Constructing Female Identities: Meaning Making in an Upper Middle Class Youth Culture

SUNY Press
Free sample

Research conducted in schools over the past two decades has found that youth shape who they are in ways that do not simply mirror class, race, and gender discourses organizing life in schools. Instead, educators have learned that youth play active roles in shaping who they are on a daily basis, challenging dominant meanings and practices as they move through school. New insights in these directions now compel those in educational circles to talk differently about youth identity formation than they did nearly two decades ago. While sound research on male identity formation in educational contexts has illustrated boys’ socialization processes in school, there still is much to learn about girls’ social lives and meaning-making processes, particularly in the relatively unexplored arenas of private education and single-sex schooling.

Probing beneath the surface, this book explores one year in the lives of thirty-four adolescent girls in Best Academy, a historically elite, private, single-sex high school, as female students construct their identities in an educational context. Through the eyes of these students, we find that the private school is less of a homogenous and stable culture along class and race lines than educators have understood it to be. School officials and parents interact with these adolescent girls to weave a story of complex and contradictory moments of meaning making as youth work hard at figuring out who they are becoming as raced, classed, and gendered individuals in the context of institutional and structural change.
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About the author

Amira Proweller is Assistant Professor, School of Education, DePaul University.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Pages
284
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ISBN
9781438416533
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Education / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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This study of Edgewood Academy--a private, elite college preparatory high school--examines what moral choices look like when they are made by the participants in an exceptionally wealthy school, and what the very existence of a privileged school indicates about American society. It extends Peshkin's ongoing exploration of U.S. high schools and their communities, each focused in a different sociocultural setting. In this particular inquiry, he began with two central questions:
* What is a school like whose students enter with a determined disposition to attend college, and all of whom are selected on the promise they display for college success?
* What can be learned from studying Edgewood Academy that transcends the particular case of this school?

The volume opens with a description of how moral choices look when they are made by the participants in an exceedingly wealthy school. There is a general picture of the Academy, a discussion of the processes the school uses to insure the quality of its students and educators, and an overview of teachers and students that reveals what is commendable about each group. These chapters clarify what a school of ample financial means and wise leadership can do. Peshkin goes on to reflect briefly on privilege and concludes with a discussion of what the very existence of a privileged school indicates about American society. Schools, he suggests, are about much more than what goes on inside them--they mirror what is and is not at stake for their particular constituents--and function similarly for the nation.

Edgewood Academy's host community is not a village, town, church, or tribe, as in Peshkin's previous studies. It is a community created by shared aspirations for high-level academic attainment and its associated benefits. Affluence and towering academic achievement are the two most relevant factors. In this book, advantage occupies center stage. The school's excellence is documented not to extol its success, but, rather, to call attention to what is available for its students that is not available for most American children. The focus, ultimately, is on educational justice as illuminated by the advantage of Academy students--that is, on justice denied, not because anyone or any group or agency consciously, planfully sets out to do injustice to other children, but because injustice happens as the artifact of imagined limitations of resources and means. Peshkin's purpose is not to detail the particulars of how educational justice is denied to the many, but to portray and examine the meaning of a privileged school where educational justice prevails for the few.
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