THE CULTURE OF ALCOHOL IN RELATION TO SECONDARY AGED PUPILS: a feasibility study
Report submitted to funders in 1989, John Schostak, Richard Davies
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Towards a Youth Sub-cultural Dimension
The analyses made of the developmental profiles are as yet incomplete. They must be placed within their appropriate youth sub-cultural contexts. The two dimensions only make sense if they work together. They have been separated, artificially, only for ease of exposition.
Through close analysis of observational data in conjunction with interview material a detailed analysis can be made of subcultural vocabularies of explanation, rhetorics of motive and strategies of interpretation. Reference to the contextual material points to a cultural/sub-cultural fund of 'stories' or narrative forms which include anecdotes, accounts of events, oral histories of people and places, legendary figures, folk-lores and so on. These narratives can be seen to focus upon a wide range of youth sub-cultural experiences. Centring on each of these, discourses arise :
1. youth pop culture and life-style groupings
2. substance-based (drink, drugs, glue)
3. historic gang
4. gender (and sexual orientation)
7. interest group: leisure based; work based
9. career: legitimised career groups; 'criminalised' career groups
The discourses which structure the lives of the individuals whose profiles have been examined, essentially pre-date the births of those individuals. Take for example, the gang discourse. Ernie did not create the gangs, nor did he create the language, the vocabularies of motive nor the rhetorics of explanation which served to maintain the existence of and the characteristic sequences of action of the gang over time and from generation to generation. Such a discourse carries with it, the basic narrative forms through which the characters, actions, goals and values of gang life are preserved for future members. By focusing upon the youth sub-cultural dimension and the cultural and social contexts within which such sub-cultures arise it is possible to generate at the next stage of analysis (stage 4) a typology of current youth sub-cultural narratives which for convenience can be called paradigmatic narratives. Sophisticated forms of analyses can be performed upon these paradigmatic analyses much in the way that anthropologists and structuralists (Levi-Strauss 1963; Propp 1968) carry out on myths and folktales, semioticians carry out on texts (Barthes 1977; Eagleton 1976) or discourse analysts carry out on everyday speach (Polyani). Moreover, underlying all conceptions of knowledge, it has been argued, lies narrative structures (Danto 1985).
The typology that emerges is therefore strongly influenced by the paradigmatic narratives and discourse strategies available to any particular member of a community. These discourse strategies are in turn influenced by further cultural and sub-cultural experiences of the individual. The material circumstances (including economic, and social) of the individual set further boundaries to, and define the range of experiences which form the objective stage to an individual's acts. Thus there are three major, relatively distinguishable interrelating and defining characteristics of the resulting typology: discourse, culture (and sub-cultural) and material circumstance. The data for their construction derive from interviews and observations of the: focal subject (that is, the named individual being studied), the interaction group which comprises the face-to face relationships centred on the focal subject, and the dramatis personae of the stock of paradigmatic narratives that form the focal individual's heritage. It is to the development of the typology of paradigmatic narratives that we turn to next.
Stage 4: Towards a Typology of paradigmatic narratives
It is not surprising that the typology that emerges takes up the universal themes of human experience. The comparison is with the Folktales and Myths of the world. The profiles described above are not folktales, nor are they myths. However, the themes they deal with are the same. Vladimir Propp (1968), Levi- Strauss (1963) and Barthes (1977) have provided structural analyses of folk tales, myths and general narrative structures which can be used as guiding models.
The model proposed here develops what we have called paradigmatic narratives. These arise from ethnographic data concerning the everyday lives of people, rather than the cultural myths and folktales of tribes and other relatively stable communities studied by anthropologists such as Levi-Strauss.
Each narrative of the typology can be elaborated according to: a) defining character, and orientation to self and to b) objects and dramatis personae, c) defining actions, d) major settings or scenes of action e) the organisation of the symbolic code (i.e, the major binary structures such as Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice, Love and Hate, Youth and Age, Power and Powerlessness), f) discourse strategies for constructing moral resolution, truth, and a sense of the seamless web of reality.
In the production of paradigmatic narratives, the individual's biographical material as represented in the profiles is systematically stripped of its unique personal orator/author. Debbie, Chris, John and the others in a sense disappear. Rather, the characters that remain are simply slots in a narrative structure which could be filled by a host of others like Debbie, Chris, John and the others. The paradigmatic narratives can be used for a host of purposes: inservice work with teachers and other professionals, or indeed with children as a step towards evoking their own more personal narratives. They provide a repertoire or cultural stock of youth cultural situations, biographical careers and outcomes. They become ways in which people can map out the possibilities through which their lives may develop if one kind of decision, or one kind of event is experienced rather than some others.
