Publication Date

2003

Abstract

Though socioeconomic status is pervasive both as a lived reality in American society and as a concept in sociology and education research, it is noticeably absent from both public discourse and and from the course content of the secondary school classroom. In this study, a six-week high school curriculuar unit on class issues was the setting for an investigation of students' perspectives on class. These perspectives were understood through the lens of student discourse; specific methods included the observation and interpretation of classroom discussions and the analysis of written personal response essays. Over the course of the unit, students' discourse illustrated the evolution of students' perspectives on meritocracy, including a general shift from the belief in the reality and/or the fairness of a meritocratic economic class system to a sense that the idea of an American meritocracy is a myth and/or the sense that such a system is unfair or unjust. Students' discourse also illustrated an ever-increasing comprehension and articulation of the reality and complexity of class-based discrimination and injustice-in society, in their school, and in their own lives. These findings in turn shed light on the adolescent subjects' evolving class identities. By extension, the analysis of the qualitative data holds implications for teaching and learning of/about class at the high school level-especially within the progressive frameworks of multicultural and social justice education.

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