Swerve : a memoir of identity in three American high schools
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This dissertation is an ethnographic study of nine different students in three American public high schools, their experimentation with alcohol and drugs, and their respective processes of identity formation. While much work has done to establish the relevant and various paths towards finding identity in the American adolescent and in the fields of American education, public schooling, and youth culture, this work attempts to offer a specific presentation of what the path towards finding identity looks like in the American classroom for students who also experiment with alcohol and drugs. The nine students are presented in this work via three different category types of identity formations: Creativity Through Chemical, Charisma Through Chemical, and Challenge Through Chemical. The presentation of the students is ethnographic in nature given the various strengths and attributes of the ethnographic approach. The classroom is a valuable location for establishing a unique perspective on adolescent self-expression, a place where students’ projections and the perceptions of others are intertwined. What students experience in the classroom as a group and individually is a meaningful element to their evolving identities. This work establishes the significance of these experiences in conjunction with the students’ experimentation with alcohol and drugs. Adolescence, as a period for young people of identifying with group culture and as an individual while differentiating between right and wrong is a significant developmental phase. This work acknowledges the communities in which these students are engaged, their respective high school communities, the relevant details of each classroom, and explicates the details of their processes of identity formation for these nine students within the context of their classroom cultures.