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Puberty Blues and the representation of an Australian comprehensive high school

Puberty Blues and the representation of an Australian comprehensive high school In this article I examine one film, Puberty Blues, directed by Bruce Beresford in 1981. According to the Australian Film Commission, the film is number forty four of the top Australian films at the Australian Box Office from 1966 to 2005 having earned over three million dollars. The view put here is that this film throws light on the history of the comprehensive coeducational high school at a particular moment. The article maintains that Puberty Blues pursues a damning representation of the ineffectual and irrelevant nature of school life for the students it features. This unsettling film shows the comprehensive coeducational secondary school, itself a product of a middle class vision of the civil society, to be failing in its promise of extending ‘respectable’ and materially aspirant middle class values to youth. It is suggested that the decline in patronage of the public coeducational comprehensive school by the middle class and aspiring others may in part be attributable overall to the powerful negative images of schools such as those in Puberty Blues that have widely circulated in Australian and Anglophone popular culture, especially in feature film. It also hypothesises that the middle class flight from the comprehensive high school may be in part attributable to the fact that some of their children may have ‘deserted’ the schools first. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png History of Education Review Emerald Publishing

Puberty Blues and the representation of an Australian comprehensive high school

History of Education Review , Volume 37 (2): 7 – Oct 14, 2008

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
0819-8691
DOI
10.1108/08198691200800011
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

In this article I examine one film, Puberty Blues, directed by Bruce Beresford in 1981. According to the Australian Film Commission, the film is number forty four of the top Australian films at the Australian Box Office from 1966 to 2005 having earned over three million dollars. The view put here is that this film throws light on the history of the comprehensive coeducational high school at a particular moment. The article maintains that Puberty Blues pursues a damning representation of the ineffectual and irrelevant nature of school life for the students it features. This unsettling film shows the comprehensive coeducational secondary school, itself a product of a middle class vision of the civil society, to be failing in its promise of extending ‘respectable’ and materially aspirant middle class values to youth. It is suggested that the decline in patronage of the public coeducational comprehensive school by the middle class and aspiring others may in part be attributable overall to the powerful negative images of schools such as those in Puberty Blues that have widely circulated in Australian and Anglophone popular culture, especially in feature film. It also hypothesises that the middle class flight from the comprehensive high school may be in part attributable to the fact that some of their children may have ‘deserted’ the schools first.

Journal

History of Education ReviewEmerald Publishing

Published: Oct 14, 2008

Keywords: Youth; Childhood; Cinema; Popular culture; Comprehensive school; Australia

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