Jane Kenway and Sue Willis
After consideration of the girls, schooling and self-esteem discourse from a range of different perspectives, what is an apt way to conclude such a discussion? Indeed, are conclusions appropriate after such a journey through so many related but different fields? A common tendency in the conclusions which often follow collections of this kind is for the editors or authors to offer 'ways forward'. These sometimes take the form of rather patronizing 'tips for teachers'. Such attempts often rush towards closure and/or solutions, then falter in the process, dispensing ill-conceived suggestions for practice which not only fail to do justice to both the preceding material and the complexity of education, but also close off the broad array of possible responses which the collection might otherwise have generated. We feel no such compulsion towards closure. Indeed, as the collection's introduction and the chapter by Peter Renshaw (Chapter 1) suggest, the unseemly haste with which educational research has been translated into policy and then into practice for schools, is a particular problem of this field. Renshaw makes very clear the confusion and ambiguity which constitute the area of self-esteem research and, along with the chapters in Part II, points to the dangers of making assumptions about the connection between high self-esteem and high achievement and between low self-esteem and low social status (matters we will return to). Basing policy and practice upon a research literature which suffers such confusion is problematic to say the least.
As we indicated at the outset, our purpose in taking a closer look at this literature was threefold: first, to identify some of its problems, omissions and underlying messages; second, to address some of the more neglected issues; and third, to generate some possible alternative readings. Generally, our intention has been to enhance the field, not to discredit it. As is the case in the development of most knowledge, however, it is often difficult to achieve the former without at least something of the