Accepted Paper:

Never good enough  


Laura Alamillo-Martínez (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

Paper Short Abstract:

Middle-upper class students feel anxious about being good enough and they express their nervousness in varying ways: from corporal symptoms (eating disorders, nerves, etc.) to social reactions (i.e. avoidance of students who may lower their grade). In this presentation it will be examined how these reactions are connected to their fear of failure.

Paper long abstract:

It has been said that the schooling system has been designed according to middle and upper class culture (Althusser, Bowles and Gintis, Bourdieu and Passeron). Therefore, some authors consider that it is easier for members of these families to transit throughout school (Stanton-Salazar), even though little research has been done.

However, there are studies (Power, Edwards et. al) that point in a different direction: those students who are destined to success because of the schools they attend may not appreciate how successful they are, and they may even consider themselves as failures.

Based on an ethnographic research involving teachers, families and students, related to a middle-upper class high school, I will explain what do students feel anxious about, how they express it and what strategies they develop in order to improve their position in the social arena. Their strategies take place in a context where pupils feel like they are competing with their classmates and even with people they have never met in order to get the best grades so that they can access the right studies at the best university.

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Anxiety at the top (EN)