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«ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944 Academic Research International Vol. 4 No. 6 November 2013 HOW TEACHERS CONTRIBUTE TO PRODUCE THE PHENOMENON OF ...»

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ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944

Academic Research International Vol. 4 No. 6 November 2013




Tien-Hui Chiang

Department of Education, National University of Tainan;

President, Taiwan Association for Sociology of Education, TAIWAN, & Guest Professor, Beijing Normal University, CHINA.

thchiang@mail.nutn.edu.tw ABSTRACT In terms of implementing social justice, education is imposed the emancipator function, referring to increasing the upward rate of social mobility for working class children through the channel of schooling in a meritocratic society. However, scholars, such as B. Bernstein and P. Bourdieu, discover the inequity of educational results and conceptualize it as cultural reproduction. They contend that this phenomenon roots in the gap between curriculum knowledge and cultural competence of working class students. This essay argues that teachers play as a crucial contributor to the issue of cultural reproduction because they do not recognize the teaching methods that they conduct normally are based on middle/upper class students. Consequently, such middle-class-oriented pedagogy tends to create advantage and disadvantage positions for middle/upper class students and working class students respectively. However, confining the narrow scope of instrumental rationality, teachers normally employ mental reasons to justify their pedagogy. In terms of uncovering this synthetic politics embedded in schooling, this essay borrows the concepts of M. Foucault, such as normalization and selfgoverning, to develop an argument --- normalized pedagogy.

Keywords: cultural reproduction, normalized pedagogy, self-governing, instrumental rationality


Along with the development of industrialization, labor market requires more workers with professional knowledge/skill and, thus, the size of proletarians shrinks (Dahrendorf, 1959).

This change is able to remold the type of selection at labor market, shifting from ascribed mode to achieved one (Parsons, 1961), and, this meritocracy, then, bestows a crucial value upon education (Young, 1961). Education, thus, gains its legitimate power, functioning as a gatekeeper in selection or social mobility. Normally, people believe that education is open to everyone so that educational achievements are mainly determined by someone’ ability and effort (Parsons, 1951). However, most working class children fail in education and, then, reproduce their class fate. Some scholars argue that their failures do not derive from their mental deficit but cultural disadvantage. As the main stream of social cultures, which is under the control of the middle/upper class (Gramsci, 1971), functions as the main source for developing curriculum knowledge, school curriculum tend to be academic, as witnessed by its characteristics, addressing


concepts and logical relationship (Chiang, 2002;

Chiang and Chen, 2006). Such academic curriculum, which largely projects the thought of middle/upper class, put middle/upper class students and working class students at privileged and unprivileged positions respectively (Bernstein, 1990, 1996; Bourdieu, 1993; Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977). Following the perspective of cultural reproduction that uncovers the www.journals.savap.org.pk Part-II: Educational and Management Sciences SAVAP International www.savap.org.pk Copyright © 2013 ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944 Vol. 4 No. 6 November 2013 Academic Research International relationship among class power, culture, schooling and social mobility, this essay explores the relationship between pedagogy and cultural reproduction. Most people do not question the existing pedagogy that functions as the key filter to decide who will success or fail in schooling. This essay develops relevant arguments, such as normalized pedagogy and synthetic politics, to profile the relationship between pedagogy and cultural reproduction.


Although structural-functionalists contend that education is able to facilitate working class students to achieve upward mobility (e.g. Parsons, 1951), Marxists argue that educational results remain inequity. The theory of correspondence principle highlights a vivid phenomenon that a considerable percentage of working class students fail in education so that they tend to remain at the same level in social stratification as their parents (Bowles and Gintis, 1967). This class reproduction shows that education cannot practice its emancipator function (Dale, 2001) and serve as a tool for the interests of dominant groups. Some scholars further develop the perspective of cultural reproduction to decode the phenomenon of class reproduction (Bernstein, 1996; Bourdieu, 2000). Fundamentally, they argue that class reproduction does not root in production process but cultural field. This is because social value determines legitimate knowledge that is the main source for constructing curriculum knowledge. At a meritocratic society, the educational achievement is the main factor to influence someone’s social mobility. Such a linkage indicates that instead of psychological accounts, the main stream of social cultures, shaped by class power, is the main element to affect social reproduction.

As Gramsci (1971) and Foucault (1972, 1991) argues, power is able to construct the main stream of social cultures or social discourse that is normally viewed as legitimate so that it becomes the main source for developing curriculum contents. The middle class background tends to make textbook editors appreciate such legitimate knowledge and, then, produce middle-class-oriented textbooks. As a result, school textbooks value abstract concepts and logical relationships.

The relationship indicates that such an academic curriculum largely project the thought and life-style of middle/upper cultures. Social studies, for example, manifests this characteristic, as witnessed by the hidden nature that its contents address middle class culture/value, such as global vision, investment, educated behavior (Chiang and Chen, 2006). Tunstall’s (1973) findings show that labor work does not require mental ability but physical strength. Willis (1977) also gained a similar picture that working class explicitly displays masculinity and practical-oriented culture rather than reasoning behavior. Those findings show that the cultural competence of working class students is unable to bridge the gap between academic curriculum and their practical-oriented life. Therefore, they are forced to learn others’ culture and, then, face learning difficulties. Consequently, most of working class students cannot have excellently academic performances, and, then, tend to fail in meritorious society (Bernstein, 1996).

