ERIC Number: ED375526
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1994-Apr
Reference Count: N/A
Ritual Reaffirmation of Individualism in High School Assemblies.
McQuillan, Patrick J.
By looking at three high school assemblies, this paper addresses the resolution of a tension generated by the interplay of the American egalitarian belief in the right of all persons to equal educational opportunities and the potentially countervailing belief in individualism and individual achievement. That is, while American society espouses a belief in the right of every citizen to equal educational opportunity, there are vast discrepancies in the educational outcomes experienced by its citizens. To resolve any dissonance generated by what might appear to be an inequitable and undemocratic development, American society relies extensively on the "myth of educational opportunity." This paper focuses on three school assemblies held at one high school that served as rituals that both transmitted and affirmed cultural values. It shows how the myth of educational opportunity was promoted and how cultural interpretations were enacted and reproduced in the process of formal schooling. The assemblies promoted the myth of educational opportunity in a ritualized fashion by altering spatial and temporal dimensions of these events, by highlighting particular cultural values, and by having heroes who embodied these cultural ideals deliver the talks. Various persons (including students, teachers, and administrators) shared many of these heroes' perceptions regarding individualism and the myth of educational opportunity. Although these assemblies represented efforts by the speakers, teachers, and school system to help students achieve by increasing their motivation, the viewing of student achievement through the lens of American culture predisposed these people to understand student success and failure as an individual phenomenon attributable to individual initiative and determination. Contains 47 references. (LMI)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (New Orleans, LA, April 4-8, 1994).