Recognition, Responsibility, and Risk: Pre-service Teachers’ Framing and Reframing of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Social Justice Issues

Nov. 01, 2012

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Vol. 28, Issue 8 (November, 2012), p. 1175-1184.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article analyzes the ways pre-service teachers (PST) conceptualize justice to further understand how teacher educators might communicate ideas about LGB inclusion to their students and understand the complexities of enacting a social justice framework for LGB issues.
It utilizes Fraser’s theory (1995, 2003) of justice to consider curricular change.
This paper presumes that PSTs’ beliefs about justice interact with the instructors’ intended curriculum.

Participants in this study were 84 PSTs enrolled in the course " Human Diversity and Education" in the large Midwestern university.
The participants were largely white and Christian population.
Data were collected through the content of classroom' discussions.


The course content and PST statements addressed issues of tolerance, acceptance, and queerness/criticality.
Examining students’ framing of sexuality provides insight into the challenges and possibilities of implementing a transformative curriculum.

The findings reveal that PSTs understand sexuality as an individual attribute.
They viewed homophobia as an individual value that negatively affected students’ lives, and viewed adults as being primary perpetuators of homophobia.
The authors argue that this occurs because sexuality injustice is framed through homophobia, not heteronormativity

Although guided by social norms, an emphasis on recognizing and redressing homophobia narrows the focus to the individual level.
Homophobia is most easily observed in individual transgressions of justice - bullying, hate crimes, exclusion.
However, the findings suggest that PSTs have a sense that homophobia pervades school culture.
PSTs perceived parents to oppose schools’ efforts to promote tolerance and acceptance.
They suggested that parents’ beliefs made it difficult for schools to effectively combat homophobia.
Although PSTs struggled to grasp or articulate sexual structures, they were able to talk about the political and social structures that narrowly boxed the role of teachers.
Their ideas about teaching suggested that teachers were prone to succumb to the whims and wishes of the community and administration and thus unable to exert agency in their classrooms.
They noted and understood how structures worked, particularly how society’s expectations of teachers organized their re/actions.
However, the authors argue that preservice teachers were not only constrained as teachers, but how LGB youth, and sexuality writ large, are constrained by the narrow definition of allowable sexuality.
Using Fraser’s justice lens allows teacher educators a different understanding of this pervasive dilemma.
Their use of Fraser’s framework illustrates the different natures of justice-oriented claims posed by marginalized groups, and suggests ways for teacher educators to consider curriculum beyond homophobia and individual protections to greater exploration of structure and transformational approaches.
Furthermore, the PSTs voiced seemingly ‘risky’ critiques of teachers and teaching.
Risk exists because they conceive of schools as institutions that constrain conversation and engagement.
PSTs largely conceived of classrooms as dangerous spaces for LGB youth and ally voices.

The authors claim that PSTs seem to need a different language and a different way of talking about and deconstructing experience to draw out and articulate ways of knowing that don’t make sense within existing, familiar structures.


This paper suggests that more PSTs who recognize injustices surrounding sexuality and support national and global calls for change are entering teacher education programs. Drawing on Fraser’s framework, the authors' misrecognition affirms PSTs as conventional, making it difficult to conceive of rich discussion oriented toward transformation.
This study suggests a need to transform their characterization of PSTs as a starting point for a more expansive curriculum.
The responsibility for this should be assumed by teacher educators in institutions and locales where this is possible.
They can serve as leaders in creating change, sharing ideas, and imagining a more just world.

The authors believe that PSTs will have more success critiquing structures if they learn in differently structured environments rather than learning about structure.
Hence, their courses reify the marginal position of sexuality and reaffirm the victim discourse and other definitions that bound lesbian, gay, and bisexual.


Fraser, N. (1995). From redistribution to recognition? Dilemmas of justice in a ‘postsocialist’
age. New Left Review, 212, 68-93.

Fraser, N. (2003). Social justice in the age of identity politics: redistribution,
recognition, and participation.
In N. Fraser, & A. Honneth (Eds.), Redistribution or
recognition?: A political-philosophical exchange (pp. 7-109). New York, NY:
Verso, (J. Golb, J. Ingram & C. Wilke, Trans.)

Updated: Feb. 15, 2015