In the profiles already provided story titles can easily be drawn from the words by which the young people described themselves and their actions: becoming a legend, going wild, experimenting, drawing the line, becoming one of the gang, surviving - and so on. More systematically, one may categorise the kinds of stories that arise according to their social, cultural, sub-cultural affiliations (e.g., gender, race, gang, pop-cultural and so on). These affiliations provide the individual with the specific discourses resources and the heritage of narratives and accounting procedures by which to make sense of and socially construct his or her own identity, career possibilities, orientations and world. Educational change comes about by opening out the individual's discourse strategies to alternative discourse possibilities. This can only be done through a close relationship between the educator, the individual and the group of other young people who can provide their own alternative experiences.
Each paradigmatic narrative can be related directly to the consequences that follow from the critical decisions made by individuals most notably during transition points in their lives. The two pre-eminent transitions are the move from the family to the outside world, and the change of child to adult. Three other major classes of issues include sexual identity/orientation, cultural/racial/ethnic identities/orientations and sub-cultural orientations. The research undertaken for the one year feasibility study did not have access to a wide enough population to cover all of these categories sufficiently. However, the following provide an illustration of a part of the emergent typology. This will be classified according to:
a. The Family - the process of leaving/growing away
b. From Child to Adult - transformation
c. Sexuality and Gender identity
d. Cultural orientations
i. pop-cultural; counter cultural
ii. gang historic
iii. substance specific
Relating this to a particular profile, Maria's account can be chosen. There, a simplified decision process was presented schematically as follows:
(diagram to be added)
sobriety consequence (A1a)
moderate consequence (A1b) (B)
drink 'happy' (B)
'go a bit mad' (A1b), (B), (C) consequences 'legend' (C) (D)
Each sequence from decision to consequences can be related to the relevant paradigmatic narratives, as well as to the individual biographies as described in the profiles of section 2. Each category of paradigmatic narrative (A, B, C, or D) has its source within the experience of individuals represented in their individual biographical profiles. The paradigmatic narratives available to an individual as their repertoire stock at any given moment, play a role in the further social elaboration of biographies. The above is only an illustrative example of how different classes of paradigmatic narratives may be called upon in order to elaborate the choices and consequences for an individual given certain kinds of cultural alliegence and material and family circumstance.
Each of the decision points can be elaborated for each individual in dialogue with the educationist and others in a classroom group in terms of the alternative narratives that could arise depending upon which decision was made and course of action followed. The choice can further be shown to be conditioned by the discourse repertoire available to the decision maker at that given time, and by the material circumstances which close or open opportunities.
A. The Family
The focus under this category is on the typical transition-decisions to be made when a child begins the process of 'leaving home'. All the profiles bear upon this major event or process in the life of the individual. Some like Veronica and Maria and Chris are moving from a stable, perhaps loving relationship. Others like Theresa have complex, angry and hurt relationships with a family that is itself unstable and split. Others like Debbie have 'lost' their family. For each, 'leaving home' will have very different meanings. The narratives will also significantly differ as will the kinds of careers chosen, or forced upon them. When they engage in the process of leaving, where do they arrive? Who become their peers, their community, their reference points? According to the different answers possible, the stories will differ. Thus one can begin the typology of narratives under this category with the following which have so far emerged:
1. The stable family
a. looking for family approved forms of independence
b. being seduced from the family into dangerous areas
2. The unstable family
a. searching for new stabilities - escape attempts
3. Loss of Family e.g., Debbie
B. Transition/transformation: from child to adult
It has been argued by Aries (1962) that childhood is a relatively recent 'invention'. Others such as De Mause (ed. 1974) have argued that historically childhood has been a dangerous time. Walvin (1982) has shown how childhood during victorian times was for most social classes a precarious time. The CCCS group (1981) has argued that the increasing state intervention, particularly through the advent of compulsory mass education caused considerable resentment amongst the lower working classes who depended upon a child's income for the family's economy. During the 1950s and 1960s, it has been argued by many contemporary commentators, the virtual invention of the teenager as a particular period in youth was accomplished. The 1950s and 1960s saw an upsurge in popular cultural forms within music, dance, and film which celebrated the vitality, the rebelliousness and the Youth of being young. There was talk of the 'generation gap', there was the revolutionary spirit, the anti-authoritarianism. Whether any of this was actually new is a matter for historians. Heer (1974) for example, has argued that revolution and rebellion has always been associated with the rebellious spirit of youth. Studies of gangs (Thrasher 1927, Cohen 1955, Willis 1977) typically comment that most gangs are associated with youth and membership begins to fall dramatically when members reach their early twenties.
The stories which compose the accounts of the profiles reflect these themes.
1. initiation into adult pleasures - the awakening1
2. being too young - tantalised - frustration
i. theft as solution
3. the rebel - the misunderstood, e.g., Ernie
C. Transition: Sexuality and Gender identity
Of course, sexuality is a part of growing up. It represents a major transition which is worth separating out from the previous category.
