School for pass-whites.

Peer reviewed: 
No, item is not peer reviewed.
Date created: 

The argument is pursued that the social structure of a suburban high school in South Africa can be related to the racial policy of the central government, the mores of the residents of the suburb, and the career ambitions of school teachers. Data collected, mainly by means of observer participation, in the suburb and in the school, is adduced in support of the argument. Description proceeds from the general to the particular: from a broad overview of race-relations in the suburb to a portrayal of the school as a facilitating mechanism in the process of passing for White, thence to a discussion of the effects of this involvement on the formal and informal structure of the teaching staff. The socio-economic and cultural affinity between the suburb's Whites and Coloureds permits of the emergence of cross-cutting loyalties between the two groups based on the socio-economic categories of "respectable" and "roff" rather than on colour and provides a favourable environment for pass-Whites. Passing for White is not an act essentially different from the wider process of upward social mobility as found among the Coloured people. It is not an act but a process involving anticipatory socialization and the creation of conditions of face-to-face segmentary interaction in which Whites might make ad hoc decisions which cumulatively add verisimilitude to the passer's claim to White status. Passers find in White schools one of the segmentary roles necessary for their purpose; passing is and has been for some decades endemic to many schools in South Africa. The Principal of the school on which this study focuses enrols to ? his school pass-Whites "acceptable to the community." He does so in iv response to a declining White enrolment, to pressures exerted by a relatively "colour-blind" community, and to pressures exerted by a school board which makes use of the school as a "buffer" institution. At the same time, for fear of having the school reclassified "Coloured" by the provincial educational bureaucracy, he attempts to exclude the "obviously" Coloured??n when they have White identity cards and the support of the school board. Compounding the Principal's tribulations is the disparate social-class backgrounds of teachers and pupils which provide grounds for disputes over the goals of vocational and regulatory training and the means whereby these goals are to be attained. Disciplinary problems ensue, the school's extra-curriculum withers away, and the school class?? members of which owe no allegiance to houses, clubs or socieities such as might cut across their allegiance to the class??omes the pre-eminent unit of social structure in the school. Teachers, deprived of the means par excellence of dividing and ruling their pupils (the creation and manipulation of cross-cutting allegiances) face in the class-room a solidary body of pupils united in their opposition to middle-class adult authority; this fact further compounds the school's ill-repute. Association with a pass-White and working-class school imperils the career ambitions of teachers so difficulty is experienced in attracting recruits to the teaching staff and in moderating their rate of turnover. A marked cleavage develops between transient recruits and long-term teachers. Long-term teachers, prevented for various reasons from quitting the school, experience frustration and indulge in perennial scapegoating activity. The Principal, caught between opposing pressures exerted by parents, teachers and arms of government, forfeits the V respect of his teachers and loses ground in his battle with the Vice-Principal for ascendency over the staff.


Thesis (Ph.D.) - Dept. of Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology - Simon Fraser University

Document type: 
Copyright remains with the author
Subject headings: 
Education -- South Africa.
Senior supervisor: 
D.G. Bettison
Arts and Social Sciences: Department of Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology
Thesis type: 
(Dissertation) Ph.D.