Preview of Book: Identity, Neoliberalism and Aspiration – Educating White Working-class Boys

The issues surrounding boys ‘underachievement’ and raising standards have been at the centre of public debate in education over the last two decades. As part of the Routledge Research in Educational Equality and Diversity series, Identity, Neoliberalism and Aspiration: Educating White Working-class Boys (2015) by Dr Garth Stahl explores the phenomenon of boys’ disengagement and challenges the pathologization of working-class boys, both in the education system and in wider society. The research raises important questions around why this low-performing ethnic group continually underperforms? How do current educational practices contribute to their underperformance? What shapes their aspiration?

Identity, Neoliberalism and Aspiration: Educating White Working-class Boys will be of international relevance as the moral panic regarding the education of boys is a globalised one. While the boys’ crisis in education has been a priority in the last decade there have been few examples of careful investigative and research. The research is distinguished by close scrutiny of original empirical evidence and the focus on a highly vulnerable population. Qualitative research was conducted with 23 white working-class boys in their final years of compulsory schooling and explores their identities within school environments where quality education is rationed. In understanding aspirations, the work explores how the boys constitute themselves as valuable in schooling practices which consistently devalue them.

Key questions explored in the book:

What shapes the aspirations of these young men?

How do these young men comprehend their own disadvantage?

How do these boys make sense of expectations surrounding social mobility?

What factors contribute to them ‘buying into’ education or ‘buying out’ of education?

How does the system set them up to fail?

How is white working-class disaffection symptomatic of much larger issues in British education?

About the Author:

Dr Garth Stahl is a Lecturer in Literacy Education at University of South Australia and a researcher with the Hawke Research Institute. Previously, Garth lived and worked in London as a Teacher of English, Head of Sociology Department and consultant for nine years. Garth’s main research interests are: masculinities, Bourdieu, ethnography, urban education, educational inequalities (race, class, gender, etc), and applied sociology.


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