In American culture ...every child must be a social engineer, able to use his
"appeal" and his skill at social maneuvering to construct a personal community for himself. This is the child's
task from the day he leaves the established security of his mother's orbit, and he works hard at it as he tries... to bring new friends into his personal community. Meanwhile, other children
try to lure him into their personal community and still others try to win his friends away from him into their own spheres...
J. Henry (1963: 147-8).

The Students as Agents

I mentioned briefly earlier the paradoxical position of the students (see p.154ff). While the school is undoubtedly designed both socially and culturally for then, their activity within the school remains suspect. They are done to. It sometimes seems as if what they do to themselves and to the teachers and other adults, while it must "be taken into account" as the adults would say, is somehow illegitimate.

Children and adults in the school are in quite different positions. All adults, at different times, find themselves in the formal positions of evaluator, evaluated and evaluatee (i.e., the position in terms of the state of which the evaluated is evaluated by the formal evaluator). Children never find themselves in the formal "evaluator" position. It is not that they do not evaluate informally whom they like or do not like, whom they find a good or bad teacher. Nor is it that they cannot exercise power over their evaluators in terms of this evaluator's evaluation. It is that, whatever the consequences of their actions, they do not have to make the actual material lifethreatening decisions which a principal, for example, must continually make. Conversely, whatever the effect of the teacher's evaluation of them may be in later life, at the time when these evaluations are made in the daily routine of school life, their evaluations have a very different implication for the children than they do for the adults. Even when they utterly fail in school, children who are of compulsory schooling age cannot lose their social status as children and students. The adults, on the other hand, are in constant danger of losing their status as teachers and administrators.

Such remarks can lead to a view of the students as passive recipients of inputs generated by activities external to them. Neither the forces which make them go to school, nor those which separate them from radical evaluation, are directly responsive to the activity of children. However, a reference to these forces is far from an exhaustive account of the children's life. They do provide a general frame, but within this frame there is room for much activity.

Most basic is probably the activity which derives from the reflexivity of the structure of evaluation. As I mentioned several times, the children can manipulate their teachers and the teachers' evaluators by modifying their own behavior. Furthermore, they can
organize themselves using material suggested by the school or the broader social environment, which they can retransform for their own purposes. Teachers could become aware of this activity of the children. But in the same way as there are no rhetorical markings of the teachers as an active group in relation to the administrators, there are no markings of the students as such a group. As the "School Philosophy" epxresses it, "we accept every student as he enters our school." On the one hand, is "us" (personalized adults) who made a school for, on the other hand, one student. When this is put in the context of such sentences as "we recognize that each student has different abilities," it is clear that the activity of the child as a singular actor is recognized. As we see in more detail, the activity of children in groups acting independently from the adults is also mentioned. Children can also be "they" to the adults' "we." But here again it is separation that is marked rather than interdependence.

This rhetorical patterning has, quite possibly, participated in the tendency of much American sociology of education either to look at children as the passive future members of the total society,[ftn 1] or to emphasize the variability of educational outcomes depending on the formal makeup of individual children,[ftn 2] or to talk of "students' cultures" separated from the adults' and all but undecipherable by them.[ftn 3] In fact, children and adults are in constant interaction in the school. What each of them does to the other is of major importance to both. One cannot reach essential aspects of the reality of the world in which both adults and children find themselves if we do not look at it as something which they build together through communication processes that are in some ways shared.

It is all the more difficult to see this interdependence since the participants do not easily see themselves as involved in joint action. The students generally feel very uncomfortable when they are put in a position to do formally what they, in fact, have the power to do. When the principal offered the students the opportunity to designate those teachers who could come to the Senior Prom as "guests" of the students (and chaperones), the students were unwilling to do so. "Yes," they argued, some teachers "had done more" for the senior class than others and they should know that the students appreciated them, "but to choose these teachers officially would be favoritism" (T38). It was finally decided that the students would choose, but that the decisions would be announced "quietly and tactfully."

