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Corridor Cultures

Corridor Cultures: Mapping Student Resistance at an Urban School

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Corridor Cultures
    Book Description:

    For many students, the classroom is not the central focus of school. The school's corridors and doorways are areas largely given over to student control, and it is here that they negotiate their cultural identities and status among their peer groups. The flavor of this "corridor culture" tends to reflect the values and culture of the surrounding community.Based on participant observation in a racially segregated high school in New York City, Corridor Cultures examines the ways in which school spaces are culturally produced, offering insight into how urban students engage their schooling. Focusing on the tension between the student-dominated halls and the teacher-dominated classrooms and drawing on insights from critical geographers and anthropology, it provides new perspectives on the complex relationships between Black students and schools to better explain the persistence of urban school failure and to imagine ways of resolving the contradictions that undermine the educational prospects of too many of the nations' children.Dickar explores competing discourses about who students are, what the purpose of schooling should be, and what knowledge is valuable as they become spatialized in daily school life. This spatial analysis calls attention to the contradictions inherent in official school discourses and those generated by students and teachers more locally.By examining the form and substance of student/school engagement, Corridor Cultures argues for a more nuanced and broader framework that reads multiple forms of resistance and recognizes the ways students themselves are conflicted about schooling.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8526-3
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Student Resistance and the Cultural Production of Space
    (pp. 1-24)

    The day before school started one September, I lost my classroom on the quiet south side of the building to a new Freshman Block program. My reassigned room on the noisy east side was an old computer room filled with Mac Classics bolted to the tops of tables. Though some computers worked, most needed repairs or were missing keyboards. During the summer, workers renovating the school had cut the wires, leaving no Internet access and no network, so the few working computers were essentially useless. Trying not to start the term demoralized, I dragged the old Macs into the hall...

  5. 1 “The Covenant Made Visible”: The Hidden Curriculum of Space
    (pp. 25-48)

    It is no coincidence that this study of Renaissance focuses on spatial formation, because the significance of space is so overwhelming at the site itself. When I interviewed for a teaching position at Old School in 1989, I was awed by its impressive architecture as I approached from the bustling main street. When I walked through the front door I was greeted by a WPA mural and a grand marble staircase that took visitors to administrative offi ces on the mezzanine above. A security officer saw me and directed me to walk across the campus, the shortest way to get...

  6. 2 “In a way it protects us and in a way . . . it keeps us back”: Scanning, School Space, and Student Identity
    (pp. 49-76)

    Before the first day of school, Renaissance, like most high schools, runs a freshman orientation day where new students and their parents are invited to learn about the school, procedures, what to expect the first day, and opportunities at the school. One year I was asked to attend with some of my debaters. Th e event was to begin with an introductory session in the cafeteria (where students enter school everyday), after which students would be brought on tours of Renaissance and then would break into groups and go into several rooms, each with a presentation on some aspect of...

  7. 3 “It’s just all about being popular”: Hallways as Thirdspace
    (pp. 77-108)

    During the four minutes between periods, I usually stood in the hallway to help move students along to class. Though this was a general expectation of all teachers, many did not do it, perhaps because standing in the halls—the nexus of student culture—was an exercise in futility. Because I spent two years teaching in a classroom on the corridor that was the center of student social life, I became intensely aware of my powerlessness in the face of this assertive student hall culture. Students taunted, teased, insulted, and sometimes came near blows (on rare occasions, fights actually began),...

  8. 4 “If I can’t be myself, what’s the point of being here?” Language and Contested Classroom Space
    (pp. 109-140)

    One day during lunchtime I sat grading assignments in my classroom when Natalia and her friend Clarissa stopped by. Natalia was an insightful student in my class though marginally engaged in school. Her attendance was spotty and she was quiet in class, though outside of class she was boisterous and witty—a leader. The girls joined me at the table where I was working. I continued as they amiably shared gossip about other students. Natalia became curious about the mystery of grading and began carefully watching what I was doing. Suddenly she erupted with laughter. Referring to the particular work...

  9. 5 “You have to change your whole attitude toward everything”: Threshold Struggles and Infrapolitical Resistance
    (pp. 141-164)

    One day during lunch as I sat with a group of teachers in the staff resource room, a new teacher asked how we dealt with kids who didn’t bring pens. We all laughed at the question because it was the kind of question that seemed so trivial on the surface and yet was such a serious classroom management issue. We talked through a number of tactics several of us had tried such as taking points off of class work or report card grades, which, we generally agreed, didn’t work because, as one colleague noted, they “just don’t care or don’t...

  10. 6 “You know the real deal, but this is just saying you got their deal”: Public and Hidden Transcripts
    (pp. 165-188)

    One semester, while teaching about the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, I handed out the first page of C. L. R. James’sThe Black Jacobins,a historical classic that poses the Haitian Revolution as one of the most significant events in history. I also distributed an encyclopedia item on the event. In contrast to James’s enthusiasm, the encyclopedia briefly noted that Haiti’s Revolution was the most successful slave rebellion in history and placed greater emphasis on its subsequent economic and political failure as the poorest nation in the hemisphere. I asked students to read the two, after...

  11. 7 A Eulogy for Renaissance: Looking Forward
    (pp. 189-196)

    In June 2007, on the restored green lawn of the Old School campus, Renaissance High School graduated its last class. Failing to significantly improve student outcomes, it met the same fate that the original Old School had thirteen years earlier. This book chronicles Renaissance’s school reform effort and offers insight into why the student-centered and democratic model failed to bring about the hoped-for changes. Having worked doggedly for four years to make those reforms work and even more time analyzing, reflecting, and revisiting them and the substantial student resistance they met, Renaissance’s closing leaves me with mixed feelings.

    I am...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 197-198)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-206)
  14. Index
    (pp. 207-212)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 213-213)