Too cool for school: media frames of 'straight A girls' and the discursive disdain of knowledge in the Danish educational system

Kenneth Reinecke Hansen, Jonas Nygaard Blom, Heidi Jønch-Clausen

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftAbstraktForskningpeer review


In a recent newspaper interview, a high-profiled Danish anthropology professor stated: “Denmark doesn’t need the nice straight A girls! We need crazy minds that can think wildly and create breakthroughs in research and society” (BT, 29 August 2015, our translation).

The quote, which is not unusual in a Danish context, is discursively interesting in two ways: It dichotomizes being good at school with being innovative, and it connects the former with being a girl. Indeed, many girls in the Nordic countries are doing increasingly well from public school to academia (EVA, 2005), and research suggests that they are in fact ‘displacing’ the boys, even from traditionally male-dominated disciplines (Dansk Erhverv, 2014).

Combining quantitative and qualitative discourse analysis of a large text corpus (Bednarek, 2012) with in-depth news framing analysis (Entman, 1993), our study examines the societal attitudes towards female high achievers in the Danish educational system as they are conveyed in media frames.

In our preliminary analysis of news media texts, female high achievers collocate with silent girls, diligent girls and more broadly with the alleged feminized school (cf. Bourdieu, 1999). These girls are often put in opposition to the more restless – and yet more active and innovative – boys. Thus, instead of receiving society’s approval for studying hard and striving for high grades, the girls are framed as ‘uncool’ and over-ambitious resulting in low prestige.

Our data consists of articles in different journalistic genres (news articles, news analyses/commentaries and debates with citizens as sources). The analysed newspapers are the three largest and most prominent Danish broadsheet newspapers, Berlingske, Jyllands-Posten, and Politiken. The period of analysis is the six months following the Danish school reform in 2013. The reform introduced a longer average school day – in fact, by far the longest in OECD – with more ‘activities’ and less homework, and exchanged the concept of knowledge with the more instrumental proficiency in the curricula.

Based on the textual analysis, we intend to discuss the wider sociological implications for a school system possibly working against itself: What are the epistemological consequences for students – girls and boys – and study ability if dominant societal frames position female high achievers’ attitude and behaviour as boring, conventional, ‘nerdy’ – and wrong? Could the female high achievers’ (presumed) loss of prestige be part of a wider discourse in which Western societies disdain knowledge and the hard work of learning it?
Publikationsdatojun. 2016
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2016
BegivenhedSociolinguistics Symposium 21 - Universidad de Murcia, Murcia, Spanien
Varighed: 14 jun. 201618 jun. 2016


KonferenceSociolinguistics Symposium 21
LokationUniversidad de Murcia


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