Making Modern Lives looks at how young people shape their lives as they move through their secondary school years and into the world beyond. It explores how they develop dispositions, attitudes, identities, and orientations in modern society. Based on an eight-year study consisting of more than 350 in-depth interviews with young Australians from diverse backgrounds, the boMaking Modern Lives looks at how young people shape their lives as they move through their secondary school years and into the world beyond. It explores how they develop dispositions, attitudes, identities, and orientations in modern society. Based on an eight-year study consisting of more than 350 in-depth interviews with young Australians from diverse backgrounds, the book reveals the effects of schooling and of local school cultures on young people's choices, future plans, political values, friendships, and attitudes toward school, work, and sense of self. Making Modern Lives uncovers who young people are today, what type of identities and inequalities are being formed and reformed, and what processes and politics are at work in relation to gender, class, race, and the framing of vocational futures....
|Title||:||Making Modern Lives: Subjectivity, Schooling, and Social Change|
|Number of Pages||:||275 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Making Modern Lives: Subjectivity, Schooling, and Social Change Reviews
On one level this book is based on a decade long research project by two Australian academics following various children from a range of Victorian schools. On another level it is a meditation on the limits and issues associated with conducting qualitative research. While I find both of these topics very interesting – I do think that giving them more or less equal time might have been a bit of a mistake and one that took away too much from the innate interest in the research itself. That sounds a much harsher criticism than I actually mean. The problem may be one of form – this is an academic book and so needs to have a certain pitch and focus. However, the authors must have mountains of fascinating material and the shortness of the book and the focus on the hows and whys of the research process really didn’t allow as much focus on the detail of this fascinating project.As the subtitle of this one implies, this is a book about how both schools and a changing society impact on the formation of student subjectivity. This is a remarkably broad topic, with such sub-topics as class identity, gender identity, educational and career pathways and a very interesting discussion of racism. It is also a topic that is acknowledged from the beginning to be unlikely to be ‘answered’ in a series of filmed interviews with 26 young adults over seven years (or in any other form of research, really).Just how much does researching something bring it into being? This question seemed particularly pertinent in their chapter on ‘class’. The researchers note that most research tends to look at the extremes of ‘class’ – you know, pick a dirt-poor state school and a first rate private school and then compare and contrast. They wanted to look at the more under researched middle. However, there are children represented in the study from the full spectrum of schools, four in total – two regional (from a town referred to as Cubbin – I guess that is really Ballarat, but hard to say, it could just as easily be Bendigo) and two Melbourne suburban schools, one of which is private. Some pains are taken to hide the identity of these schools and naturally the students who were the subjects of the research. The researchers returned twice each year over the period of research – seven years – to conduct what sound like remarkably extensive interviews with each of these kids individually. They must have mountains of material – and this brings me to my main criticism of the book, that the book really ought to have been twice as long and shared more of this wealth of material. I would have liked something more akin to the British Seven Up series (mentioned as a inspiration) – and although there was some of this level of detail (with often chapters on a particular topic – say gender or class – focusing on a particular subject’s experience) I guess the voyeur in me really wanted more. The researchers are influenced by a very broad range of theorists, from Bourdieu to Foucault, but also quite a few others I’ve never heard of. However, part of the point of this book is that it is intended as an exercise to ‘trouble’ theory and expectations. So, for example, there was quite a lot of discussion in the chapter on class about whether this was still a relevant way to characterise groups of people in our post-industrial world. The answer wasn’t clear-cut. I got the impression the authors did not want to merely restate Bourdieu on social reproduction – however, their results hardly contradict what would be Bourdieu’s best guess of how things would work out. Of the seven kids interviewed from the elite private school, all but one went to university (the one not at uni was in rehab) from the most disadvantaged school only one student was at university and that a low-status one and two were unemployed. (If I’d given those results first and asked you to guess which of the two schools those results came from do you think you’d have had any trouble guessing?) That these results are depressingly predictable on the large and medium scales does not however take away from the fact that there is a range of outcomes any individual can achieve in any particular environment. So, we may not know which seed will grow and which will not, but given our knowledge of other factors we can accurately predict the overall yield of these particular plots.One of the major themes of the book is what is the extent of individual agency and how much of our own life can be reasonably called our ‘own project’? What is interesting is that in the lowest SES school the researchers found an almost monotonous repetition of ‘take it as it comes’ as a response to asking the kids about the pathways they would like to take. In many ways life is something that happens to these kids. I would guess that in some ways this may actually be quite a new phenomenon – and one that is due to social change. While the overall theme of ‘take it as it comes’ may have been evident, these kids a generation ago would probably have had a much better idea of what life would hold for them. They would then have been likely of speaking of home making or going into retail if they were girls (maybe even office work) and getting a trade or doing some semi-skilled work if boys. But perhaps it is the fact the labour market is in such a state that even hoping for these might appear overly optimistic – just a thought. Again the research confirmed what I guess is fairly obvious – if you have no pathway it is hard to get anywhere and if no one you know has ever gone anywhere before you it is very hard (and frightening) to have any idea of where paths might take you.The kids from the highest SES school tended to mouth the platitudes polite society tends to mouth about ‘embracing diversity’ – however, what was very interesting was how effectively intolerant of diversity the kids from this school actually were. This is quite clearly shown in their belief that only the unmotivated are unemployed. Perhaps more tellingly, though, this is also shown by the fact that two of the students choose to leave the school because they felt stifled by its culture. Another was from an SES background not immediately associated