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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Twenty-Two: Michelle Fine, Framing Dropouts: Notes on the Politics of an Urban Public High School (1991)


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Michelle Fine, Framing Dropouts: Notes on the Politics of an Urban Public High School (1991)

Melissa M. Jones

Synopsis and Context

In the mid-1980s researcher and feminist scholar Michelle Fine undertook an in-depth investigation into the culture of urban schools “to unearth those institutional policies and practices that enable, obscure, and legitimate” (Fine, 1991, p. 8) the undeniable mass exodus of low-income urban students of color who drop out of high school. At the time Fine’s study began, the reported dropout rates of African American and Latino students from low-income urban communities was 40–60%, a staggering statistic with unpalatable consequences for students. The bulk of the dropout literature at the time concentrated on the characteristics of students who drop out of school, which is how Fine began her study. Once she became immersed in the school system, however, she shifted her focus away from these kids to this institution as the traditions, policies, and practices of schooling came into question. Her research question evolved from why someone would drop out of high school to “why so many would stay in a school committed to majority failure” (Fine, 1991, p. 7). Instead of seeking to know why a student would choose to leave, she began to ask, why not?

With the understanding that dropping out of school ultimately limits the opportunities and choices for adolescents and young adults, Fine (1991) was concerned with...

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