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Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the view that working-class children
under-achieve because they are culturally deprived.
Cultural deprivation theorists argue that most of us are taught the attitudes and skills needed for
educational success during primary socialisation. However, there are a percentage of students who do
not have cultural capital, and are therefore deprived of what is needed to be successful at school this
percentage, according to cultural deprivation theorists, are working-class.
There are three main aspects of cultural deprivation: intellectual development, language, and attitudes
and values. Cultural deprivation theorists argue that intellectual development plays a big part in the
educational failure of the lower classes. Due to cost constraints, working-class parents are unlikely to buy
educational toys which would stimulate their child's mind, and intellectual development. This stimulation
of the mind is vital for when a child begins their educational journey, as many middle-class mothers would
J.W.B Douglas found that working-class children tend to score less on tests of ability than middle-class
students because working-class parents are less likely to support their child's intellectual development
even by simply reading to them. Bernstein and Young also found that middle-class mothers are more
likely to buy toys which encourage thinking and reasoning skills which are needed for educational
However, although intellectual development may seem like a major aspect of an individual's life which
could affect their educational achievement, it is more likely to affect the start of the educational journey
rather than the entire experience - school can teach and encourage the skills the child needs.
Another aspect of a child's primary socialisation which can cause an individual to under-achieve is
language. Basil Bernstein identifies the differences between the language used by the working-class and
middle-class the working-class use the restricted speech code, whilst the middle-class use the
elaborated speech code.
The restricted speech code consists of limited vocabulary and short, often unfinished, simple sentences.
When using this speech code, the speaker assumed the listener shares the same set of experiences, so
they tend to be more descriptive rather than analytic. However, the middle class use the speech code
which is used in schools a speech code which consists of wider vocabulary and longer, more complex,
sentences. In contrast to the working-class, by using the elaborated speech code, the speaker does not
assume that the listener shares the same set of experiences; therefore, they are more analytic and
mention little yet significant details to allow the listener to clearly imagine the event being described.
Language is an important factor determining the educational success, or under-achievement, of an
individual. The middle class are at a higher advantage because they tend to speak the way teachers do,
and the textbooks and exams are written in. Rather than feeling inferior at school being introduced to an
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This sense of comfort makes it more likely
for them to be successful in education.
However, despite recognising these differences, Bernstein is critical of cultural deprivation theorists
they believe that it is the home which influences children's achievement, when the school can also be
important as it can teach the students how to speak the elaborated speech code. Schools' failure to do
so puts the working-class at a disadvantage, and produces educational inequality amongst the
working-class and the middle-class pupils.…read more
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Operation Head Start in the USA which includes Sesame Street. The aim of it is to reach young children,
and provide them with the values and attitudes needed for educational success.
In conclusion, we can see that programmes like Operation Head Start show that cultural deprivation can
be overcome, and does not have to be something which holds back a working-class individual from being
successful in education.…read more