Class, Codes, and Control - Vol. 2

Class, Codes, and Control - Vol. 2

Class, Codes, and Control - Vol. 2

Class, Codes, and Control - Vol. 2

Synopsis

This book represents part of an ongoing effort to understand the rules, practices, agencies and agents which shape and change the social construction of pedagogic discourse. It draws together and re-examines the findings of the author's earlier work.

Excerpt

M.A.K. Halliday

The work of Professor Basil Berastein has sometimes been referred to as 'a theory of educational failure'. This seems to me misleading; the truth is both more, and less, than this implies. More, because Bernstein's theory is a theory about society, how a society persists and how it changes; it is a theory of the nature and processes of cultural transmission, and of the essential part that is played by language therein. Education is one of the forms taken by the transmission process, and must inevitably be a major channel for persistence and change; but there are other channels-and the education system itself is shaped by the social structure. Less, because Bernstein does not claim to be providing a total explanation of the causes of educational failure; he is offering an interpretation of one aspect of it, the fact that the distribution of failure is not random but follows certain known and sadly predictable patterns-by and large, it is a problem which faces children of the lower working class in large urban areas. Even here Bernstein is not trying to tell the whole story; what he is doing is to supply the essential link that was missing from the chain of relevant factors.

Nevertheless, it is perhaps inevitable that Bernstein's work should be best known through its application to educational problems, since these are the most striking and the most public of the issues with which he is concerned, After the relative confidence of fifteen post-war years, the 1960s were marked by growing awareness of a crisis in education, a realization that it was not enough to ensure that all children were adequately nourished and spent a certain number of years receivlng formal education in school. The 'crisis' consists in the discovery that large numbers of children of normal intelligence, who have always had enough to eat, pass through the school system and come out as failures. We say, 'society has given them the opportunity, and they have failed to respond to it'; we feel hurt, and we want to know the reason why. (The formulation is not intended to imply a lack of genuine concern.)

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