Boys and Their Schooling: The Experience of Becoming Someone Else

Boys and Their Schooling: The Experience of Becoming Someone Else

Boys and Their Schooling: The Experience of Becoming Someone Else

Boys and Their Schooling: The Experience of Becoming Someone Else

Synopsis

This book presents an ethnographic study of the experiences of teenage boys in an Australian high school. It follows a group of thirteen to fifteen year olds over a period of more than two years, and seeks to understand why so many boys say they hate school yet enjoy being with one another in their daily confrontations with the formal school. The study acknowledges the ongoing significance of the "boys' debate" to policy-makers and the media, and therefore to teachers and parents, but moves it on from issues of gender construction and the panic about achievement to the broader question of what it is to experience being schooled as a boy in the new liberal educational environment.

Excerpt

The origin of this study lies principally in my experience as a teacher in a secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. In more than 20 years there I witnessed, and was deeply implicated in, the relationships between students and teachers (and between students) that occur formally and informally and that might loosely be called schooling. Throughout this study I will return to my experience and the part it has played both in generating my interest in the experience of school and in developing an ethnographic approach to the question of how one might understand boys’ experience of their schooling.

In this book I argue that the study of boys in school has been caught up in, and restricted by, the way “boys” have been understood both in and out of the academy to the detriment of what I maintain is a more fundamental issue: namely, what it is to be a boy at school. On the one hand, issues of achievement and retention have dominated discussion in the academy more recently (at least in Australia), within a gender equity discourse which aims to evaluate government policy, whereas on the other, radically conservative fears for the “plight” of boys have been framed in biological or essentialist terms, frequently outside the academy, by those who argue that schools (and often families), are failing to meet boys’ alleged needs. Each of these positions, in its own way, aspires to influence education policy at state and federal levels in Australia.

What I hope to show is that in spite of both academic research and popular rhetoric concerning boys and their schooling, or more specifically concerning boys’ achievement or lack of it at a time when the subject of neo-liberalism in late modernity, and the purpose of schooling, are under constant review, a significant gap lies in the failure to understand the experiences and the subjectivities of boys at school, particularly in Australia. This is in sharp distinction to studies of girls over the past 20 years which have shown how girls have been positioned within a masculinist educational hegemony, and at what cost, but amid claims that schooling is becoming increasingly feminized, panic about boys and . . .

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