It is argued that such failure does not derive from their mental conditions, such as IQ, EQ or motivation but their reasoning ability that is largely molded by the context in which they position. Bourdieu (1990), for example, argues that although the actor behaves like an autonomous agent, a disposition directs his/her reactions towards outside world. Such inner mechanism, conceptualized as habitus, referring to the system of perception, reasoning and reaction, is not born but shaped within a specific type of context, conceptualized as social space in which a certain type of cultural capital is provided by parents. As we can see that middle class parents recognize that a higher educational certificate bestows more competence www.journals.savap.org.pk Copyright © 2013 SAVAP International 166 www.savap.org.pk ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944 Academic Research International Vol. 4 No. 6 November 2013 upon its owner in the labor force market, they develop long-terms expectation, viewing the education achievement is a legitimate ticket to access white collar club (Ball Bowe and Gewirtz, 1997). Furthermore, they are anxious about children’s future career because social development is dynamic and unpredictable (Ball, 2006). Such anxiety triggers their rational capital, referring to the actor employing the rational ability to conduct systematical actions, including vision, organization, action, monitoring and revision (Chiang, 2010a). Such rational capital is manifest on a series of educational studies, such as school selection (Ball, 1997;

Silva, 2000; Wells and Crain, 2000) and participation in the child’s learning (Reay, 1998).

Consequently, middle class parents invest a lot of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1993) and social capital (Coleman, 1990) in constructing an academic context for cultivating the logic reasoning ability of their children.

In contrast, blue-collar jobs mainly require a limited level of training, and, further, diminish working class parents’ recognition on educational functions that can be actualized in a long term. Consequently, they tend to develop a short-termism expectation, hoping their children to join the labor market as soon as possible (Ball, Bowe and Gewirtz, 1997). Furthermore, shop floor culture reveals that vigor and strength are the key elements to finish their jobs (Willis, 1977). Such characters tend to deprive the rational capital and educational recognition of working class parents. Their children are positioned within in a practicaloriented context that tends to block its insiders to develop an appropriate habitus for learning logical relationship. Consequently, it is very hard for them to overpass this cultural constraint embedded in an academic curriculum.

As logic reasoning ability is reliant upon abstract linguistic terms, language ability functions as a powerful mechanism to influence children’s academic performances. Bernstein (1996) argues that their linguistic ability develops in family, termed as `initial recontextualization’, because parents are the initiators to construct the learning context for their children. In terms of interaction, a democratic mode, that middle class parents employ, creates an open and interactive context for dialogue, allowing their children to have more time and space for exploring the meanings of issues that they are engaged in. Consequently, middle class children are able to develop an elaborated code, referring to abstract terms that facilitate its possessors to conduct logical reasoning, conceptualized as `uncontext bound’ competence, which is the key ability to learn academic curriculum. In contrast, working class parents generally conduct an authoritarian type to raise their children and, thus, depress them into a didactic mode that tends to make its receivers develop a restricted code, referring to substantial terms that do not facilitate its owners to engage in logical reasoning, conceptualized as context-bound competence.

Critique on Cultural Reproduction The perspective of cultural reproduction highlights that the phenomenon of educational inequity does not root in psychological aspect but social cultures. Its researchers also uncover the interplay among power, social culture and curriculum knowledge. Furthermore, in order to improve such inequity, taking social actions is necessary. However, the perspective of cultural reproduction tends to overemphasis the structural constraint and, thus, ignores the aspect of agency (Chiang, 2009, 2010b). Although cultural reproduction remains as a social phenomenon, there are about 20 % working class students whose academic performances are excellent. A relevant student further uncovers that unlike middle class students who were much like cultural capital receivers, those excellent working class students behave like cultural capital creators because they clearly understood the value of educational achievement so that they adopted an independent and active strategy of learning (Chiang, 2012). Those studies all demonstrate that in terms of agency, excellent working class students are able to www.journals.savap.org.pk Part-II: Educational and Management Sciences SAVAP International www.savap.org.pk Copyright © 2013 ISSN-L: 2223-9553, ISSN: 2223-9944 Vol. 4 No. 6 November 2013 Academic Research International employ creative strategies for freeing themselves from the structural constraints imposed by the deficit of economic capital and cultural capital of their family. This picture also shows that the perspective of cultural reproduction neglects the actor’s agency, and, thus, confines itself within a dark domain of pessimism. Such gap stimulates the school of critical pedagogy that addresses the possibility of agency. Freire (1990, 1998), for example, argues that education can function as a means for reconstructing society into a democratic form if in terms of pedagogy, problem-posing can replace banking. This is because banking pedagogy does not allow students to question textbook knowledge and pedagogy only functions to instill the ideology of dominant groups. Therefore, education becomes a tool to achieve the political intention of authoritarian society, depressing different voices. In contrast, problemposing assumes students as independent bodies who are able to develop their belief if they position in a free context. Therefore, teachers need to view textbook knowledge as problematic and treat classroom as a cultural forum, allowing students to speak out their voice. This democratic context is able to create a two-ways dialogue between teachers and pupils (Shor, 1992, 1996).

To reach out the agency of education, teachers need to behave as a transformative intellectual for constructing an appropriate curriculum for all types of children (Giroux, 2000). Therefore, empowering teachers is a crucial condition to achieve this target because it allows them to free from the text dominated by ruling groups and to construct a better text for all types of students (Giroux, 1989). In order to maximize the function of empowerment, teachers need to be value-independent. This purpose can be achieved by adopting the strategy of desocialization that functions to free someone from the constraint of current social values controlled by middle/upper classes (Shor, 1992).

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