It is also true that adults and children rarely share the same interests. A striking case, Text 39, has to do with the recruitment of "twirlers." The teachers had decided that four adults would be the judges. The senior twirlers insisted that they should judge for they truly knew about twirling. The teachers' rationale was that the girls were "too nasty" to each other and, furthermore, would have a tendency to choose their own friends rather than the more worthy students. The girls protested that this was exactly what the teachers had done: They had chosen their own friends. The teachers did not really dispute this on its merits: They did not care that much, they said, certainly not as much as the students did.

This was probably true. Participation in the various school-sponsored activities is one of the major means by which social organizational processes are symbolized among the students. To be or not to be on the twirlers' team is of major significance to the girls involved. It is of no significance to the teachers. Conversely, matters of major importance to the teachers are of no interest to the students: For a teacher to mention to a group of students that he is not paid extra to work on the yearbook drew little more than blank stares.

This is simply a restatement of the fact that teachers and students are in different positions in the structure of evaluation. But this basic fact does not justify a totally separate look at each of them. Students and teachers are in constant contact. The two incidents I just related can be used to demonstrate this reality as well as to exemplify differing interests. Minimally, students and teachers share a building, a physical space and a peculiar temporality characterized by the multiple rhythms of class periods, clays in and out of school, vacations, the cycle of the various sports, Homecoming and the Senior Prom, beginnings and ends. Teachers and students are also in class together and, perhaps even more importantly, in a multitude of extra classroom interactions from banter in the corridors or the cafeteria, to participation in the various clubs, yearbook development, student government, "senior luncheons" with the principal, etc. On all these occasions teachers and students interact intimately. That the society which they form should be a differentiated one does not make it less one society, one world--the world of the school.

The School Day

The "Warning Bell" is rung at 8:22 a.m. Three minutes later "Period I," as it is officially listed in written material, "first period" as it is known orally, begins. There has been activity in the building for more than an hour before this. Janitors and cafeteria workers arrive early and start their rounds. They are followed by the principal and assistant principal and more and more teachers as the time draws near. Teachers often have to come early for meetings of various sorts, and all the more often as they are given more responsibility. By 8:15, at the latest, most teachers are in the room in which they will be teaching first period. They sit at their desks, grade papers or talk softly to the students who slowly straggle in.

Many children also have to come early. As early as half an hour before the official beginning of the school day, they start to arrive. They may have to practice something, organize some activity, or they may just wish to socialize. So, by ones and twos and threes, about seven hundred adolescents arrive between 8:00 and 8:30 and slowly get to their rooms. Probably because there has been no compression of energy earlier, this process is smooth. There is little noise, no crowds. By the warning bell most students are in their classrooms ready, if not eager, to "begin."

Exactly fifty three minutes later the bell rings again and the first of the eight daily "explosions" takes place as students burst out of their rooms and slowly move in the crowded corridors to the room in which their next class is to be held. For the fiftythree minutes of the regular period all is quiet. There are the sounds of voices from the open doors, sometimes the sounds of movies or music. A few adults and some students walk the corridors with what might be characterized as leisurely purposefulness (even when in fact there is no purpose to such strolls...). The assistant principal drops messages to teachers or searches for class cutters; members of the audiovisual crew deliver projectors or tape-recorders; other students move from the library to the commons or vice versa.

For four minutes every hour, and as often as three times between 11:04 and 12:24 as students go back and forth from the three lunch periods, this quiet is broken. The noise seems to get louder and louder as the day wears on. There is talking, the clanking of locker doors, the meetings of lovers, laughter. We observed little extreme behavior, no fights, no running or screaming. Then the bell rings. In less than a minute, all is quiet again.

By ordinary right, students, when not in class, are supposed to be in only one of three places: the commons, the library or a study hall. By extraordinary rights, most often by virtue of membership in some special "club," students can also be found in the private offices in the back of the library, in the coordinators' office, in the room where the audio-visual equipment is kept, in the guidance office, in the central office, in the nurses' office or even in certain classrooms as teachers' aides. By self-proclaimed right, students may also be found in the bathrooms for very long periods of time not solely dedicated to the satisfaction of biological functions. They may be found on the staircase landing from which the roof can be reached; or in the band's room or the auditorium; on steps outside the most remote back door of the building; in the bushes further away from the school; and altogether not in school at all.