with that of the school and needed to make concerted (though ultimately successful) efforts to fit in. Of course, part of this is to do with the fact that the further up the SES scale one goes the more people are likely to view what they receive as a service they are purchasing and therefore more likely to exercise ‘choice’. But it was very interesting that one of the students did not feel at all comfortable with the fact of his Asian background and more or less kept this hidden while at this school. Clearly, between the stated policy of respecting diversity and the lived experience there falls a shadow. The researchers felt that the fact the lower SES girl accommodated the ethos of the school better than some of the higher SES students confirmed their concerns around social reproduction as a all-embracing answer, however, it probably does match nicely with Bourdieu’s expectation that those most in fear of relegation will be those most likely to hold cherish the marks of distinction.The researchers struggled (and admitted to ultimately failing) to find ways to get the kids to talk about how they identified themselves with social classes. I’m not sure this would ever be a very useful path. Ask the guy with a wine bottle in a paper bag slumped on the curb with a sign begging for money what class he is and it is a 7 to 3 bet (he will probably give you even better odds if you ask him) he will say ‘middle class’. I’m sure even Rupert Murdoch probably even thinks of himself as ‘middle class’. That hardly means classes no longer exist. The point is that social classes exist as classifications in the sense that they are useful ways to understand differences and similarities within society. One of the philosophers, can’t remember which now, was talking to a group of people (people with far too much time on their hands) and said that it was impossible for any two things to be identical. The group of people then spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden looking for two identical leaves. Such mindless practicality is all well and good – but the issue here is that categorising some things as leaves and some as grass might be completely irrelevant if you are just interested in gathering green stuff but completely relevant if you are harvesting tobacco. How people self-identify to SES is one of the things that might help explain how their pathways bounce around particular means – but if you are a panhandler, thinking you are CEO of News International probably isn’t going to get you into a warm bed at night, at least, not now they have closed down the mental institutions. I am, of course, watching with great interest to see if the inverse of this is at all possible. That if you are CEO of News International there is any chance you may end your life sleeping on the streets.We are all individuals and we all do have agency. But patterns of reproduction also certainly exist and have interesting things to say about the lived experience and expectations of people given their different opportunities. It is not too much to say that people from different classes in Australia live in quite different countries, whether these ‘different countries’ are the product of ‘mind-forged manacles’ is quite another debate.While this book has quite some debate about the relevance of social class to the lives of the various students, and that the fact the students didn’t self-identify to their SES is taken as proof of the lack of relevance of such characterisations, the same is not assumed of gender. Interestingly, the kids consistently rejected the idea that gender is an issue to them at all. This was something I noticed last year on my rounds too. Gender is seen as an issue that has been ‘sorted’. However, I think it is anything but. While seventy per cent of students studying literature at senior level are female and seventy per cent of students studying the hardest mathematics are male gender will continue to be an issue. One way or another such discrepancies need to be explained.There has been a lot of discussion in Australia about boys – discussion that asserts that the reforms in education that have advantaged girls over the last few decades have gone too far and are now disadvantaging boys. What is interesting is that neither the boys nor the girls in this study believed this at all. They both feel that boys tend to muck up more in class and that boys don’t really work until the final years of high school – but even so boys are still seen as the ‘normal’ ones and girls are even criticised for their success because they ‘try too hard’. This normalisation of boys behaviour – something that is elsewhere referred to as boys being ‘vanilla’ – even when this behaviour is negative is terribly interesting. Interesting too in the agency vs. product debate. What is taken as proof of boys’ failure elsewhere in society is simply not accepted as anything abnormal by boys or by girls at school.This is a fascinating study – but I have to again admit to being disappointed that there was so little of the wealth of detail that must have been available after near decade of interviews with these kids. I got a sense of how some of these kids changed and grew, but more detail would have illuminated that much more. Ironically, I also think more detail would have given greater support to the major thesis behind this one – that qualitative research is justified because it shows the richness of response from individuals to the social limitations imposed on them due to their social position.
This complicated book meandered through stories and meanings that were half questioning themselves, a very complicated form of qualitative research so extremely interesting to me but so inconclusive that at times I was frustrated and at other times felt it was playing into the hands of the instrumentalists. But it was compellingly interesting. The book looks at racism and nationalism, class, gender and the economic reality which young people (in 2005) find themselves. It is a book that is knowing about its own datedness I think, but shows a moment in history as part of a longer conversation based on the finally stated foundation of the research that young people's lives individually matter and also that the patterns in their lives that make up what society believes and who gets what also deeply matter.It's a complex but pretty humanising book. I am not sure how to process it into my knowledge in my head. It gives me context for another books by Yates that I liked What Does Good Education Research Look Like?. I think McLeod and Yates here show here some of what she talks about in that book!
It suffers from being near incomprehensible gibberish at times, and is full of sentences such as:"Similarly, an exclusive or even predominant focus on representations of girlhood can overstate the authority of such discourses and presume a common and unproblematic uptake of those discursive norms and meanings.""Rather than look mainly at gender differences in outcomes data or via dominant cultural discourses about girlhood, we begin in this chapter from the biographical and explore the interweaving of dreams, destinations. and social constructions to illuminate how social changes and popular and academic discourses concerning gender futures, individualization, and becoming your own person are negotiated within a specific social class and schooling context.". What a "gender future" is, we never learn, as the term is never mentioned again.And this is a book being pitched to students of teaching, many of whom have English as a second language.