Student Status Systems
Within the school, there is a status system ..which resembles the social-class system of adult society (discussed in Chapter 14). Just . as there are upper and lower classes in adult society, there are upper and lower classes in . the school. Membership is largely according to the students’ family class background. Most schools cover a considerable range of class backgrounds. among students. Byjunior
high school, students have sorted themselves into cliques, with the members of each clique having much the same class origin. Oneof the most intensive studies of class actors in schooling was made several decades ago by Hollingshead [1949}. He found that thosein the lowest class (of five levels) did
.not participate in school activities-parties, dances, athletics, clubs, plays-and rarely studied seriously. More recent research [Oakes, 1982] elaborates this picture and shows that attitudes developed in school by lower-class children are consistent with the acceptance of lower-class status in adult life. Although lower-class students expressed as much appredation and liking for schoo! as students .from more ‘affluent families, they more often . reported a feeling of beiJi~ “left out” and more frequently revealed. a .negative self-im- ‘. age and. doubts about their abilities. There was little evidence of any discrimination by teachers, but, the whole school experience seemed to confirm these students’ acceptance of limited aspirations. This study was based on’ the comparison of tracks (grouping~ of students of supposedly comparable ability1’jn junior and senior high schools. While lower;class students were more likely to be found in the lower tracks, this was not true of all of them. A considerable minority of students from lower-class. homes do make the upper tracks. For these students, .. the school experience is’ much different than for other lower-class students. Thus, even though the school seems to duplicate the class system of the larger society, it may also be the means by which some students gain upward mobility.
There is also an achievement status system in the school which overlaps the dass status .system. In a study of this system, top rank among boys was held by the star athletes and top female status was ~eld by their girlfriends; other activities (drama, music) were second, with academic distinction a poor third [Horton, 1967]. This study does not measure any changes from the increased attention to the girls’ athletic prugram in recent years. Whether ‘female athletes will gain equal status with male athletes is not yet clear.