The school day officially ends at three p.m. But in the same way as the true beginnings of the day for the school come earlier than 8:25, the true endings come much later than 3:00. The teachers very often still have other administrative meetings; the students' clubs meet; the athletes practice. Quite often, at night, a special event brings back many teachers, students and their parents. Sporting events, fund raising dinners, awards banquets, "career night" are some of these and it remains surprising to me how many of these events there were.

The School as Community

Text 40

On the way back in the car, Dr. Colson said that it was really strange now that the basketball season was over. He said that he was so used to going to games on Friday or Saturday nights, that now he and his wife would have to figure out some other plans for their weekend nights. Dr. Foster and Mr. Ervin agreed with this and they both said that it was going to be strange to do other than school things on weekend nights.

Dr. Colson, the superintendent of schools, was quite removed from the day to day running of the high school. His network in the school did not consist of much more than a few adults and even fewer students whom he saw very infrequently except for one adultthe Principal, and one child-his daughter. Nevertheless he, too, could talk about an event that centered in the school as if it were a major determining factor in the pacing of his own and his family's private life. How much more of a determinant must the school be for those who spend a major part of their waking life there?

The school is a major pacer for socio-biological rhythms. It is a major "compressor" of human beings. It is one of the few situations in our society where density is highest while organic solidarity is at its lowest. In other words, and I am talking here in strictly Durkheimian terms, the school is one of these very rare places in our "organic" society where dozens of people who belong to the same position, are in sustained interaction. Elsewhere, it is only a few people who are thrown together into a "mechanical" community where they are jointly involved in the production of their environment--as it may happen in families, churches or clubs. In most bureaucracies, each person is in most direct contact with a person that is in a complementary activity (e.g., boss/secretary).

The school is certainly the product of organic solidarity. But it can also be seen that interstices are left there, after the necessitites of the division of labor are met. Human actors are left, if not "free," at least in an indeterminate situation where different types of organizing principles can take over. Take the "senior class" for example, 187 students, 93 boys and 88 girls. All of them are in precisely the same position, undifferentiated. They share the same material interests. But they are all in constant close interaction and they develop complex patterns of organization, independently from the organic pressures which never stop regulating the overall frame. By the time they reach their senior year, each student has been among other students for more than twelve years. Even the most marginal students, the loners, or those who have had extended bouts with sickness know the principles that direct the student world. They may have lost the game, or they may want to rebel against it, but they know it. In any event, they cannot escape playing a part in it for the playing of the game is not dependent on the active desire or the abstract ability to play it. It is dependent on the simple social fact of being together and having been together for a long time.

The students differentiate themselves on the basis of whatever pieces in their environments they find relevant. Their family, the location of their houses in the town, the position of their parents in relation to the school were used quite as extensively as were purely school things such as academic achievement, athletic prowess or the various forms of rebellion. The students were not, however, fully determined by these things: there were two daughters of School Board members in the senior class. One was known by all as the ideal student (from a teacher's point of view), the other was almost as widely known as the class slut.[ftn 4]

Furthermore, the groups that form in school persist outside. Best friends in school are also best friends on weekends. If anything it would seem that, for most, the life in school was the richest, the most diverse. In school, the groups the students form are constantly being broken up by the formal schedule and the whims of the teachers, and new groups are formed. Out of school these pressures relax and one can spen a weekend without encountering any "others." There may be chance meetings in bars and other public places, "mistakes" as unwanted guests drop by a party where they have not really been invited. But essentially, outside of the school it is easy to segregate. Outside of school organic solidarity prevails: Students can exist side by side and ignore each other. In the "free" spaces and times of the school, mechanical solidarity takes over. The students have to deal with each other and deal, however uncomfortably and "falsely"--in a Marxist sense-with the fact of their being together as a society.

In the Process, purely rhetorical structures take over as the most proximate determinant of social action. In other words, pure structures of meaning direct the formation of social organizational patterns in a way that is not possible when the interlocutors find themselves in different positions within the structure of evaluation. When dealing with these latter types of situations, we were always confronted with an irreducible lack of congruence between the "real" world of educational production and the signified world of the participants' discourse. The situation was particularly well suited for a demonstration of the independence of rhetorical expression from social structure. What an examination of the students' world will do for us is something else altogether. The students are free not simply to talk their rhetoric. They are also free to dramatize it on a large scale which allows us to see in more details the practical consequences of unbridled rhetorical imagination.

