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In Search of a Profound Answer: Mainstream Scripts
and the Marginalization of Advanced-Track Urban Students

Christina M. Higgins, UW-Madison
Mary M. Thompson, UW-Madison
Rebecca V. Roeder, Michigan State University


This is a microethnographic study that examines talk among junior and senior level non-mainstream urban
students and their mainstream teachers in two advanced-track classrooms. To investigate students’
ability to engage in the dominant linguistic and cultural codes of the classroom, our analysis focuses on the student contributions that were praised by teachers. We show that student contributions which do not follow dominant codes are not rewarded, and that although students ask their teachers for guidance in using these codes appropriately, their requests are not effectively addressed. Consequently, these students struggle at the margins of the classroom because they do not demonstrate facility with discursive practices which would lead to academic success. We advocate that teachers help students to acquire these codes in order to experience success, not for the purpose of acculturation, but rather to give them the tools with which they might critique these dominant codes.

* Linguistic and Education, 14(2), 2003.

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