The Teen Mother Stigma in Education Essay

The Teen Mother Stigma in Education Essay

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In making decisions about how to educate children, the way we see young adults and what we come to believe about them has a major influence on the curricular and educational choices we make for them. This paper builds on an earlier analysis of how the term ‘teen mother’ is discursively used to mark girls as ‘other’ by examining the effects of the discourse on curriculum decisions and social policy, namely the separation of pregnant and mothering teens into alternative and/or supplemental programs. The use of separation as a curricular tool is widespread for adolescents who are pregnant or who have children (Pillow, 2004). As the private matter of their pregnancy becomes a visible and public matter, schools, policy makers, and educators feel compelled to respond with a change in curriculum or educational option. Quite often, that response entails removing or separating the girls from their home schools and offering them alternative school environments specially geared towards pregnant and mothering teens or support services to support the young girl as she navigates life as both a student and a parent. In offering separate services or a different curriculum, administrators and policy makers reify the idea that the pregnant or mothering teen is now different: the public condition of her pregnancy marks her sexuality as different from the norm and necessitates a removal or separation from traditional schools (Burdell, 1995). Yet, I argue that the routine policy of a separate location and/or curriculum for adolescents with children is arbitrary, one that is not fixed in the educational achievement of the young girl. Rather, the policy of isolation serves as a physical reminder of the ways in which these young women are marginal...

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... and educational isolation to generate and reinforce the concept that these girls need to be separated in order to succeed.
In challenging the seeming naturalness of ‘teen mother’ as a fixed category that requires separate schooling and curricula, I argue that the discourses and policies that support separation are not rooted in the educational benefit of the young woman. Rather, separating these girls from other students works to reassert dominant norms in opposition to the ‘other.’ By examining the discourses that support and are supported by the educational policy of separation for adolescent women with children, we provide a point of rupture from which we can challenge educational decisions that have been taken for granted in the past and call for rethinking our educational and curricular actions with regard to pregnant students and those who have children.

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