Who is the Good High School Student?

by Greg Thompson

Description

Schooling is one of the core experiences of most young people in the Western world. This study examines the ways that students inhabit subjectivities defined in their relationship to some normalised good student. The idea that schools exist to produce students who become good citizens is one of the basic tenets of modernist educational philosophies that dominate the contemporary education world. The school has become a political site where policy, curriculum orientations, expectations and philosophies of education contest for the ‘right’ way to school and be schooled.

For many people, schools and schooling only make sense if they resonate with past experiences. The good student is framed within these aspects of cultural understanding. However, this commonsense attitude is based on a hegemonic understanding of the good, rather than the good student as a contingent multiplicity that is produced by an infinite set of discourses and experiences. In this book, author Greg Thompson argues that this understanding of subjectivities and power is crucial if schools are to meet the needs of a rapidly changing and challenging world.

As a high school teacher for many years, Thompson often wondered how students responded to complex articulations on how to be a good student. How a student can be considered good is itself an articulation of powerful discourses that compete within the school. Rather than assuming a moral or ethical citizen, this study turns that logic on it on its head to ask students in what ways they can be good within the school. Visions of the good student deployed in various ways in schools act to produce various ways of knowing the self as certain types of subjects. Developing the postmodern theories of Foucault and Deleuze, this study argues that schools act to teach students to know themselves in certain idealised ways through which they are located, and locate themselves, in hierarchical rationales of the good student. Problematising the good student in high schools engages those institutional discourses with the philosophy, history and sociology of education.

Asking students how they negotiate or perform their selves within schools challenges the narrow and limiting ways that the good is often understood. By pushing the ontological understandings of the self beyond the modernist philosophies that currently dominate schools and schooling, this study problematises the tendency to see students as fixed, measurable identities (beings) rather than dynamic, evolving performances (becomings). Who is the Good High School Student? is an important book for scholars conducting research on high school education, as well as student-teachers, teacher educators and practicing teachers alike.


 

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