congregations throughout the United States. The setting was the eighth grade class of a progressive church Sunday school in a middle-size city in the U.S. Northeast.