In this Book
- Defining Student Success: The Role of School and Culture
- Published by: Rutgers University Press
- Series: Series in Childhood Studies
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Lisa Nunn’s study of three public high schools reveals how students’ beliefs about their own success are shaped by their particular school environment and reinforced by curriculum and teaching practices. While American culture broadly defines success as a product of hard work or talent (at school, intelligence is the talent that matters most), Nunn shows that each school refines and adapts this American cultural wisdom in its own distinct way—reflecting the sensibilities and concerns of the people who inhabit each school. While one school fosters the belief that effort is all it takes to succeed, another fosters the belief that hard work will only get you so far because you have to be smart enough to master course concepts. Ultimately, Nunn argues that these school-level adaptations of cultural ideas about success become invisible advantages and disadvantages for students’ college-going futures. Some schools’ definitions of success match seamlessly with elite college admissions’ definition of the ideal college applicant, while others more closely align with the expectations of middle or low-tier institutions of higher education.
With its insights into the transmission of ideas of success from society to school to student, this provocative work should prompt a reevaluation of the culture of secondary education. Only with a thorough understanding of this process will we ever find more consistent means of inculcating success, by any measure.