Friday, October 31, 2008

Good friend NE Iowa Mom wonders how I'm going to gather my data in a quantifiable form. I think, though, that I am looking at more of an in depth interview, text coding kind of study. Because I am curious about the issue of "the good man," but I'm also curious how people at school react to a female principal, and what she sees as the factors at work in how she and other school community members interact with each other. What's worrisome, really, is how to turn this into something manageable. I don't have years to do this study, although I could turn it into a longer project later (maybe a case study of, say, half a dozen female principals of all-boys' schools?), so I have to come up with something where I can gather the data, analyse it, and write it up, all in under six months.

That's almost laughable. No, correction. That IS laughable.

So what I'll have to do is scale this down in some way, and yet still manage to ask a worthwhile question that builds on the existing literature. Said literature seems to be pretty quiet about perceptions about female principals in all-boys schools. There seems to be more about female teachers. But the fact of the matter is that there are relatively few female principals in the world, let alone in the fortresses of patriarchy. Which is what makes this lady fascinating, at least to me.

Much to ponder.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

(Re)entering the discourse

I've been silent on this blog for a long time. I've never really managed to get it to the point of being a regular thing.

That's at least in part because I've been too busy sorting myself out to deal with the things that have been on my mind in a more cerebral (and therefore, in my world, requiring writing down) kind of way. It would appear that I have cleared up some mental RAM, however. So I am now in a position to take stock of some of the more pointy headed kinds of things that are on my mind.

One is my research, upon which I need to build a masters thesis.

Then there's the state of my countries, and the world in general, which by rights, is not one topic, but occupies the same part of my brain. And since this is my blog, I get to declare it one topic.

And of course, there's the issue of domesticity, and within that, gender relations in the home space, different ways of organizing homes, the dynamics of extended families, and just how to get housework done more efficiently, so that it takes up less time.

Today I'm going to stick to the research part. I still haven't been able to identify exactly what it is that I want to find out, and it's kind of difficult to plan your thesis research without knowing what the question is.

I've decided on a situation that interests me: a private all-boys school, with a female principal. In Pakistan, no less. I have anecdotal evidence that this is a relative rarity anywhere in the world. I have to figure out where to get real data on the numbers, but that's mostly to support my assumption that this is an unusual phenomenon.

I'm interested in this one principal, in particular, partly because she's just cool. But also I see her opinions on what kind of men her students should grow up to be as being kind of counter-culture.

Now I need to flesh out my vision of the Pakistani context with evidence from the literature (if it exists). And I need to figure out how to get at the questions that I'm interested in answering. Articulating those questions would be a good beginning, but I'm struggling with that for now.

What I have so far is this: What happens when a liberal feminist becomes the principal of an elite all-boys school in Lahore?

Now I could compare this with how things were when the principal at this same school was a man, although gathering data on that might be kind of difficult, given our tendency to generate massive amounts of paperwork with little or no coherent organization.

Or I could compare it with a different elite boys school in Lahore, or several boys schools.

Or I could track down other female principals of all boys schools, figure out where they stand on feminist issues, and what their vision of the ideal student is.

Or I could see how everyone else's perceptions of this particular principal have evolved over time, or are informed by her being a woman.

What gets me most excited is the degree of variance of her vision of "good men" with/from(?) the yardsticks that society at large, parents, teachers, and the students themselves use to gauge whether someone is a "good man." And how this variance plays itself out in organizational dynamics, in curricular priorities, etc.

But how do you turn that unwieldy mess into a "real" research question?