Pupil Subcultures

Essay on relationships and processes within schools

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Charlotte Joseph 12G
Relationships and Processes in Schools
(d) Using information from the items and elsewhere, assess the
extent to which pupil subcultures are the cause of failure in
school.
It can be argued that pupil subcultures are the cause of failure in school
to a large extent. Pupil subcultures are formed of pupils who devote all
of their attention to rulebreaking and avoiding work, and each individual
subculture varies. However, all subcultures have three things in common:
their members gain status, mutual support and a sense of belonging
from the subculture.
Several research studies have been carried out to investigate how and
why pupil subcultures are formed and how they differ in affecting the
failures in a school. Hargreaves (1967) proposes that antischool
workingclass subcultures are predominantly found in the lower streams
of secondary schools. Hargreaves suggested that they are caused as a
result of labelling these pupils as `lowstream failures'. Due to the fact
that these pupils are unable to gain status in terms of the mainstream
school values, they substitute their own set of delinquent values to
achieve status amongst their peers. Examples of their delinquent
behaviour include disrespecting teachers, arriving late, fighting, not
doing homework, etc. Evidence in support of this is shown by Paul Willis,
who generated research from the media concern of innercity
comprehensives and the alleged misbehaviour of their pupils in the
1970's. Willis found that mainly male workingclass groups of
undisciplined school pupils formed these `antischool subcultures'. In
addition, Willis identified a group of `lads' who rejected the school values
by aiming to just have a `laff'. In contrast, a more conformist group,
referred to by the `lads' as `earoles' was also identified in Willis's study.
The variety of antischool subcultures have been investigated by Mac an
Ghaill (1994), who illustrates the complexity of subcultural responses by
examining the relationship between schooling, work, masculinity and
sexuality. He identified several varieties of male subcultures within the
school. For example, the `macho lads' were a group of boys hostile to
school authority and learning. Therefore, Mac an Ghaill's findings support
those of Willis. `The academic achievers' were also identified by Mac an
Ghaill, who followed a traditional route of academic success. However,
this subculture had to develop strategies of coping with stereotyping
and accusations of effeminacy from the `macho lads'. This generally
suggests that subcultures are partly to blame for failure in schools due
to the fact that `macho lads' not only refuse to do work themselves, but
also bully and intervene in the success of others such as the `academic
achievers'. It could be argued that ethnic subcultures relate to the
labelling theory and the selffulfilling prophecy, although it can also
relate to social class. Studies such as those of Tony Sewell (1996) show
that teachers easily form assumptions and expectations of pupils based

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Charlotte Joseph 12G
on either gender or ethnicity. Many Black boys reject school in favour of
gaining street credibility amongst their peers, therefore preventing any
educational achievement. This is supported by Jasper (2002) who found
that the expectations that teachers have of Black pupils dictates the
form and style of teaching that they offer them, a style less conductive
to learning than they offer to other groups. Black girls strive to achieve
in alternative ways by rejecting the teacher's expectations of them.…read more

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Charlotte Joseph 12G
as business studies and computing and in effect they are able to achieve
upward mobility and employment with the support of teachers and
industrial contacts.
Item A supports the view that subcultures are not entirely the cause of
school failure. It represents the `new enterprisers' proschool subculture
identified by Mac an Ghaill. It shows that three teenagers have been
successful in `ProShare national investment programme' by studying
subjects such as economics and finance.…read more

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