Staying after School: At-Risk Students in a Compensatory Education Program

By Bram A. Hamovitch | Go to book overview
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3 A Conservative Ideology of Hope

In the previous chapter I concluded that OSRP is not able to achieve its goal of motivating its students to integrate within the school system. This in itself is not surprising, given the research on schools and how they relate to many lower-class and minority students (chapter 1). In this chapter, I will begin to answer the question: Why does OSRP fail? The answer concentrates on the importance of culture and context in shaping people's thinking, and in subsequently helping to mold behavior patterns. From my first observations, I was struck by the importance of a set of ideas as the driving force behind this program. I call these beliefs "the conservative ideology of hope." They are imparted most visibly in Gerald's frequent addresses to the students. This transmission of ideas is noticeably effective because he is such a dominant and charismatic figure within the program. He is youthful, energetic, and articulate in expressing this ideology. He symbolically encapsulates his thinking in a large banner that sits at the front of both OSRP classrooms: Success = Opportunity & Effort. The perspective also permeates curriculum in practice because Gerald initiates most of the program planning. This chapter explores the precise nature and quality of this ideology. In subsequent chapters, it will be pointed out that this set of beliefs has important repercussions for the staff and students alike. These convictions influence the degree to which the program can expect to be successful in meeting its goals.

The chapter is divided into two main sections. The first will present the program's conservative ideology of hope, as understood by the staff, students, and parents. In this exploration, it will be shown that although there is general adherence to a mainstream ideological perspective, there are minority positions that coexist alongside the dominant one. However, Gerald's key role in organizing and influencing programming diminishes the visibility of these alternative beliefs. The second section explores some of the structures both within and outside the program that help to tie OSRP staff and students to the dominant ideology. We will see why alternative viewpoints are not prevalent within OSRP.

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