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Doing School

Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students

Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Doing School
    Book Description:

    This book offers a revealing-and troubling-view of today's high school students and the ways they pursue high grades and success. Veteran teacher Denise Pope follows five highly regarded students through a school year and discovers that these young people believe getting ahead requires manipulating the system, scheming, lying, and cheating. On the one hand, they work hard in school, participate in extracurricular activities, serve their communities, earn awards and honors, and appear to uphold school values. But on the other hand, they feel that in order to get ahead they must compromise their values and manipulate the system by scheming, lying, and cheating. In short, they "do school"-that is, they are not really engaged with learning nor can they commit to such values as integrity and community.The words and actions of these five students-two boys and three girls from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds-underscore the frustrations of being caught in a "grade trap" that pins future success to high grades and test scores. Their stories raise critical questions that are too important for parents, educators, and community leaders to ignore. Are schools cultivating an environment that promotes intellectual curiosity, cooperation, and integrity? Or are they fostering anxiety, deception, and hostility? Do today's schools inadvertently impede the very values they claim to embrace? Is the "success" that current assessment practices measure the kind of success we want for our children?

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13058-4
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Welcome to Faircrest High
    (pp. 1-6)

    “I wish I could have a class full of students like Eve,”¹ says the chair of the history department, describing one of his “ideal” pupils. Eve has a 3.97 grade point average. She is ranked in the top 10 percent of her class and is enrolled in every honors and advanced placement level course available to her. Her résumé lists more than 25 school activities in which she has participated since her freshman year, ranging from field hockey and symphonic band to student council, Spanish club, and Junior Statesmen of America.

    Another teacher recommends Kevin. He is well known at...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Kevin Romoni: A 3.8 Kind of Guy
    (pp. 7-28)

    Kevin Romoniisa people pleaser. He’s the student who offers to collect the homework for the teacher, or to gather the PE equipment. He says, “Bonjour, Madame” each morning to his French teacher and asks about her weekend. He is the class cheerleader, the one who gives the high five to students when they answer questions correctly. He pats a nearby shoulder and says, “Good job, Jerome. You’re a star.” He reminds his fellow English students to clap loudly during the oral presentations—“because it takes guts to get up there, dudes.” He is also happy to play the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Eve Lin: Life as a High School Machine
    (pp. 29-49)

    Junior year is “hell-year” for Eve Lin. Almost every week is “the worst” in her life, as she allows the endless demands of chapter tests, research projects, reading assignments, and study sessions to drive her to race through each day in a constant state of stress. She describes her life as one of “push, push, push,” of “just surviving until June,” and of literally working almost every moment of every day. She frequently does school work during brunch and lunch periods, and each night after dinner until the early morning hours. She “lives for” the weekends when she can catch...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Teresa Gomez: “I Want a Future”
    (pp. 50-80)

    Teresa Gomez races into her first period Spanish class and checks the clock on the wall: 8:25AM; she is 25 minutes late and has missed half of the period.“Lo siento, Señora,” she blurts out in Spanish as she tries to catch her breath, “I am so sorry, but I had to take my cousin to the hospital, and I was the only one at home who could drive, and she was very, very sick.” The teacher glances at Teresa for a brief moment, waves her hand toward the door, and continues with the lesson. Teresa understands the gesture and walks...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Michelle Spence: Keeping Curiosity Alive?
    (pp. 81-116)

    Sitting near the top of the bleachers in front of an empty football field on a cool March afternoon, Michelle Spence plays with the strings on the torn edges of her faded bell-bottom jeans. Pushing her long, honey colored hair out of her face, she smiles as she recalls the “family atmosphere” at the small private school she attended from third to eighth grade:

    There were only about 17 students in each grade, and we called all the teachers by their first names, and they treated you as people. . . .And it was just like a big group of...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Roberto Morales: When Values Stand in the Way
    (pp. 117-148)

    When Roberto was in the fourth grade, his aunt used to drive to his house each evening to help him with his reading. He had trouble understanding many of the English vocabulary words and was falling behind his classmates. He knew his aunt was tired after a long day at work, but she “was always there for [him], no matter what,” helping him to make sense of the stories and answer the study questions. As he describes the many hours she and other family members spent with him, Roberto wipes tears from his eyes. He is grateful for the support...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Predicament of “Doing School”
    (pp. 149-175)

    The school guidance counselor believes Kevin, Eve, Michelle, Teresa, and Berto represent Faircrest’s “best and brightest.” The history department chair wishes he had a class full of students like these. They seem to be diligent, talented, and focused. They get good grades,¹ win awards and commendations, pursue extracurricular interests, do community service, and help teachers and administrators at the school. But in pursuit of this success, the students participate in behavior of which they are not proud. They learn to cheat, kiss up, form treaties, contest school decisions, and act in ways that run counter to explicit or implicit school...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 176-186)

    Nearly three years have passed since I shadowed students around Faircrest High School. The five students in this study have graduated and moved out of town, but most remain in touch with me through periodic phone calls and letters. I decided to write the following few pages as a way to share some of the students’more recent experiences and to satisfy the curiosity of readers who wanted to know more about the lives of the adolescents depicted in the portraits.

    Kevin described his junior and senior years as “extremely tough.” He took mostly honors and advanced placement courses, including AP...

  13. Appendix A: General Information about the Students in the Study
    (pp. 187-187)
  14. Appendix B: Common Student Behavior Exhibited in Pursuit of Success
    (pp. 188-188)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 189-206)
  16. References
    (pp. 207-212)