Coming of Age in U.S. High Schools: Economic, Kinship, Religious, and Political Crosscurrents

By Annette B. Hemmings | Go to book overview
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Economic Domain: Il/licit
Pursuit of Mobility

There is perhaps nothing high schools in the United States promise more than a chance for young people from all walks of life to pursue upward mobility. Formal education has long been touted as a ticket out of poverty, as a conduit for passing along affluence from one generation to the next, and as an otherwise reliable means for achieving success within the highly competitive, capitalistic American economy. The graduating seniors in my study all agreed that adults without at least a high school education are at a great disadvantage if they hope to amass wealth, find meaningful, personally gratifying work, and live a good, lucrative life. But whether or how they pursued mobility within their particular high schools depended on how they were geared in their identity work toward economic opportunities as well as how they were positioning or being positioned for integration into the job market. Through it all, they were very much caught up in the il/licit discourses of money and occupational gratification flowing through crosscurrents in the American economic domain.


DISCOURSES OF MONEY
AND OCCUPATIONAL GRATIFICATION

Sociologists since the middle of the 19th century have emphasized social class as the single most powerful factor explaining and predicting people's position within capitalistic economies. But whereas social class is a focal point in sociology, it is not emphasized among ordinary Americans. As Ortner (1991) noted in her reading of America, people in the United States generally do not flaunt inherited ranks or present themselves in

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