Hegemony and Education

Hegemony is a social ascendancy that is achieved in a play of social forces and extends beyond contests of brute power into the organization of private life in graduate and college education and cultural processes (Kramarae & Spender, 2000). Hegemony in college or graduate schools occurs when administrative teacher and student experience is unquestioned and when values and actions are commonsensical, despite the best intentions for questing of community modernism and enlightenment. Kanpol (1999) says that within hegemonic formations in colleges lies what is commonly called in the education literature “the hidden curriculum”. These are the unspoken ideologies about men or women passed to students as common sense (Kanpol, 1999). Hegemony propagates a certain ideology of being for both men and women, one that may in fact have little to do with their daily lives.

Hegemonic masculinity for men in colleges serves as an ideal. Holstein & Gubrium (2008) noted that gender regimes stratify women and men across colleges, so that they are valued more or less over a matrix of statuses that determine their access to power, prestige and economic resources. In graduate schools, hegemonic men have educational advantages and institutionalized patriarchal privileges and their characteristics are the most valued attributes of masculinity (Holstein & Gubrium, 2008).

In graduate schools subordinated women are not necessarily devalued, but they have fewer opportunities for advancement and little of the power, prestige, and wealth of hegemonic men. Western hegemonic masculinity is produced through college education. In this context, Holstein & Gubrium (2008) says that young men unlike women in graduate schools are trained to be rational and technically experts and reproduced in professional and managerial careers in hierarchically organized workplaces. The association between the hegemonic men and women in graduate schools is affected at the level of identity construction, where the ways in which the hegemonic man is constructed and negotiated can be seen as producing instances of male dominance (Wolgemuth, 2007).

Hegemonic man always servers as a point around which other men and women navigate their identities in colleges and graduate schools. Male dominance in graduate schools is evidenced by men’s overrepresentation in certain disciplines and leadership positions. Wolgemuth (2007) argues that despite the gains of the past twenty years in the representation of women in scientific fields, their numbers continue to lag behind their male counterparts. It should be noted that while women are beginning to outnumber their male counterparts in undergraduate programs, the women’s numerical dominance is slow to trickle up the academic hierarchy (Wolgemuth, 2007). In most graduate schools the more men in a department or level of authority, the more masculinity dominates and women are oppressed.  

Morley &Walsh (1996) says that women have been able and capable managers in institutions of higher education in the past. The hierarchies are strongly institutionalized hegemonic masculinities. In some parts the hegemonic masculinities among men determine the position of any single institution in the hierarchy, privilege and undervalue men. Morley &Walsh (1996) say that the continuous privileging of men and hegemonic masculinities and devaluation of women and femininities have cumulative effects on the women in graduate schools.

Ethical Issues Likely to Arise from Hegemony and How They Can be Addressed

Hegemony is driven by male stream or female stream ethics. These ethics produce individuals and conceptual frameworks that daringly respond to critiques of their power and authority with all the resources at their disposal, from organized repression of activists through to denigrating homophobia (Flood, 2007).  The traits that masculinity hegemonies express are rational, reductionist, emotionless, powerful, controlling, confident, selfish, outspoken, strong, competitive and condescending expressions of self.

The ethical issues associated with hegemony permit easier, deeper and more effective access to fuller flourishing of the self.  Flood (2007) says that the ethical issues also complement social and environmental justice agendas since caring for the wider biota supports developmental policies and practices that meet the needs of current and future generations of humans. It is important to note that the utilitarian bias of hegemonic masculinities creates a forum for bolstering the ego-self at the expense of the other than human world (Flood, 2007). Hegemonic masculinities produce unhealthy masculine prexes.

Ethical aspects arising from hegemony relate strongly to the fact that personal moral ambitions may conflict with impartiality and that insisting on the latter in the face of such conflicts may threaten integrity. Markovits (2010) noted that the hegemonic view of impartiality insists that personal moral ambitions and the ideal of integrity that frames them are categorically less substantial than impartial values.

In addressing collective and discursive structuring of ethical issues related to hegemony, individual hegemonic men need to be held accountable for gendered inequalities and privileges. Flood (2007) says that to address those issues there should be efforts to deconstruct hegemonic masculine identities and reconstruct identities that socially and environmentally require expressions of kindness and love even towards the most brazen of foes. This strategy helps to avoid ongoing conflict between hegemonic and dissenting individuals within social and environmental discourses (Flood, 2007).

Addressing ethical issues in hegemony in practical terms requires a softening of boundaries between the conceptual frameworks within masculinities and environmental discourses. Flood (2007) says that “beyond gendered social divisions and power differentials dwells a dominion free and inclusive concept of fairness and respect, where the oppression of women and nature is eliminated” (p. 165). It is important to note that differences in power relations between the masculinities and feminist discourses make it impossible to replicate ecological feminism when attempting to ecologies the masculinities discourse (Flood, 2007).   

When addressing ethical issues related to hegemony, individuals should go beyond gendered identities in colleges, schools and other organizations as well, and enable the hearts of both men and women to grow full with desire and in so doing re-enters to the enchantment of the self. Flood (2007) further argues that “to eliminate negative ethical issues associated with hegemony it requires the acceptance of conceptual differences throughout the discourses” (p. 166).    

The Negative Effects of Hegemony on Teacher Effectiveness and Mitigation Methods

Klein (2007) says that academia historically was designed and administered by and for particular men of privilege. The criteria for success in academic career, its timeline as well as the social structure and norms were engineered by males. The notion of hegemonic masculinity affects salaries of women teachers and educators, compared to those received by men faculty in other disciplines. This, therefore, affects the effectiveness of female teachers in colleges. Klein (2007) says that hegemony affects teacher effectiveness because gender discrimination, based on the additional duties that school administrators assign to men, such as engineering subjects,  pays more than those assigned to women, who may be in charge of languages or arts (Klein, 2007).  

Hegemony affects teacher effectiveness because teacher education programs adhere to the cultural hegemony which is embedded in universities and colleges, including a clearly proscribed and defined knowledge. Klein (2007) says that this cultural hegemony means that the benchmarks for success and achievement as well as important social values and perspectives are those, based on women and men. The hegemony influences ways in which some hidden curriculum exemplifies some groups, such as male teacher’s interests, rather than women interests hence negatively affecting their effectiveness (Markovits, 2010). 

To minimize the effects associated with hegemony, teachers should be encouraged to allow students to question prevailing values, attitudes and social practices in a sustained and critical manner. This will ensure that students can help teachers to pinpoint flaws and, thus, help to improve teacher’s effectiveness (Klein, 2007). Research shows that teachers stand at the crossroads of hegemonic commencements of knowledge, that are handed to them as liability measures.

To mitigate those effects, teachers should reveal and try to change the continual practice of hegemony through the teaching of emancipator knowledge. Also, from a critical postmodern perspective, teachers must try to comprehend that indeed there are multiple forms of possibilities for mitigating the effects of hegemony (Kanpol, 1999). A critical pedagogue using critical postmodernism will not only attempt to understand forms of hegemony but act to counter forms of oppressive values, learning that counter hegemony is multiple, possible and never final.

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