Expanding the meaning of social education: What the social studies can learn from gay straight alliances

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24 Scopus citations


The author explores significant points of intersection between foundational tenets of the social studies and the lessons learned by students in the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) at one Midwestern high school. He suggests new ways social studies researchers and teachers might conceptualize the ideas and themes promoted in GSAs and apply them directly to social studies content and/or standards. The research is informed by Judith Butler's articulation of "performativity" of gender and Queer Theory and draws on ethnographic fieldwork conducted over the course of 1 school year as well as in-depth interviews with GSA members. Findings suggest students' attention to gender scripts combined with the knowledge they gained from selected lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), and queer-focused topics have strong implications for changing the landscape of social education. The author concludes that social studies education has an opportunity to broaden students' understanding of social education, to undo parts of the harmful impact on students' lives created by the hidden curriculum, and increase the relevance of the social studies in the lives of all students based on lessons learned in the GSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)352-381
Number of pages30
JournalTheory and Research in Social Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I wish to acknowledge the Office of Research and Policy in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota for its Faculty & Staff Research Award, which afforded me time over the summer months to complete this work. In addition, I thank the GSA advisor and participants at Freedom High School for their candid responses to my many questions. Without their thoughtful input, this project would not have been possible.


  • Gay Straight Alliances
  • LGBT
  • diversity
  • gender
  • queer theory


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