1. macho - the lads e.g., Ernie
2. sisters - the girls, e.g., Debbie
3. seducer/seductress e.g., Theresa
4. sexual victim e.g., Debbie, Teresa
5. Woman, e.g., TeresaD. Cultural orientations
Of major significance in the lives of most young people is the youth pop-culture
industry directed towards them, often summed up in the slogan: sex, drugs and
rock 'n' roll. Other major cultural influences include religion, work and leisure
ethics, ethnicity and historically developed community identities including
localised historic gangs. These interrelate sometimes in confrontational ways,
sometimes in complementary, and sometimes in disintegrative ways.
1. my generation, e.g., Ernie
2. our faith
3. Us against Them e.g., ernie
4. magic substance - drugs/addiction as release, entertainment, power; as
entrapment e.g., Ernie, Debbie, John, TeresaComments
Of course, the characters embedded in typologies are always one-dimensional. They are functional, not rounded, living human beings. Hence typologies must be used with care. They simplify the sequences of action, and the purposes of actors in order to raise issues, identify problems and play with alternative solutions and courses of action. That is, they are educational in purpose. They leave behind the particulars, the messy details, which tie the individual to his or her everyday situation and allow speculation without commitment. However, the typology is always relevant in that it is paradigmatic of the life of the individual. That is, it establishes the structural oppositions by which each element is defined against its opposite(s). Within it, he or she can play out characters and sequences of action, exploring alternative possibilities. Different responses to given situations lead to different possibilities. Thus, refusing to drink sets in motion a different sequence of consequent actions to accepting a drink. These different consequential sequences can be drawn out and imaginatively played with. Bettelheim, drawing upon the psychoanalytic traditions, remarked upon the potential for paradigmatic stories such as Fairy tales to posit dangerous isues and problems in ways that leave the child feeling secure. The real fears are displaced into fantasy or make-believe worlds. Teachers have frequently used drama, literature, creative writing, and art as media for the exploration of the personal and social problems of pupils (c.f. S. Stuart 1969, Schostak 1985, Connelly 1987). The above typology, while not stories, identify the ingredients of the major life circumstances of children which can be used to generate the individual creative engagement of children with the materials of their own lives.
Developmental Typologies can be understood and described at many levels. The most general level can be called the paradigmatic, the most specific and detailed can be called the biographic. The following schemata offers a way of identifying the levels of analysis and description to which typologies may be applied:
A. The Paradigmatic. This is the level of structural oppositions, and key elements,
the invariant sequences of action leading to resolution/disintegration. The
sense at this level is non-temporal, or of Mythic time. The relationships are
logical, ordered, rule governed. Here we are interested in patterns of similarity
and difference. The elements are composed of the dramatis personae of paradigmatic
narratives, interaction groups and sequences of action which have lost the sense
of surprise, where the end is already foregone at the moment of beginning.
B. The Syntagmatic. This is the level of everyday narrative, of personal transformation, transition, change, movement. The narratives that have been constructed from the ethnographic data can be analysed according to the functional units of the narratives - the characters, the actions, the objects - within the context of the living individual.
C. The Discourse of Accountability. Through interview data, or through recorded conversation, subjects make accounts of what they are doing. At this level, the data derived from the research group is of detailed transcript. The narratives are cluttered with personal details and the sense of the particular, the subjective, the unique. This is the level where individuals account for their own lives.Implications for Developing Educational Strategies
The pilot research has revealed the complexity of young people's experience and decision making regarding alcohol consumption. Any proposed educational programme must ensure that this complexity is taken into account if it intends to have an impact upon the decision making practices of young people. Since cultural and sub-cultural experiences continually evolve or change over time, materials will soon go out of date, or appear to have little cultural and sub-cultural relevance. Educationists therefore require a strategy which is continually in touch with the realities of their students and can re-present that reality back to them in forms which open up rather than close down their strategies for action, for change, for self enrichment. One such method suitable for this has been the development of action research over the last two decades.
Action research is a process which engages teachers in systematic reflection
upon their own practice, employing research techniques, as a basis for improving
their practice and for generating educational strategies relevant to the realities
and needs of their pupils. It is proposed to use action research as the fundamental
means by which the Alcohol education programme of the main phase of the research
should be carried out.
Action research solves a major problem in the generation of a sufficiently diverse range of ethnographic profiles by engaging teachers and pupils in the data gathering and the construction of profiles. The question then emerges: is it practicable to induct teachers and pupils into this form of activity? Our experience shows the answer to be 'yes'.
