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Postgraduate Thesis: "Muddling through": a cultural perspective onlife in schools for China's deviant students
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Title"Muddling through": a cultural perspective onlife in schools for China's deviant students
 
AuthorsLiu, Lin, Lucia.
柳琳.
 
Issue Date2012
 
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
 
AbstractChina’s radical social transformation, brought about by its rapid economic growth, has placed more of its youth at risk. There has been an increase in juvenile delinquency, internet addiction, school bullying, and gang involvement. Research on this subject in China has attributed the problem to lower socioeconomic status of students’ families, faulty parenting style, academic failure, and aggressive personality. However, the dominant discourse virtually ignores the lives of young people within their context and fails to examine what a deviant lifestyle means to them. This research addresses this limitation by examining the process through which unprivileged students navigate through the problems they face in secondary schooling and construct a deviant subculture. This was accomplished through an intensive fieldwork in an urban secondary school in southeast China with participant observation and interview methods to collect data on a range of students, their parents and teachers over an eight-month period. The results of the data analysis reveal that school plays a critical role in the formation of students’ deviant identities. Its preoccupation with academic performance and bureaucratic management pushes students who bear with cumulative disadvantages inherited from their families and community to a more marginalized position. Deviancy develops from a label to a response. The key manifestation of this is the creation and development of a ‘muddling’ subculture as their strategy to survive schooling. Although the ‘muddling through’ strategy may not provide them with better chance of employment for them to jump out of working-class, nor give much hope for access to the cultural mainstream of society, it still has some positive aspects. The subculture not only offers an alternative way to safeguard their psychological well-being and hone their interpersonal skill, but also facilitates them to gain more social space and resource in the subordinate situation. This finding coincides with selected sociological studies of deviant students in the West but also aligns with the special context of contemporary China. First, the Chinese society is evolving even faster after the establishment of Deng’s economic model. It is a broadly accepted fact and a roaring public concern that the gap between the poor and rich in China is heading towards a new class structure. In this context, schooling doubtlessly plays a role in the social reproduction. This study claims that lower class students’ deviant subculture is not simply an oppositional culture to the value of school education as argued in Western literature; rather, it is a strategic negotiation with the social structure in order to ‘muddle through’ their lives. Second, the nature of this ‘muddling’ subculture has strong links with a pragmatic social ethos that glorifies monetary success. When “whatever works to become rich” is the dominant “Chinese dream”, other forms of social recognition, value and well-being attached to formal school education can appear as overwhelmingly irrelevant to the eyes of those students who inherited a social class they did not choose and an educational system that tells them little.
 
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
 
SubjectProblem youth - Education (Secondary) - China.
High school students - China - Attitudes.
 
Dept/ProgramEducation
 
DC FieldValue
dc.contributor.authorLiu, Lin, Lucia.
 
dc.contributor.author柳琳.
 
dc.date.hkucongregation2012
 
dc.date.issued2012
 
dc.description.abstractChina’s radical social transformation, brought about by its rapid economic growth, has placed more of its youth at risk. There has been an increase in juvenile delinquency, internet addiction, school bullying, and gang involvement. Research on this subject in China has attributed the problem to lower socioeconomic status of students’ families, faulty parenting style, academic failure, and aggressive personality. However, the dominant discourse virtually ignores the lives of young people within their context and fails to examine what a deviant lifestyle means to them. This research addresses this limitation by examining the process through which unprivileged students navigate through the problems they face in secondary schooling and construct a deviant subculture. This was accomplished through an intensive fieldwork in an urban secondary school in southeast China with participant observation and interview methods to collect data on a range of students, their parents and teachers over an eight-month period. The results of the data analysis reveal that school plays a critical role in the formation of students’ deviant identities. Its preoccupation with academic performance and bureaucratic management pushes students who bear with cumulative disadvantages inherited from their families and community to a more marginalized position. Deviancy develops from a label to a response. The key manifestation of this is the creation and development of a ‘muddling’ subculture as their strategy to survive schooling. Although the ‘muddling through’ strategy may not provide them with better chance of employment for them to jump out of working-class, nor give much hope for access to the cultural mainstream of society, it still has some positive aspects. The subculture not only offers an alternative way to safeguard their psychological well-being and hone their interpersonal skill, but also facilitates them to gain more social space and resource in the subordinate situation. This finding coincides with selected sociological studies of deviant students in the West but also aligns with the special context of contemporary China. First, the Chinese society is evolving even faster after the establishment of Deng’s economic model. It is a broadly accepted fact and a roaring public concern that the gap between the poor and rich in China is heading towards a new class structure. In this context, schooling doubtlessly plays a role in the social reproduction. This study claims that lower class students’ deviant subculture is not simply an oppositional culture to the value of school education as argued in Western literature; rather, it is a strategic negotiation with the social structure in order to ‘muddle through’ their lives. Second, the nature of this ‘muddling’ subculture has strong links with a pragmatic social ethos that glorifies monetary success. When “whatever works to become rich” is the dominant “Chinese dream”, other forms of social recognition, value and well-being attached to formal school education can appear as overwhelmingly irrelevant to the eyes of those students who inherited a social class they did not choose and an educational system that tells them little.
 
