Nice Is Not Enough: Inequality and the Limits of Kindness at American High
This provocative story of contemporary high school argues that a shallow culture of kindness can do more lasting harm than good.
Based on two years of research, Nice Is Not Enough shares striking dispatches from one high school's "regime of kindness" to underline how the culture operates as a Band-Aid on persistent inequalities. Through incisive storytelling and thoughtful engagement with students, this brilliant study by C.J. Pascoe exposes uncomfortable truths about American politics and our reliance on individual solutions instead of profound systemic change.
Nice Is Not Enough brings readers into American High, a middle- and working-class high school characterized by acceptance, connection, and kindness—a place where, a prominent sign states, "there is no room for hate." Here, inequality is narrowly understood as a problem of individual merit, meanness, effort, or emotion rather than a structural issue requiring deeper intervention. Surface-level sensitivity allows American High to avoid "political" topics related to social inequality based on race, sex, gender, or class. Being nice to each other, Pascoe reveals, does not serve these students or solve the broader issues we face; however, a true politics of care just might.
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