The Ninjas, the X-Men, and the Ladies: Playing with Power and Identity in an Urban Primary School.

Dyson, Anne Haas
Teachers College Record

Children in our diverse society are not only learning to read and write texts; (key are learning to read and write human possibilities. They read each other’s faces and clothes as closely as they do any storybook, and they write each other’s future in the stories they imagine. This article is an analytic narrative about children’s use of stories to reveal and transform images of power and of gender in the local culture of an Urban second-grade classroom. It is based on a qualitative study of children’s symbolic and social use of superhero stories—popular media stories that vividly reveal societal beliefs about power and gender, which are themselves interwoven in complex ways with rate, class, and physical demeanor. Through the writing and acting of stories, the children let each other witness their imaginations at work and then raise. issues about who plays whom in whose story. The dialogic processes thus enacted allowed rigid images of gender relations and of glorified power to be rendered more complex. There is no simple classroom procedure that will allow children to achieve same sort of critical consciousness and a world of greater imagined possibilities for all. But there are processes, rooted in the social lives and play of childhood, that can help children deal with the contradictory pressures of growing up in a multicultural society where power (i.e., ability to take action and influence that society) is not equitably distributed.