Good Citizens vs. Good Workers: Low-Income Girls and Clashing Subjectivities in a Charter School



Abstract: The public school system has continued to promote inequalities along axes of class, race and gender. Yet contestation over the role and purpose of public schooling has yielded significant social protest as well as reforms that are unfolding in often contradictory and complex ways. One set of conflicting aims characterizing current education reform is clashing definitions of the “good” citizen versus “good worker.” While neoliberal tenets posit “good” citizens and workers as those who exercise responsible “individual” choices, education reform enabling the adoption of radical pedagogies stresses a model of citizenship calling for individual and collective critical awareness and activism while still trying to prepare students to access further educational and employment opportunities as “good” workers. I explore how low-income, female, predominantly African-American high-school students who attend a charter school incorporating a radical education pedagogy interpret, internalize, and contest these competing definitions of good citizens versus good workers.