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version
 
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEducation
 
dc.description.thesisleveldoctoral
 
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy
 
dc.identifier.hkulb4832990
 
dc.languageeng
 
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
 
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)
 
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.
 
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License
 
dc.source.urihttp://hub.hku.hk/bib/B48329903
 
dc.subject.lcshProblem youth - Education (Secondary) - China.
 
dc.subject.lcshHigh school students - China - Attitudes.
 
dc.title"Muddling through": a cultural perspective onlife in schools for China's deviant students
 
dc.typePG_Thesis
 
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<date.issued>2012</date.issued>
<description.abstract>&#65279;China&#8217;s radical social transformation, brought about by its rapid economic growth, has placed more of its youth at risk. There has been an increase in juvenile delinquency, internet addiction, school bullying, and gang involvement. Research on this subject in China has attributed the problem to lower socioeconomic status of students&#8217; families, faulty parenting style, academic failure, and aggressive personality. However, the dominant discourse virtually ignores the lives of young people within their context and fails to examine what a deviant lifestyle means to them. 

This research addresses this limitation by examining the process through which unprivileged students navigate through the problems they face in secondary schooling and construct a deviant subculture. This was accomplished through an intensive fieldwork in an urban secondary school in southeast China with participant observation and interview methods to collect data on a range of students, their parents and teachers over an eight-month period.

The results of the data analysis reveal that school plays a critical role in the formation of students&#8217; deviant identities. Its preoccupation with academic performance and bureaucratic management pushes students who bear with cumulative disadvantages inherited from their families and community to a more marginalized position. Deviancy develops from a label to a response. The key manifestation of this is the creation and development of a &#8216;muddling&#8217; subculture as their strategy to survive schooling. 

Although the &#8216;muddling through&#8217; strategy may not provide them with better chance of employment for them to jump out of working-class, nor give much hope for access to the cultural mainstream of society, it still has some positive aspects. The subculture not only offers an alternative way to safeguard their psychological well-being and hone their interpersonal skill, but also facilitates them to gain more social space and resource in the subordinate situation. 

This finding coincides with selected sociological studies of deviant students in the West but also aligns with the special context of contemporary China. First, the Chinese society is evolving even faster after the establishment of Deng&#8217;s economic model. It is a broadly accepted fact and a roaring public concern that the gap between the poor and rich in China is heading towards a new class structure. In this context, schooling doubtlessly plays a role in the social reproduction. This study claims that lower class students&#8217; deviant subculture is not simply an oppositional culture to the value of school education as argued in Western literature; rather, it is a strategic negotiation with the social structure in order to &#8216;muddle through&#8217; their lives. Second, the nature of this &#8216;muddling&#8217; subculture has strong links with a pragmatic social ethos that glorifies monetary success. When &#8220;whatever works to become rich&#8221; is the dominant &#8220;Chinese dream&#8221;, other forms of social recognition, value and well-being attached to formal school education can appear as overwhelmingly irrelevant to the eyes of those students who inherited a social class they did not choose and an educational system that tells them little.</description.abstract>
<language>eng</language>
<publisher>The University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)</publisher>
<relation.ispartof>HKU Theses Online (HKUTO)</relation.ispartof>
<rights>The author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.</rights>
<rights>Creative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License</rights>
<source.uri>http://hub.hku.hk/bib/B48329903</source.uri>
<subject.lcsh>Problem youth - Education (Secondary) - China.</subject.lcsh>
<subject.lcsh>High school students - China - Attitudes.</subject.lcsh>
<title>&quot;Muddling through&quot;: a cultural perspective onlife in schools for China&apos;s deviant students</title>
<type>PG_Thesis</type>
<identifier.hkul>b4832990</identifier.hkul>
<description.thesisname>Doctor of Philosophy</description.thesisname>
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<description.thesisdiscipline>Education</description.thesisdiscipline>
<description.nature>published_or_final_version</description.nature>
<date.hkucongregation>2012</date.hkucongregation>
<bitstream.url>http://hub.hku.hk/bitstream/10722/173832/1/FullText.pdf</bitstream.url>
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