"You Gotta Know the School"

Text 41

ROY Schneider: "You got to know what kind of a person so and so is. You just got to know the people. You got to know who the people know. You know what I mean? If some girl just goes home every day because she doesn't have any friends and she's really beautiful, why not ask her out? She's got nothing to lose. Most times they say yeah."

Schneider had just transferred from a neighboring school; the interviewer had asked him whether he had dated girls from Sheffield and this was his answer: "You got to know the school." The school is not an open book that anybody can read who wishes to. It is not a mechanism in which anybody can fit by virtue of being the right person at the right place. There may be beautiful girls whom nobody is dating, but "you got to know" who they are.

Another student illustrated the same point in an interview about the Christmas "gifts" which students would give to each other at the formal Christmas assembly. This was in fact a sort of sketch put together by a small group of drama students. The speaker in T42 and T43 is Tracy Rivers. She was very much at one of the centers of the student society. She first explains the principle of the sketch. Then she illustrates the process of choosing the "gift":

Text 42

It's just more or less people who come to mind as we go through, anybody that comes to mind that might have a joke about them. Like Cricket. When people think of Cricket, they think of him cracking sick jokes, and a lot of people know Cricket. See, what we're trying to do for the most part is getting jokes that a lot of people will understand because so many of them are inside jokes in different groups. So you try to get people that are pretty well known around the school, or at least in their particular classs, so that not just 10 people will understand their gift."

Text 43

I: "Oh. Greg Halston. I see..." Rivers: "A belch."
I: "A belch?"
Rivers: "He Played Hugo Belch in a melodrama we did at the beginning of the year. I don't think we're going to give it to him because nobody would understand."
I: "Barbara Fillmore. A 'no'."
Rivers: "Whenever she asks for something, like for a cigarette or something, "Can I have a cigarette or no?" She puts no on the end of every question. But we're not going to give her that because people will take it the wrong way."

People did take many of the "gifts" the wrong way. The teachers were particularly displeased. Some saw malice. Others thought it simple poor taste and adolescent immaturity. Tracy Rivers considered the possibility that this would happen. She was aware of the dangers involved even though she did not escape them. She "knows" the school. She knows its folklore. She knows the rules, one of the most important of which is that one must know the folklore of the school to be successful in it. Undoubtedly, Roy Schneider knew this too and, as such, he is part of that society in the delicate but internally structured position of "outsider."

The students also knew surprisingly well what the teachers expected of them. Not only did all but one student graduate the year we observed the school, not only did about 80$ of the students go on to college, they also understood surprisingly well the principles of disciplining which the teachers used. They knew how to manipulate what I will refer to as the "individualization of discipline," that is, the adults' tendency always to base their evaluation of a discipline problem in terms of the individual student (Dick Laughlin was involved in just such a manipulation in T1). Two other examples will illustrate this knowledge.

Several times during the year fire alarms were pulled and smoke bombs were exploded. A fire was set. In each instance, there were investigations to find out who had done it. There was talk of extending the school day to make up for lost time. In certain cases, "everyone knew" who had pulled the alarm, in other cases, "no one" knew, as we were told. In all cases, the incidents became a major topic of conversation among the students for a few days and the range of opinion fairly duplicated the range to be found among the teachers.[ftn 5] And so, when the administration decided to involve students formally, the student government was able to convene what was labelled a "town meeting," an assembly of all the students. It was held in the auditorium. At that time several student officers and the principal talked about the image of the school, the responsibility of the students and the need for self policing. As we were told, nothing works like "peer pressure."

People were of different opinion as to how much this "town meeting" had accomplished. Some teachers used the case as an illustration of the policies of the principal ("turn the school over to the students") and their perception of the success of the thing was strongly influenced by what they thought of these policies overall. Students were rather rowdy during the meeting but those we talked to afterwards seemed to think it had been worthwhile. In the short range at least, there was an increased awareness of disciplinary propriety. One of us even witnessed a case of a student chasing others from one of those illegal spaces that were used as a territorial base by one of the various groups.

