Youth and pupil groups : an ethnographic study of their pedagogic relations and resistant practices
The focus is on: a) differences and similarities between fifteen-year-old male and female groups which occupy differently specialised positions within the field of popular youth culture; b) the relationship between such positions and forms of involvement in schooling and education. The research is further concerned to explore the relationships between social class, sexuality and patriarchy in the practices within and between the various groups. To place the study in context, I discuss the role of qualitative research on youth, and examine five major traditions, ranging from the Chicago School, the Functionalists, British research on deviance in the 1950s and 1960s, Sociology of Education, through to the work of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Criticism of these approaches forms the starting point of the theory and method of the research. The sample consists of over 120 girls and boys in a secondary school in the South of England. Five major groups are identified: Mod Boys, New Wave Girls, Boffin Boys, Boffin Girls and Criminal Boys. All the young people were studying for a number of GCE examinations (except the Criminal group). From this point of view the sample is unusual in British research, as it offers the possibility of studying forms of resistance and conformity among those whom the school considers as the pedagogic elite. The method used was ethnographic and entailed sharing the experiences of the various groups both inside the school (classroom and leisure spaces) and outside the school (leisure and family spaces), for a period of two years. In addition, I have interviewed the headteachers, all heads of subject departments, and younger members of staff. Tape recorded discussions took place in and out of school (street and other locations), with groups and individuals. The research provides the basis for a theory of youth cultural forms, which integrates structural, communicative and semiotic practices. The theory has arisen out of, and in part controlled the collection of the ethnographic data.