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“Make Sure You Look Someone in the Eye”: Socialization and Classed Comportment in Two Elementary Schools1

“Make Sure You Look Someone in the Eye”: Socialization and Classed Comportment in Two Elementary... Limited attention has been given to how cultural skills and dispositions are transmitted from adults to children. The author examines how young children’s bodies are classed. He conducted three years of observation in two elementary schools—one upper middle class, one working class, both racially diverse. Both schools use the same program, which encourages traditionally middle-class bodily practices (e.g., handshakes at daily Morning Meetings). The author finds that effective transmission of these skills requires the repetition of both explicit and implicit lessons. Moreover, he finds that class differences creep into this socialization. Students at the upper-middle-class school increasingly refine the recommended skills (e.g., handshakes, eye contact). Meanwhile, students at the working-class school instead become increasingly expert at “respectful,” orderly types of comportment (e.g., sitting still for extended periods, not interrupting). These findings suggest that bodily socialization is a multifaceted process. It is not reserved for adults or elites but taught to children across the class spectrum. The physical quality of cultural performance is discussed. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png American Journal of Sociology University of Chicago Press

“Make Sure You Look Someone in the Eye”: Socialization and Classed Comportment in Two Elementary Schools1

American Journal of Sociology , Volume 127 (5): 43 – Mar 1, 2022

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Publisher
University of Chicago Press
Copyright
© 2022 The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
ISSN
0002-9602
eISSN
1537-5390
DOI
10.1086/719406
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Limited attention has been given to how cultural skills and dispositions are transmitted from adults to children. The author examines how young children’s bodies are classed. He conducted three years of observation in two elementary schools—one upper middle class, one working class, both racially diverse. Both schools use the same program, which encourages traditionally middle-class bodily practices (e.g., handshakes at daily Morning Meetings). The author finds that effective transmission of these skills requires the repetition of both explicit and implicit lessons. Moreover, he finds that class differences creep into this socialization. Students at the upper-middle-class school increasingly refine the recommended skills (e.g., handshakes, eye contact). Meanwhile, students at the working-class school instead become increasingly expert at “respectful,” orderly types of comportment (e.g., sitting still for extended periods, not interrupting). These findings suggest that bodily socialization is a multifaceted process. It is not reserved for adults or elites but taught to children across the class spectrum. The physical quality of cultural performance is discussed.

Journal

American Journal of SociologyUniversity of Chicago Press

Published: Mar 1, 2022

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