The social cost of acting "extra": Students' moral judgments of self, social relations, and academic success in Papua New Guinea

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Abstract

This article describes a cultural basis for student academic disengagement and resistance in two high schools in Manus province in Papua New Guinea. Based on a year of ethnographic research conducted in 1994-95, the article examines how a critical mass of students responded to rising national educational credentialism and unemployment by drawing on elements of their "traditional" egalitarian village identity to make moral judgments about appropriate selves and futures. These students referred to specific Western behavioral and linguistic styles, aspirations, and academic practices as acting "extra" and ostracized those classmates that exhibited them. The findings suggest a cross-cultural phenomenon: a perception of school success and associated behaviors as the internalization of a Western ideology of individualism accompanied by a concern that resultant status differences will imperil solidarity within the local community.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-235
Number of pages40
JournalAmerican Journal of Education
Volume108
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2000
Externally publishedYes

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