Talk of aspiration has been running through social policy in the United Kingdom and beyond for decades. Labour and Conservative politicians see it as a way to address inequality and to get working-class people to become more socially mobile. Prime Minister David Cameron called the UK an ‘aspiration nation’ and opposition leadership candidate Andy Burnham opened his campaign with his intention to make Labour ‘the party of aspiration’. In such pronouncements, aspiration remains alarmingly vague. In this guest post, Garth Stahl explores how we can use the theoretical tools of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu to study the identity negotiations surrounding aspiration, and particularly the aspirations of working-class young men and their sense of value.
At CelebYouth, we’re excited about Jeremy Corbyn’s rapid rise to position of runaway front runner in the UK Labour Party Leadership election. Our research on youth aspirations has documented the impact of austerity on young people’s lives and Corbyn offers the promise of a mainstream challenge to that. However, we’ve also been interested in the transformation of Jeremy into a celebrity and the fandom that’s circulating about him. In this post Heather highlights some examples of this and discusses why it matters.
As part of our Knowledge Transfer work, Akile Ahmet is speaking to people who work with young people to see how they react to our findings. This post describes what Claire Nix an independent Careers Education Consultant had to say. Claire works primarily in careers and employability, does training for careers advisors and is a member of Career England and a fellow of National Institute for Careers Education and Counselling. Claire initially found out about the project from a steering group member and attended our End of Award Event last July.
Peter Fraser has been has been involved in media education for 25 years, first as media studies teacher and for the past five years freelance . He has been chief examiner for OCR Media studies A-level for 14 years and is currently working with The National Television Film school, as part of the British Film Institute‘s film academy, alongside chairing the Media Education Association that support teachers of the subject, and blogging regularly. Pete has been involved with the CelebYouth research since the beginning as a member of the Advisory Group. I this post Knowledge Transfer Fellow Akile Ahmet discusses young people, celebrity and our research with him.
As part of our Knowledge Transfer programme Akile Ahmet is interviewing key people in the field of youth work, careers education, and schooling to help us make our findings relevant to their work. The first of her interviews was with Tania de St Croix. Tania is a youth worker and a postdoctoral research fellow at King’s College London. Her PhD explored grassroots youth work and this is affected by policy changes and how youth workers respond and resist some of the policy changes that have been happening. Tania is also a member and spokesperson for ‘In Defence of Youth Work’. In this post Akile describes what happened when she went along on Friday 19 June to talk with Tania and discuss some of the project findings.
When I turned on Twitter last Friday, my feed was filled with tweets reacting, usually with anger, often with humour, to the news that Rachel Dolezal had been exposed by her parents as a white woman passing as African American.
As details emerged, that she had attended Howard University, one of the US’s historically-black colleges, that she was president of her local chapter of the NAACP, that she was listed as a professor of Africana Studies at Eastern Washington University, the Twittersphere exploded. As I scrolled through these, I noticed how many tweets mentioned Beyoncé. In this post I reflect on what this tells us about race, gender and celebrity.
The online world has become a huge platform for young people. In particular there is a growing successful community of what have come to be known as ‘YouTubers’, people who make their living through posting material on the video sharing site. Zoe Sugg, Tanya Burr, Pixi Woo, are among many beauty gurus who make YouTube videos about make-up, fashion and lifestyle. Both Tanya Burr and Zoe Sugg also have daily vlogs which show their ordinary lives as do the SacconeJoly’s a family – mum, dad, two young children – of ‘daily vloggers’, who invite you to ‘be part of their journey. What is apparent amongst all of these videos is the embedded taken-for-granted nature of heterosexuality, yet, as Akile Ahmet shows in this post, YouTube also provides spaces for other ways of being.
Although we completed the data collection for CelebYouth nearly two years ago, we are still working on the analysis. In particular, we are getting to grips with the rich and fascinating data from the 51 individual interviews we carried out with young people aged 14 to 17 across England. There are so many myths about young people’s aspirations – from the idea that these are low to the idea that they reflect an obsession with becoming famous. Although policymakers seem to want statistics, we believe that it is through stories of young people like those with whom we spoke that we can disrupt these ideas and show them to be the myths that they are. In this post Heather tells Homer’s story – one of just a few young people we met who aspired solely to traditionally working-class occupations. While this might mean that he figures in statistics as having ‘low aspirations’, his interview shows the importance of taking young people and their choices seriously rather than reducing them to clichés.
In Ansgar Allen’s book Benign Violence, he writes ‘for every academic luminary, there are 100 academic men and women who have had their spirits broken by the reductive demands of the academic machinery, which insists that they enhance productivity for its own sake, measured by values which are not their own’. He suggests that professors who want to ‘speak on behalf of that intellectual constituency’ treat their inaugural lectures not as sites of celebration but as sombre occasions ‘devoid of all glamour and charm’. While it’s unlikely any new professor would want to do this, in this post Heather takes Ansgar’s suggestion as a provocation to academics to consider the kind of careers we pursue. In this blog post she offers some thoughts along those lines, explaining why, unless something changes, she no longer want to be a professor.