A reverse illustration is a joke that was made on two different occasions by a student whom one of the fieldworkers followed for a day. This student, while never actually involved in a serious disciplinary encounter with any adult authority, was considerd by others and considered himself to be a trouble-maker of sorts. Twice in a day he introduced the field worker to his friends as his "probation officer." Bob Ravitch knew the potential consequences of his mode of behavior...

The World the Teachers Make for the Students

Students, doubtlessly, were not fully aware of the adult's concerns. Neither were they fully aware of each other's concerns. Certain basic facts of students' life were never communicated to other students. Half way through the year, and even as our team had become an almost daily presence among several groups, we still encountered juniors and seniors who had never heard of us. As for the freshmen and sophomores whom we observed much less extensively, many probably never became conscious of our presence.

It would be easy to multiply examples of variability among the students in terms of the content of their interests. Males and females did not talk about the same things. Younger and older students could be made to appear extremely different. There was variability within any of the groups into which the student population might be classified. Even among the senior male athletes, one of the more homogeneous groups if one were to look for homogeneity in content, there was variation in academic involvement, political values and dedication to the school society.

A lot of this variation could be accounted for by the overall organization of the school. Most obvious among those was the variation in content that would correlate with age. The major divisions of the student body was in terms of "classes" each of them with different rights and privileges. It was not until very late in the year that the freshman class was allowed the option of spending free periods in the commons. The adults thought the students "immature" and unable to assume the responsiblities implied in the relative freedom of the canons. The juniors were constantly reminded that they would soon have to make decisions about college, that they had to watch their grades, take exams etc. The seniors, after an initial rush in the fall, relaxed into a jealous position of superiority. One of the complaints they made most often at student government meetings concerned the absence of senior "privileges" or of a senior lounge where seniors could be "among themselves."

Adults provided two other major structuring principles: They labelled students in terms of academic achievement and athletic prowess. Both were extremely visible, indeed inescapable, facts of life for all students. Every student was intimately acquainted with academic grading Whether instruction was "individualized" or not, made little difference. Evaluation remained a constant and it didn't take long for students to know who consistently got good grades and who didn't.

Academic evaluation was a routine matter. The measurement of athletic prowess was a more extraordinary event and became of more importance for social organization. It is a major means of classification. As early as the twenties the Lynd's reported the overwhelming importance of sports in Middletown's high school (1929:212 ff). Nearly fifty years later very similar things could be written about Sheffield. There is something of great power in sports which has not been fully explained. Possibly, sports may "teach" competitiveness and team spirit as most participants would state. It might just as well teach defeat for, after all, only very few students make it. I suspect that, in fact, the importance of sports is ritualistic and dramatic. One hopes that something similar to Geertz's analysis of the Balinese cock fight (1973) will be done with the American high school basketball game.

Also important, though less directly visible, is the sorting out of students by what the teachers called "attitude," an amorphous quality which the assistant principal once specified by talking of "nice kids, neat, nice..." He was talking about the students whom the teachers would choose to join the twirling team. It was also well known that the basketball coach blacklisted two boys of whom he disapproved. It is difficult to separate the functioning of sorting "by attitude" from that of the other criteria. The teachers generally implied that their sorting decisions were mostly dependent on objective performance, either academically or athletically. But, there were quite a few boys who had special privileges without being particularly bright or powerful. Among girls especially, for whom sports was not an avenue for differentiation, "attitude" became a major yardstick. Neither the twirlers nor even the cheerleaders, were chosen on "ability" alone.

All these criteria applied across the board and every student had a place in each of the sorting systems. A student could be a junior, a good athlete, an indifferent academician and "exhibit prolems in his attitude" towards the school (e.g., he refused to cut his hair ...).[ftn 6] The student's position on each of these scales determined his membership in a category of people all of whom shared a similar characteristic and thus similar interests though these might not be shared by even some of his closest friends.

