Just Sociology

Exploring Pupil Subcultures: Types Responses and Studies

In education, the idea of pupil subcultures refers to the diverse groups of students that form within a school setting, each with unique patterns of behavior, values, and beliefs. Some of these groups may support academic achievement and conform to school rules while others may reject them and even disrupt in-class activities.

While this notion can be traced back to the 1970s, it still continues to attract the attention of researchers, educators, and policymakers today. This article aims to provide a critical overview of pupil subcultures, focusing on key theories, studies, and debates that seek to explain their development, functions, and effects.

Pupil Subcultures

Types of School Subculture

According to sociologists who study pupil subcultures, there are two main types: the pro-school subculture and the anti-school subculture. The former is composed of students who comply with school rules, value academic success, and aspire to a positive future.

On the other hand, the latter is represented by groups of students who reject school norms, hold alternative (often deviant) values, and oppose academic aims. These groups may exhibit behaviors such as truancy, disruptive behavior, and defiance of authority.

However, it is important to note that these two extreme categories do not capture the complexity of the subcultural landscape. Rather, there are nuanced types that reflect social class, gender, ethnicity, and other factors that shape student identities.

Between Pro and Anti-School Subcultures: A Range of Responses

While the pro-school and anti-school subcultures are at opposite ends of the spectrum, there are various responses that students use to adapt to school. These responses can be categorized into four broad approaches: ingratiation, compliance, ritualism, and rebellion.

Ingratiation refers to the strategy of pleasing teachers and conforming to school rules to gain approval and recognition. Compliance is the act of doing what is required by school authorities but without necessarily investing in its values.

Ritualism is the practice of going through the motions of school activities without aspiring to achieve its goals. Rebellion, finally, is the outright rejection of school norms and the adoption of deviant values and behaviors.

Key studies on subcultures

A significant body of research has investigated the concept of pupil subcultures, producing seminal studies that have shaped our understanding of this phenomenon. One of the earliest and most influential works in this field is Paul Willis’ Learning to Labour, which explored the formation of anti-school subcultures among working-class boys.

Another landmark study is Carolyn Lacey’s Hightown Grammar, which examined the diversity of pro-school and anti-school subcultures in a British Grammar School. Other notable researchers who have contributed to this area include Mike Mac an Ghail, Diane Reay, Louise Archer, and Becky Francis.

Additionally, there are studies that have focused on the intersections between subculture and social class, gender, and ethnicity, such as Gillian Hollingworth and Chris Williams’ book Schooling and Social Capital in Urban Communities.

Anti-School Subculture

Characteristics of Anti-School Subculture

Anti-school subcultures are formed by groups of students who oppose academic norms and values, and instead adopt an alternative set of delinquent values. They may exhibit behaviors such as truancy, vandalism, disruptive behavior, and aggression towards authority figures.

These actions are often motivated by a desire to gain status and respect within their peer group, as well as to rebel against what they see as a repressive and irrelevant educational system.

Studies on Anti-School Subculture

A number of studies have explored the causes and consequences of anti-school subcultures. Paul Willis’ Learning to Labour is perhaps the most well-known example of this genre, in which he documented the formation of an anti-school subculture among a group of working-class schoolboys.

Willis argued that the boys’ rejection of academic success was linked to their social class background, which had led them to adopt a negative stance towards authority and education. Mike Mac an Ghail’s study of working-class boys in a Scottish school also pointed to the importance of peer group pressure and the adoption of deviant values as key factors in anti-school subcultures.

Criticisms of Anti-School Subculture Theory

The concept of anti-school subculture has generated significant debate and criticism, particularly regarding its focus on negative aspects of education and neglect of positive, pro-school attitudes. Critics argue that such theories overlook the role of structural barriers, such as poverty, racism, and sexism, that may lead to the formation of anti-school subcultures.

Additionally, they argue that individual agency and choice shape student behaviors, and that subculture theory disregards this. Finally, some scholars have criticized the notion of anti-school subcultures as a stereotype that stigmatizes working-class students and neglects their diversity of experiences.

Pro-School Subculture

Characteristics of Pro-School Subculture

Pro-school subcultures are made up of groups of students who conform to school rules, value academic success, and aspire to positive futures. They may participate in extra-curricular activities, seek out academic challenges, and respect authority figures.

These values are often associated with middle-class norms and expectations, although research has shown that pro-school attitudes can be found among low-income and working-class students as well.

Studies on Pro-School Subculture

Studies of pro-school subculture have investigated the causes and consequences of positive attitudes towards education. Mike Mac an Ghail’s study of working-class boys in a Scottish school found that despite the prevalence of anti-school subcultures, some students were able to form pro-school identities in response to supportive teachers and a sense of academic achievement.

Diane Reay’s ethnographic work on working-class girls in a London comprehensive school showed how some girls used academic success as a means of escaping poverty and gaining social mobility. Subtopic 3.3 Criticisms of Pro-School Subculture Theory

Critics of pro-school subculture theory argue that this concept oversimplifies the complex ways in which students respond to school norms and expectations.

Specifically, they point out that such theories ignore the role of cultural and social capital, which can create advantages for some students and disadvantages for others. Additionally, some scholars argue that measuring pro-school attitudes in surveys may not accurately capture the experiences of low-income or marginalized students, who may face structural barriers within the education system.

In conclusion, the concept of pupil subcultures is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has attracted significant attention among educators, researchers, and policymakers. Understanding the different types of subcultures, ranging from pro-school to anti-school, can provide insights into student behaviors, values, and aspirations.

While there are criticisms of subculture theory, it remains a useful tool for uncovering the diversity of experiences within educational settings. By recognizing the different subcultural groups and their responses to the education system, schools can create inclusive and supportive learning environments that promote academic success and social mobility.

FAQs:

1. What are pupil subcultures?

Pupil subcultures refer to the diverse groups of students that form within a school setting, each with unique patterns of behavior, values, and beliefs. 2.

What are the two main types of pupil subcultures? The two main types of pupil subcultures are the pro-school subculture and the anti-school subculture.

3. How do students adapt to school?

Students adapt to school in four broad approaches: ingratiation, compliance, ritualism, and rebellion. 4.

What are the characteristics of anti-school subcultures? Anti-school subcultures are formed by groups of students who oppose academic norms and values and behave in ways that reject authority figures.

5. What are the characteristics of pro-school subcultures?

Pro-school subcultures are composed of students who comply with school rules, value academic success, and respect authority figures. 6.

What are the criticisms of subculture theory? Critics argue that subculture theory may overlook structural barriers, such as poverty and racism, that may lead to anti-school subcultures; neglect individual agency; and perpetuate stereotypes.

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