The Classsroom Action Research Network (CARN) has evolved out of the tradition of educational research undertaken at the Centre for Applied Research in Education (CARE), and in particular the style of research that has come to be known as action research (Elliott 1976, 1981; see also Lomax 1989) . The idea of the teacher as a researcher was developed during the Humanities Curriculum project (HCP, 196..; MacDonald Rudduck 1983) under the direction of Lawrence Stenhouse at CARE. For the purposes of the Alcohol research project, HCP is important in that it: 1) initiated the tradition of teacher as researcher, 2) provides an early model of the development of curriculum materials by both teachers and pupils, and 3) provided a model of the handling of controversial and sensitive issues.
HCP was continued through two further projects. The Ford teaching project took an action research approach in order to investigate the common issues faced by teachers who were moving from didactic pedagogies towards inquiry based pedagogies. The Ford Safari project provided case studies of innovations in schools. Through these projects a considerable knowledge base concerning how to run action research projects across numerous schools, how to generate innovations within schools using action research and the processes of innovation generally has been developed. In particular, research undertaken by Jean Rudduck and Charles Hull focused upon pupils as action researchers (Hull 1985; Rudduck 1983, 1983, 1984). Projects such as the Teaching, Handling Information and Learning (1983-6) project the PALM (1986-90) Project continued the action research and networking approach to the generation of materials and understanding of classroom processes. The Talking and Listening Project (1988-89) provided in-depth experience of inducting teachers and pupils into action research as a basis for handling emotions, changing relationships and behavioural practices.
There is also evidence from the OECD Environmental Education Programme of pupils
undertaking action research into their communities in which they gather data,
mount exhibitions, give press conferences and go on TV and radio to report their
findings. Finally, today, the CARN network which grew out of the tradition of
research initiated by CARE from HCP onwards that networks schools engaged in
action research schools provides access to schools in every region of the country
which are currently involved in action research as a normal part of their professional
development and the conduct of teaching. Such schools could provide a ready
made network for the undertaking of the new phase of the alcohol project.The
rationale for the method of Action Research is: teachers (and other change agents)
are best placed to respond to the real needs of young people. Since any materials
produced by an alcohol awareness agency will date and cannot, except in general
terms, respond to the immediate experiences of pupils, teachers must be continually
involved in generating relevant materials. What is relevant will always depend
upon what the pupil considers to be relevant to his her circumstances. This
means that teachers must be placed into a research relationship with young people
in order to generate the strategies and the materials which will then be used
for educational purposes.
This method thus guarantees the ethnographic diversity required in a given circumstance, since all teaching materials will be responsive to the diversity faced by a given teacher.
In order to deliver this research based diversity, teachers must be introduced to the processes of action research. If distinct and contrasting regions are covered by the action research schools then it follows that a wide coverage cultural and sub-cultural diversity can be attained. Clearly, the regions to be chosen will be critical in ensuring the desired range of diversity.
It is proposed to base the case studies on regions not individual schools. These regions will involve a number of networked schools. The rationale for this is as follows:
The task is to generate a structure by which the teachers develop their own research based expertise the role of the project researchers changes. The emphasis is not upon individual schools, but upon regions of schools which can collaborate. Schools could be drawn into the project in a controlled manner as the numbers of project experienced teachers increases. Project experienced teachers can contribute to the induction of new schools into a project network. Thus, the project can be conceived as a spreading network. The ideas generated in one region can be 'tested', 'tried out', 'modified' in other areas and under changed circumstances. In this way, diversity of approaches, experiences and materials are shared in ways which are experimental and well researched. This guarantees an increasing body of experience, knowledge and techniques continually open to re-examination through further reflection upon experience.
Suggested Research and Development Plan
The pilot study has enabled us to make important contacts for the development of the follow-up study. It enabled us to make the useful PSD/PSE distinction, the working typologies of developmental profiles and sub-cultural diversity, and the theoretical insights into decision making processes which allow us to identify the phases and tasks of the research and development programme we want to undertake.
Phase 1 will involve:
1. developing the sophistication of the typologies in relation to other school-based communities which offer sufficient contrasts in terms of regional, ethnic and social class diversity. The focus for data gathering in this phase will therefore be essentially ethnographic.
2. promoting action research based competency amongst key professionals in preparation for phase two. The focus in this phase will therefore be on establishing the 'delivery' structure of the educational side of the programme within the participating professional institutions. The professionals will be inducted into the necessary techniques.
Phase 2 will involve:
1. Once basic action research competency is established the transition towards programme development can be achieved relatively quickly. Action research competence can be increased at the same time as the transition is achieved by focusing attention of the participants on the development of 'developmental profiles' of their own pupils or clients.
Phase 3 will involve:
Programme development and delivery - through action research based materials, and PSE strategies.
During this last phase opportunities for dissemination will be sought and negotiated through such agencies as tacade with whom we have made informal contacts to this end.
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