Issues in LGBT Research in Education: Part Two: The Elephant in The Cave

Usually this parable is told about four blind men and an elephant, but I find that version far too disablist. I just think at least a couple of the visually-impaired men (though why they have to be men) would know to check out the whole animal.

So, in the spirit of a politically correct fairy tale, here is a methologically correct parable…

One day four LGBT researchers in education was asked to go into a pitch-black cave (the secondary school system) and describe the animal (the elephant who is meant to represent all sexual minority teenagers) that that they found there.

However, the cave being very dark, the animal being quite large, and their own preference as to where they put their hands meant that each of them gave a different description of the animal they encountered.

The researcher who felt the whizzing tail thought it was an insect; the researcher who felt the elephant’s side thought it was a cow; the researcher who felt the tusks thought it was a boar; and, the researcher who felt the trunk thought it was a snake.

In other words, each of them described a different youth population of sexual minority youth which was somewhat accurate, but not the whole picture.  The problem was: each researcher felt their description was the most generally accurate and so they argued.

While they were arguing the elephant left the cave because youth populations aren’t static; they change. That are certainly patterns of behaviour with particular groups of sexual minority youth that we can look at. But we should be careful to over-generalise from parts of an animal; particularly if we have no idea what the full animal looks like or if the animal has moved on to pastures new.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s