Peer Status and Academic Orientations
Peer culture involves maintaining and defending one's status in front of peers, which sometimes comes into conflict with adult expectations for school achievement, especially for boys. Furthermore, the quest for peer status, rather than oppositional culture, best explains second-generation teen attitudes, behaviors, and tastes. This chapter develops a theory of peer culture in schools that is relevant for children of immigrants in New York and London, emphasizing the role of peer status. A careful look at youth cultures in the two schools—York High School, New York City; and Long Meadow Community School, London—reveals a distinct youth subculture in school, but not an oppositional culture. The subculture involves a distinct set of cultural accoutrements related to a status hierarchy in which racial authenticity, pride, toughness, having the right tastes in music, style, and language, and having the right comportment are all important. An emphasis on peer status drives youth cultures, which, rather than rebellion or rejection of the dominant society, explains the taste preferences and behaviors of the teens. According to the youth, success is the balancing act of maintaining high status in the peer social world and in the dominant or academic world.
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