14 SES 07 A, School-related Transitions Within a Life Course Perspective – Intermediate Phases
Parallel Paper Session
A notion that time is scarce and must be used well in order to have a successful career underpins the rationale of educational endeavors. Although its outcome cannot be entirely clear at the outset, education is understood as a key investment for future success, personal autonomy, self-realization and consumption. In this way, educational efforts are based on a notion of linear time and progress: what is done today has a purpose and will bring fruits of efforts to be harvested in the future. However, meeting one’s future goals will be determined by both long term and short term decisions. The idea of continuity between the present and the future is also at the core of capitalism, where time is a scarce resource in the production and accumulation of commodities. The building up of educational capital for future prosperity and autonomy resembles this broader logic of capitalism, and also shares its individualistic orientation. Oian (2004) has demonstrated how linear time, prevalent in the idea of a successful career, and individualism are closely linked.
In rural areas social mobility will often depend on spatial mobility. In an individual career trajectory, place stands out as opposed to track, advancement and movement. Spatial mobility is also an important condition for the capitalist economy. Metaphors of traveling are often used in references to career development. In the modern period, advancement could be imagined as a collective journey while late modernity is dominated by the imagery of the unique, individual journey (Furlong & Cartmel, 1997). Individuality is also a striking feature in most young people’s future- oriented mode of identity construction: they seem more comfortable identifying who they want to be, rather than where they come from (Ziehe 1989).
Place in this study consists of several towns and villages in the northernmost county in Norway, where fishing, mining and reindeer herding have been traditional means of livelihood. Several waves of migration to the south have left many of the smaller towns and villages scarcely populated. In this setting, education and training at the upper secondary level is scattered, often requiring young people to move to a different town at least once during a three-year course, depending on the kind of educational track they pursue.
Much of the literature on late modernity is silent about different understandings of time and space among young people. Alternative ways of making use of educational opportunities may be seen as – and in the long run even prove to be – maladaptive, leading away from personal autonomy and economic independence. Nevertheless, it may reflect a different economic rationality with values and moralities that differ from the dominant ones.
I do not argue that the mindsets of young people who have dropped out of school are representative of all young people in Finnmark. The question is rather how we can best understand their way of challenging a dominant way of living; and, in doing so forming a pocket set apart from the globalized capitalist economy.
Furlong, A. & Cartmel F (1997) Young People and Social Change. Individualization and risk in late modernity. Buckingham: Open University press. Oian, H. (2004) Time Out and Drop Out. On the relation between linear time and individualism. Time & Society 13 (2/3), pp. 173–195. Ziehe, T. (1989) Ambivalenser og Mangfoldighed. Tekster om: Ungdom, Skole, Æstetik, Kultur. Copenhagen: Politisk Revy.
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