Topic 6: Youth culture in schools

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  • Created by: zoolouise
  • Created on: 30-04-16 12:57

Interactionalism and school subcultures

Early educational research into the development of subcultures carried out in the 1960s and 1970s focused on boys and was linked to the concerns about how schools labelled and categorised children according to their perceived ability. Hargreaves (1967) and Lacey (197) criticsed functionalist ideas that suggested schools created shared norms and values by pointing out that children labelled as school failures actually gained high status from flouting school rules.

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Marxist views on the development of school subcult

Willis carried out an ethnography in 1977 of twelve boys in school in the West Midlands. It was a school for those who failed exams at age 11 and were sent to a low status school. He stated that the 'lads' developed a subculture which resisted capitalist oppression. His conclusion was that the lads chose to be deliberately anti-school, this contributed to their class oppression in work as they're likely to remain in low status, low pay work.

There is a criticism of Wills's work, this is that he was so concerned to follow the rebellious lads that he paid little to no attention to other groups within the school, he may have overlooked what was happening with non-confrontational pupils. A later study showed that instead of one subculture, pupils within schools may form many groups, not all of them being anti-school.

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Subcultures and ethnicity

Sewell (2000) conducted research into African-Carbbean subcultures, suggesting that schools were openly racist, and African Caribbean boys were seen as threatening by teachers. Not all of the boys became anti-school and a variety of subcultures were developed, including conformist subcultures. There were three main types of subculture: innovators, who were for education but hated school; those who hated school but were non-confrontation; and those who formed an anti-school posse based on Jamaican cultural traditions. 

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Gender and issues of ethnicity

Many studies of youth subcultures have foccused on boys. However, recent studies have looked at gender and ethnicity as cultural dynamics, they acknowledge that the processes are more complex than labelling theory or Marxist analyses suggest. 

Safia Mirza (1992) identified a number of girl cultures in response to teachers who displayed varying forms of racist behaviour. Girls were resentful but developed anti-school attituds that resisted racism through success and striving for high attainment.

Mac an Ghail (1994) claimed girls have gained high status in school. Boys have experienced a crisis of masculinity. 

Shain (2003) studied Asian girl groups. She identified subcultures that rebelled against racism, either through becoming anti-school or surviving by ignoring racism by conforming. Pro-school were a group who rebelled against the strict Asian cultures of their parents by succeeding and aiming for careers..

Carolyn Jackson (2006) identified a group called the ladettes. They were white working-class girls, they adopted masculine behaviours and norms, e.g. rudeness, swearing and open sexuality. 

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