Sociologist at London School of Economics
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The Burden of Acting Wise

The Burden of Acting Wise: Sanctioned School Success and Ambivalence about Hard Work at an Elite School in the Netherlands
Intercultural Education 27(1): 22-38 (with Bowen Paulle)

Sam and his classmates despise ‘nerds’: they say working hard in school makes a student unpopular, and that they purposefully do only the minimum to pass. Research suggests that such ‘oppositional’ attitudes are prevalent among working class students and/or ethnoracial minorities. Like most of his classmates, however, Sam is white, hails from a privileged background, and attends a selective school in the Netherlands. Deeply ambivalent about working hard and ‘acting wise’, Sam and the others constituting his adolescent society are thoroughly caught up in peer dynamics which sanction success and promote mediocrity. We link these anti-school peer dynamics to the institutional configuration of education in the Netherlands, characterized by rigid tracking at the end of primary school and non-selective universities: state structures and policies contribute to these privileged students’ rationale for ‘taking it easy’ and doing poorly in school.

Featured in de Volkskrant.

click for PDF  |  doi: 10.1080/14675986.2016.1144383