Recently Hodgetts has argued that: ‘To be a boy is to “succeed without trying”’. Relatedly, other researchers have proposed that academic hard work is generally incompatible with ‘cool’ masculinities in many schools. In this article we draw upon theories about the construction of masculinities and UK data from two education contexts (secondary schools and higher education) to explore further the discourses that conflate effortless achievement with masculinity, and position study as ‘uncool’. Locating our analyses principally within the framework of hegemonic masculinity, we explore the benefits and costs of the discourses – focusing especially upon the ‘effortless achievement’ discourse – to boys, men, girls and women.
We argue that although the ‘uncool to work’ discourse was more dominant in schools than in higher education there was evidence of it in higher education. The effortless achievement discourse was dominant in both contexts and the associations with masculinity were very explicit in the higher education interview data. We explore why, when in the current educational climate there is so much emphasis on results rather than process, the valorisation of effortless achievement, and its association with masculinity, remain strong.