Identity, Self-confidence and Schooling for Citizenship: Listening to Young People
Recent educational policy in Scotland advocates that education for citizenship and the promotion of self confidence should permeate the curriculum and the ethos of a school. These educational interventions are understood to be about inculcating cultural values. This study uses critical ethnography to explore how a group of teenage pupils in a Scottish comprehensive engage with and express cultural values and the nature of the values expressed. The study explores the ways this diverse group of young people creatively construct identities, how they ascribe and seek social value, and the ways they enact, embody and resist social classification. Utilising Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital and field the study illustrates that young people's constructions of self and others reveal culturally embedded social and moral codes. Although the discourse and practice of these contemporary young people show changing conceptions of identity in relation to class, gender, sexuality and race, they also illustrate entrenched social inequality. They further highlight that subjectivities are ascribed by these categories and establishing identity is not merely a "matter of individual decisions" (Beck & Beck-Gersheim 1996:29). The ways in which young people enact, embody and assign social classification indicates the enduring link between subject and structure. Implicit in young people's descriptions of youth subcultures, for example, are social distinctions based on class, gender and ethnicity in addition to condemnatory conceptions of what it means to be working class. This study also finds, however, that these young people do not passively absorb dominant constructions of social value but creatively resist the social denigration of ascribed identities, to try to establish self worth inducing representations of their own. In this the young people are responsive to social field, the power structures and cultural practices embedded in different locations around a school and in diverse social worlds outside of school. The young people reveal multiple identities and the capacity to negotiate conflicting and contradictory moral codes across diverse social fields. Contra Bourdieu, and in keeping with aspects of Willis's (1977, 2004) argument, the young people displayed agency which revealed insight into structural classification. These young people valued the opportunity to talk and to have their perspectives valued. Their insights support Freire's (1972, 2005) argument that the popular culture of students is a useful starting point for an educational practice which encourages dialogue, critical thinking and engagement with wider social issues.