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Grown-ups have careers : discourses of career and adulthood in four urban Vancouver high schools Benjamin, Amanda Joy

Abstract

In British Columbia, the career education curriculum from 1995-2003 was Career and Personal Planning (CAPP). The premise of CAPP was that if schools provided students with generic and specific skills, these students would be more likely to find and retain careers and become successful members of an adult community. However, one of the problems with the rapid development of career education programs like CAPP is a lack of discussion about the content and pedagogy of such curricula. With tacit inclusion of these programs, it is important to ask questions about whose values and interests are being served by career programs in schools. Accordingly, this research focuses on how programs like CAPP contribute to shaping both students’ and teachers’ perceptions of what it means to have a career and be an adult. The purpose of this research was to undertake a critical examination of the BC CAPP curriculum through document analysis, interviews with teachers and students, and classroom observations, in order to illuminate how career and adulthood were constituted. Four Vancouver high schools were chosen as the sites of this inquiry. In using a discourse oriented approach, this research analyzed how teachers and students talked. The findings revealed several prominent discourses in the CAPP curriculum and how these discourses reproduced and resisted ideological and hegemonic understandings of career and adulthood. This study outlines the various ways that CAPP was implemented across four schools, how jobs and careers were constructed in ways that privileged some post high school pathways, while at the same time differentiated others based on social class, and how career influenced understandings of adulthood. The conclusion highlights the need for career education that provides more information about possible post high school destinations as well as a critical orientation to the relationship between education, credentials and the labour market. This work has implications for curriculum developers and teachers of career education because it illustrates the values that are reproduced and resisted in career education classrooms. In particular, this study contributes to a larger discussion of how schools and curricula are implicated in reproducing class, gender and racial differentiation.

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