Producing Success: The Culture of Personal Advancement in an American High School

Paperback | December 15, 2009

byPeter Demerath

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Middle- and upper-middle-class students continue to outpace those from less privileged backgrounds. Most attempts to redress this inequality focus on the issue of access to financial resources, but as Producing Success makes clear, the problem goes beyond mere economics. In this eye-opening study, Peter Demerath examines a typical suburban American high school to explain how some students get ahead.

Demerath undertook four years of research at a Midwestern high school to examine the mercilessly competitive culture that drives students to advance. Producing Success reveals the many ways the community’s ideology of achievement plays out: students hone their work ethics and employ various strategies to succeed, from negotiating with teachers to cheating; parents relentlessly push their children while manipulating school policies to help them get ahead; and administrators aid high performers in myriad ways, even naming over forty students “valedictorians.” Yet, as Demerath shows, this unswerving commitment to individual advancement takes its toll, leading to student stress and fatigue, incivility and vandalism, and the alienation of the less successful. Insightful and candid, Producing Success is an often troubling account of the educationally and morally questionable results of the American culture of success.

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Middle- and upper-middle-class students continue to outpace those from less privileged backgrounds. Most attempts to redress this inequality focus on the issue of access to financial resources, but as Producing Success makes clear, the problem goes beyond mere economics. In this eye-opening study, Peter Demerath examines a typical subu...

Peter Demerath is associate professor in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development at the University of Minnesota.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:December 15, 2009Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226142418

ISBN - 13:9780226142418

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Producing Success

Part One. Community, Home, and School Settings

1 The Wilton Way: Middle-Class Culture and Practice

2 Parental Support, Interventions, and Manipulations of Policy

3 The Role of the School: Institutional Advantaging

Part Two. Student Identity and Practice

4 Identities for Control and Success: The Acquisition of Psychological Capital

5 Teaching the “Point-Hungry” Student: Hypercredentialing in Practice

Part Three. Costs of Personal Advancement

6 “Generation Stress” and School Success

7 Alienation, Marginalization, and Incivility

8 Conclusions

Appendix: WBHS 2002 Student Survey

Notes

References

Index