Navigating ConflictHow Youth Handle Trouble in a High-Poverty School

Navigating ConflictHow Youth Handle Trouble in a High-Poverty School

Calvin Morrill and Michael Musheno

Print publication date: 2018

ISBN: 9780226538761

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


Urban schools are usually associated with violence, chaos, and youth aggression. This book challenges the violence-centered conventional wisdom of urban youth studies, revealing instead the social ingenuity with which teens informally and peacefully navigate strife-ridden peer trouble. Taking as its focus a multi-ethnic, high-poverty school in the American southwest, the book complicates the conventional vision of urban youth, along the way revealing the resilience of students in the face of carceral disciplinary tactics. Grounded in sixteen years of ethnographic fieldwork, the book draws on archival and institutional evidence to locate urban schools in more than a century of local, state, and national change. The book also makes the case for schools that work, where negative externalities are buffered and policies are adapted to ever-evolving student populations. These kinds of schools require meaningful, inclusive student organizations for sustaining social trust and collective peer dignity alongside responsive administrative leadership. Further, students must be given the freedom to associate and move among their peers, all while in the vicinity of watchful, but not intrusive adults. The book makes a compelling case for these foundational conditions, arguing that only through them can schools enable a rich climate for learning, achievement, and social advancement.