Life at School
Life at School
From Routines to Civility
How does it feel to be a student at school? In chapter 5 we examine the texture of experience in the classroom, a place where children and young people spend many long hours. At Victoria Forest School, located in the cosmopolitan suburbs of London, a typical class encompassed wide variation in socioeconomic status and ethnicity and, therefore, in parental aspirations and resources as well as cultural values and traditions. Our fieldwork revealed an overriding concern on the part of teachers and the school for maintaining social order—to enable both effective learning of the curriculum and also, more subtly, learning what has been called “the hidden curriculum.” We analyze this in terms of the demands of civility—how students are required to fit in and get along with each other, at least superficially, although as we also show, these normative demands are nowadays far from “hidden.” Is this a matter of democratic, even cosmopolitan, ideals of an open and tolerant community? Or is it a way of ensuring conformity to white middle-class norms among a diverse population? Mass and digital media were used by teachers—and tolerated by students—for offering a shared worldview that supports rather than disrupts the norms of civility. The chapter also examines how peer-to-peer relationships are valued by young people within the more authoritarian constraints of the school.
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