One of the major differences between boys and girls was probably the fact that "attitude" was a much more important classificatory criterium for the girls than it was for the boys. A coach could not be successful in the long run if he did not actually recruit good athletes. For males who ranked low in every other scale, athletic prowess could provide a route to "success." Beyond academic achievement, girls only had "attitude" and the only way to demonstrate that they had it was to become friendly with the right teachers.[ftn 7]

There were other school related but not student generated differentiating criteria. The nature of the clubs to which students belonged, the sports they played all made some difference. More important were friendship patterns between teachers and students. I discuss in Chapter XIV the dilemmas posed to teachers by the concurrent requirements to be personable and yet objective and fair. Most teachers chose to err on the personable side and all of them had students whom they favored more or less concretely. For students to be singled out in this manner meant either special privileges or special limits. When a teacher had visible, concrete objects at his disposal with which to differentiate students, these friendship patterns made the most difference. The coaches were preeminently in this position. In other cases, the advantage or prejudice was very subtle and all but invisible to anybody except the student and his friends.

The World the Students Make for Themselves

To move from academic achievement to teacher/student friendships is also to move from an examination of criteria that are controlled by the teachers to criteria in which student activity comes to play a broader and broader role. Students do participate to some extent in determining their position in the academic ranking. They can exert themselves more or less, they can evaluate the importance of academic success in different ways. The same can be said of participation in athletics or the demonstration of an "attitude." However, the students do not determine the parameters of the criteria. When we reach the matter of the teacher/student friendships, we come to an area where the student Activity becomes creative. The friendships I am talking about are, as seen by the participants, necessarily reciprocal things. A teacher must accept a student's advances for a special relationship to develop. Both students and teachers are aware of the students' activity in this area.

Two examples might illustrate how. In the first, a student comments on his relationships with teachers. He is answering a question as to whether the atmosphere of the school could be improved if teachers were less "stiff" (a word he introduced) with students.

Text 44

Thomas Friedman: "Yeah. I don't know if I were interested in what the teacher were teaching or I just liked him as a person, just as a particular person, yeah, it would be sort of interesting.

But, I'm just generally busy and they're busy and like, the time element might just not allow things to be fairly close. I don't know whether in a high school or at a college level it might be different, but like, there are a lot of teachers who I'd just rather not see period, but like, there are not a
lot of them, but they're ok. I don't have anything against them, but like, you know, it would be ok to see them in a shopping center, but I certainly wouldn't want to become terribly involved with them as people."

The second example is a report on remarks by the guidance counselor who has to deal with the results of student dissatisfaction with teachers.

Text 45

Mr. Hill talked about students who change their schedules because of personality conflicts with teachers. He said that this is not z good procedure

and that it's confusing and causes many problems. He noted that "part of education is being able to adjust to their teachers just like anyone else."
He said that when students approach him and ask to be switched out of a class because they do not like the teacher, that he (Mr. Hill) tries to convince them to stay in the class and that often he does convince them. He said that most times the student comes back to him and says you were right, Mr. Hill. He's really a great teacher.
In other words both Friedman and Hill are aware of the place of personal factors in teacher/student interaction. These can be negative. They can also be positive.
Particularly when they are positive, and shared by many students, personal factors can lead to the appearance of what students will recognize as a "clique," that is a perceptible and identified subgrouping. In fact, Thomas Friedman's answer (T44) was given in the context of a broad discussion of what had been, at least in the memory of our informants, one of the major cliques the year preceding our field work. That year a group of students used a joint interest in drama, fostered by a "friendly" teacher, to organize what came to be known as "the drama clique." Of Mr. Boles, the teacher, Thomas Friedman said:

Text 46

"Mr. Boles, we know a bit about him. He's the drama teacher and he's a lot of fun. We know what show he is in now and how he feels about things. You know about his boat and so on and so on. He tells you... You sit around after school and tell stories or tell jokes or something. It's pretty good."

I have chosen to introduce a long discussion of these student's cliques from the point of view of an influential teacher to provide a transition from the activity of the teachers with the students to the activity of the students over themselves. Boles participated in the activation of the clique but the clique itself was essentially a student affair.

There were many of these cliques. They were the most visible part of this world which the students made for themselves, and in which adults had but an indirect influence. Beyond knowing that there were cliques in the school and possibly being able to identify the most salient ones, the teachers generally did not know "who was who." They often made mistakes and considered cliques outside their purview. Much of adult interference had to do with the fear that "students would be too mean towards each other," with the most powerful groups cornering the market so to speak.

In the next chapter, I analyze in detail the phenomenological status of these "clicks" (as the students referred to them) and other groupings. I would like to emphasize again that I am looking at the students as a group and at their activity as a socio1 ical activity which transcends individual decision making. A student's decision to assert himself academically, a girl's choice of a dress rather than blue jeans as appropriate attire, can easily be mistaken to be meaningful solely as an expression of their personality. This may also be the case. But such decisions are also meaningful in the students' interaction with their peers. The decision is a communicative act that is "saying something" to someone else. It is a statement couched in a certain language. As such, the act escapes from the student's control. The student must be seen as a participant in a structured dialogue. The contribution of an individual lies in his choosing one or the other of the roles offered in what can be seen dramatistically as a play, an improvised performance of rhetorical structures.


1)A classical statement can be found in Talcott Parsons' "The school class as a social system" (1959). "Our main interest," he writes, "is in a dual problem: first how the school class functions to internalize in it pupils both the commitments and capacities for successful performance of their future adult roles, and second how it functions to allocate these human resources within the role-structure of the adult society." The pupils are on the receiving end. There is little to say about their activity. This approach to the study of children and adolescents has been dominant in the sociology of education particularly among those who have been interested in the sources of differential success in supposedly meritocratic schools (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1970; Jencks, 1972; Bernstein, 1974). These studies are operating within a very powerful paradigm that has been the basis of Western social science in the 20th Century: Individual performance is determined by the social environment mostly through socialization in childhood. This is, undoubtedly, an extremely useful paradigm. It should not, however, lead us to assume that a knowledge of the forces which impinge on children's performance and of a few measures of this performance exhaust all there is to say about them.back to text

2) I will not even try to rehearse the history of American educational psychology. Educators thought it common-sense, and of paramount importance, that research and practice take seriously Dewey's statement in his "Creed" to the effect that "without insight into the psychological structure and activities of the individual, the educative process will be haphazard and arbitrary" (in Dworkin, 1959:20). Even though Dewey emphasized that the child was also the product of his society, this has not had quite the same impact.back to text

3) The most extreme proponent of this view is James Coleman, who, in his report The Adolescent Society (1961), stated unequivocally that adolescents have come to constitute "a small society, one that has most of its important interactions within itself" (author's emphasis), a subculture with a language "all [its] own, with special symbols and, most importantly, with value systems that may differ from adults." The adolescent "is cut off from the rest of society" (there is a paradox here since Coleman also says that this is produced by society itself; he does not quite see this paradox, however). "The young people speak a different language. What is more relevant to the present point, the language they speak is becoming more and more different" (1961:13). Beyond the fact that Coleman is using the word "language" metaphorically and the fact that some of his data may have been artifacts of his questionnaires and statistical procedures, one must also note that the argument about the separateness of adolescents is derived, "logically" for Coleman, from an observation of a difference (in values, etc.). It is not induced from an observation of the actual life of the adolescents.back to text

4) I want to emphasize that membership in the various cliques produced by the students is probably statistically related to such things as SES status in Sheffield high school as it has been shown to be in studies of adolescent stratification from Hollingshead (1949) onward. My argument is not about recruitment of the cliques but about their function in an ideological system.back to text

5) We did not conduct a survey to ascertain whether the distribution of opinions were similar among the two groups. The important thing from my point of view, is the parallelism in the range and the ability to participate in conversations about the various possibilities.back to text

6) While there was no perceived need to elaborate a list of criteria for student evaluation, it should be noticed that we have something here that is governed by the same generative structure which produced the list of criteria used to evaluate the teachers (see T8).back to text

7) I emphasize later that evaluation is seen as recognition of inherent talent improved upon by disciplined exertion. What is the talent behind "attitude," in girls? For academic excellence the talent is "intelligence," for athletic prowess, it is a gifted body. For attitude, it is also a gifted body: It would be almost impossible for a girl to rank high in attitude if she were not somewhat pretty-and then exerted herself to build on this prettiness through clothes and make-up. Teachers would sometimes say that "effort"
should be recognized, and they hereby implied that it was generally not recognized. One of the best of the girls who came out for twirling was heavy-set: She did
not make the team.back to text