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Democracy's Angels

Democracy's Angels: The Work of Women Teachers

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Democracy's Angels
    Book Description:

    Following the Second World War, women teachers filled a labour shortage in schools and Canadian newspapers rushed to feature their presence. One caption even called the teachers "pretty enough to send dad to school with junior." Envisioned as shining examples of "proper" femininity, female educators were expected to produce a new generation of housewives for a strong democratic nation. Democracy's Angels is a daring exploration of the limitations of that vision, which ultimately confined women to teaching a model of citizenship that privileged masculinity and reduced women’s authority. In an analytical tour-de-force, Kristina Llewellyn unravels the ideological underpinnings of democracy as the objective for postwar education. Schools were charged with producing rational, autonomous, politically engaged citizens, but women were not associated with these qualities. Claims to scholarly knowledge, professional autonomy, and administrative positions were reserved for male teachers. Using rigorous interdisciplinary scholarship and extensive interviews with former teachers, Llewellyn reveals the ways in which women negotiated and even found opportunities within these troubling limitations. An unflinching look at the difficult realities of women's work experiences in postwar Canada, Democracy's Angels illustrates the intrinsic connections between gender, education, and democracy.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8695-6
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)

    The work of women teachers in postwar secondary schools reveals the limits of Canadian democracy. On the one hand, they were encouraged to participate in the increasingly democratized institution of the public secondary school and embraced as necessary participants in the labour market of the education system. The reconstitution of the “normal” social order depended upon their performance. On the other hand, traditional gender roles, disrupted by the trauma of war, were still heralded as women’s primary contribution to the nation’s stability. While women teachers acted within public institutions, their role remained defined by their private sphere “capabilities” and a...

  5. 1 The Purpose of Educational “Democracy”
    (pp. 21-49)

    To understand the position of women teachers, we must first examine the objectives that shaped their work in postwar Canadian secondary schools. This chapter outlines the ideological terrain women teachers had to negotiate before turning, in the following chapters, to their position within and reaction to the broad social shifts in education during the period.

    Most Canadian educational historians, whether they focus on issues of curriculum and instruction or policy and administration, debate the extent to which progressive or traditional theories of schooling shaped education systems. Notable historians, from Henry Johnson to Robert Stamp and Neil Sutherland, have declared traditionalism...

  6. 2 “Democratic” Knowledge, Teacher Professionalism, and the Female “Weak Link”
    (pp. 50-77)

    The professional standards set for postwar teachers implied that any committed and properly trained individual could further democracy. The growing body of feminist research has refuted such easy assumptions, arguing that liberal discourse, such as that in postwar education circles, marginalizes egalitarian principles of professionalism.¹ Political theorist Diana Coole explains that reason is the idealized crux of liberal thought. It endows the holder with power to participate in Western democracy. In European philosophical tradition and political theory, only man can possess reason. Western thought, Coole argues, continues to assert gendered hierarchies of knowledge and citizenship, "mind over body, culture over...

  7. 3 Moral “Democracy” and the Woman Teacher’s Citizenship Performance
    (pp. 78-102)

    The woman teacher of postwar secondary schools was situated as the moral gatekeeper for democratic citizenship. Feminist theorists argue that within liberal discourse, women are collectively celebrated as daughters of the state, guardians of the nation, and cultivators of citizenship.¹ In theory, women are reproductive, benevolent actors or virtuous beings.² Although there is an explicit conflict between “democratic” knowledge and women’s “natural” abilities, no such tension arises for their role as cultural benefactors. Instead, as Madeleine Arnot and Jo-Anne Dillabough describe, women are the keepers, cultivators, and symbols of democracy.³

    Without claims to rationality, and thus formal political agency, women...

  8. 4 More Responsibility, Less Power: Gendered Participatory “Democracy” for Schools
    (pp. 103-130)

    Without the participation of citizens, liberal democracy is not genuine: this principle informed the postwar secondary school system.¹ Key to ensuring engaged citizenship is the state’s ability to afford each person equal representation within the public realm. The democratic ideal requires individuals to have the autonomy to articulate and contribute a political consciousness to the nation.² Public schooling is meant to provide the opportunity for each student to attain the knowledge and values necessary to achieve political capital. The modern public school as an institution celebrates the ideals of equal and autonomous participation in the democratic order. Such celebration has...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 131-134)

    Postwar Canadian schools embodied a normative social contract. Women teachers worked in the name of a liberal democracy that offered a citizenship at once abstract and androgynous, and limiting and conservative. Their position in Toronto and Vancouver secondary schools illustrates the centrality of gender to the democratic project as it was understood in the tumultuous decades after the Second World War.

    In accordance with a postwar national agenda, teachers were to ensure that students experienced “choice” in burgeoning curriculum options, “freedom” through personal growth of character, and “autonomy” in their lessons in civics. These core goals, with their presumptions of...

  10. APPENDIX: Biographical Sketches
    (pp. 135-146)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 147-172)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 173-194)
  13. Index
    (pp. 195-208)