Constructing Female Identities: Meaning Making in an Upper Middle Class Youth Culture

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SUNY Press, 1998 - Education - 284 pages
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Research conducted in schools over the past two decades has found that youth shape who they are in ways that do not simply mirror class, race, and gender discourses organizing life in schools. Instead, educators have learned that youth play active roles in shaping who they are on a daily basis, challenging dominant meanings and practices as they move through school. New insights in these directions now compel those in educational circles to talk differently about youth identity formation than they did nearly two decades ago. While sound research on male identity formation in educational contexts has illustrated boys' socialization processes in school, there still is much to learn about girls' social lives and meaning-making processes, particularly in the relatively unexplored arenas of private education and single-sex schooling.

Probing beneath the surface, this book explores one year in the lives of thirty-four adolescent girls in Best Academy, a historically elite, private, single-sex high school, as female students construct their identities in an educational context. Through the eyes of these students, we find that the private school is less of a homogenous and stable culture along class and race lines than educators have understood it to be. School officials and parents interact with these adolescent girls to weave a story of complex and contradictory moments of meaning making as youth work hard at figuring out who they are becoming as raced, classed, and gendered individuals in the context of institutional and structural change.


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Page 274 - In L. Weis (Ed.), Class, race, & gender in American education. Albany: State University of New York Press.

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About the author (1998)

Amira Proweller is Assistant Professor, School of Education, DePaul University.

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