Ann Phoenix: Intersectionality, childhood and education

Annukka Helminen, Henna Heikkinen, Heini Lehtinen (writer), Hanna Lindevall & Heli Neovius

In the last lecture Ann Phoenix talked about intersectionality in education. Basically the idea is that class, race and gender all differentiate childhood. There is no point to focus on one of them at the time because the two others are still creating differences between children. We can’t fix things unless we take them all account. All attempts to smooth out differences will be worth nothing if there is no understanding how class, race and gender affect to each other. Phoenix gave an example from British context where white middle class is in better position than coloured middle class members. So if we only focus on class, we’ll miss the fact that it’s actually class and race together that are positioning people differently.


Phoenix also points out that this issue chances depending on context; minorities are positioned differently in different societies. In western countries all of this has its roots in the idea of “normal” which means white, heterosexual, middle class member, usually male. These norms and values are like unwritten guidelines that tells us how a “normal” person should behave and what he/ she should wear etc. This idea of “normal” stays strong because of the narratives and discourses. Children are learning these norms and values from their parents and later the same ideas are strongly valued at school as well so they won’t get a critical perspective.


This leads us to a situation where even very young children understand the meaning of skin colour in their society. The story Phoenix told about the Muslim boy and the clock he created is a sad example how we teach our children to behave in intercultural situations. The story also shows how blind we are in western countries to our norms and values. The story told about a Muslim boy who made a clock by himself and he was proud of it and wanted his friends at school to see it. The clicking machine in his backpack led to panic at the school door. If the boy was white would all those adults at school have reacted this way? Why it is so hard to see these stereotypes we have and to criticize them?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *