Essay on Anti Schoolness

Submitted By xiafei-ou
Words: 8695
Pages: 35

Soc Psychol Educ (2011) 14:503–518
DOI 10.1007/s11218-011-9153-3

Anti-schoolness in context: the tension between the youth project and the qualifications project
Turid Skarre Aasebø

Received: 9 July 2010 / Accepted: 11 February 2011 / Published online: 8 May 2011
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Abstract In this ethnographic study conducted in two classrooms in Norway, grade nine (14-year-olds) in lower secondary school and the first year (16-year-olds) of upper secondary school, attention is drawn to how classroom culture is constituted through relationships between students. Through processes of power, dominance, hegemony and marginalisation, classroom culture forms the conditions for a learning environment, and has different opportunities, dilemmas and costs for the students. As classroom culture is negotiated in contextual and relational processes, classroom culture and ways of performing masculinities and femininities vary in the different classrooms, even within the same school. This article explores two classroom cultures, a
“rule-breaking” classroom culture and a classroom culture in which the fear of being labelled a “nerd” dominates, to show how boys and girls use different solutions to balance the development of their identity as youths (the youth project) and the acquisition of academic competence and skills (the qualifications project).
Keywords Classroom culture · Ethnography · Anti-schoolness · Popularity ·
Rule-breaking · Being sociable
1 Introduction
Since Willis’ ground-breaking studies from the sixties of working-class boys who formed a tough counter-school subculture to compensate for their failures in school
(Willis 1977), a growing amount of literature and research points out how gender constructions affect boys’ and girls’ school motivation and activity. Several studies from the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, and also from the rest of Europe, have pointed

T. S. Aasebø (B)
Department of Education, University of Agder, Postbox 422, 4604 Kristiansand, Norway e-mail:



T. S. Aasebø

out how anti-schoolness and laddish behaviour have been part of constructions of masculinities at school. These masculinity constructions are at odds with the school ethos and incompatible with academic success (Francis 2000). Frosh, Phoenix and
Pattman’s study showed that hegemonic and popular masculinity in the early years of secondary school involved “‘hardness’, sporting prowess, ‘coolness’, casual treatment of schoolwork and being adept at ‘cussing’ ” (2002, 10), a masculinity position adopted by African Caribbean boys. While it is important to stress that anti-schoolness positions are not adopted by all boys, the Frosh, Phoenix and Pattman study, as well as other studies (Martino 2001), have shown that the macho or anti-schoolness identity construction has also been widespread among middle-class boys. However, the term anti-schoolness is not only reserved for boys. Jackson has described how some girls have adopted laddish and anti-schoolness behaviour. The feminine version of the term lad—ladette—characterises girls who are troublesome, loud, disturbing, rude to teachers and self-confident in an aggressive way. The ladette culture is completely in opposition to nice girls and swots (Jackson 2006). This means that laddishness and anti-schoolness performance also can be a part of a feminine identity.
The aim of this article is to explore how certain student constructions affect classroom culture, and particularly, how they affect all the students, boys and girls, when the classroom is dominated by different kinds of anti-schoolness. Jackson and Dempster
(2009) have pointed out the different terms of school resistance the masculine antischoolness construction contains: (1) denying achievements and valuing bad marks,
(2) valuing rebellious behaviour in opposition to school and teachers’ demands and expectations, or (3) related to school work, regarding making an effort as