Topic 5 - The Marxist perspective on education


Marxist perspective on education

See ed as based on class division + capitalist exploitation - Marx (1818-83) described capitalism as 2-class system:
 - capitalist class: (Bourgeoisie) - minority class. Employers, own means of production. Make profits by exploiting labour of majority (w/c).
 - working class: (Proletariat) - majority class. Forced to sell labour power to capitalists since own no means of production + so have no other source of income. Result, work under capitalism poorly paid, alienating, unsatisfying + smth over which workers have no real control

Creates potential for class conflict. Eg if workers realise being exploited, may demand higher wages, better working conditions or abolition of capitalism itself. M believed ultimately w/c would unite to overthrow capitalism - create classless, equal society.

Despite potential for revolution, capitalism contains, able to continue b/c capitalist class also control state. Key component of state is ed sys, Marxists sees ed as functioning to prevent revolution + maintain capitalism.

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Althusser: ideological state apparatus

Marxists see state as means capitalist class use to maintain dominant position. Althusser (1971) - state consists of 2 elements or 'apparatuses', both serve to keep capitalist class in power:
 - repressive state apparatuses (RSAs) - maintain rule of B by force/threat of it. RSAs inc police, courts + army. When necessary, use physical coercion (force) to repress w/c.
 - ideological state apparatuses (ISAs) - maintain rule of B by controlling people's ideas, values + beliefs. ISAs inc religion, media + ed sys

A's view, ed sys important ISA. Performs 2 functions:
 - ed reproduces class inequality by transmitting from gen to gen by failing each gen of w/c pupils
 - ed legitimates class inequality by producing ideologies that disguise true cause. Function of ideology to persuade workers to accept inequality inevitable + deserve subordinate position in society. If accpet ideas, less likely to challenge/threaten capitalism

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Bowles + Gintis: schooling in capitalist America

B + G (1976) - argue capitalism requires workforce w/ kind of attitudes, behaviour + personality-type suited to role as alienated + exploited workers willing to accept hard work, low pay + orders from above. View of B + G, role of ed sys in capitalist society - to reproduce obedient workforce will accept inequality as inevitable.

B + G's study of 237 NY high school students + finding of other studies, conclude schools reward precisely kind of personality traits that make for submissive, compliant worker. Found students who showed independence + creativity tended to gain low grades, while those who showed characteristics linked to obedience + discipline - higher grades.

Conclude from evidence schooling helps to produce obedient workers capitalism needs. Don't believe ed fosters personal development. Rather, stunts + distorts student's development.

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Correspondence principle + hidden curriculum

B + G argue close parallels b/ween schooling + work in capitalist society. Both hierarchiers, head teachers/bosses at top making decisions + giving orders, workers/pupils at bottom obeying.  Refer to parallels as 'correspondence principle' - relationships + structures found in ed mirror work.

Argue correspondence principle operates through hidden curriculum - all 'lessons' in school w/o being directly taught eg through everyday workings of school, pupils accept hierarchy. In this way, schooling prepares w/c pupils for role as exploited workers of future, reproducing workforce capitalism needs + perpetuating class inequality from gen to gen.

Eg Cohen (1984) argues youth training schemes serve capitalism by teaching young workers not genuine job skills, but attitudes + values needed in subordinate labour force. Lowers aspirations - will accept low paid work.

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Myth of meritocracy: legitimation of class inequal

B/c capitalist society based on inequality, danger poor will feel inequality undeserved + unfair -> rebel against system responsible. In B + G view, ed sys helps prevent from happening by legitimating class inequalities. Does this by producing ideologies + s erve to explain + justify why inequality fair, natural + inevitable.

B + G describe ed sys as 'giant myth making machine'. Key myth - ed promotes 'myth of meritocracy'. Unlike functionalists, argue meritocracy doesn't exist. Evidence shows main factor is family + class background. By disguising that it's not ability or ed achievement, myth of meritocracy serves  to justify privileges of higher classes, makes it seem they gained them through succeeding in open + fair comp at school. Helps persuade w/c to accept inequality as legitimate, makes it less likely they'll seek to overthrow capitalism.

Ed sys also justifies poverty - B + G - 'poor are dumb' theory of failure  blames poverty on individual, rather than blaming capitalism. Therefore plays important part in reconciling workers to exploited position - less likely to rebel system.

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Willis: learning to labour

All M's agree capitalism can't function w/o workforce willing to accept exploitation. See ed as reproducing + legitimating class inequality.

B + G see ed as straightforward process of indoctrination into myth of meritocracy, Willis' (1977) study shows w/c pupils can resist attempts to indoctrinate them. W interested in way schooling serves capitalism. Combines this w/ interactionist approach - focuses on meanings pupils give to situation + how these enable them to resist indoctrination.

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Lads' counter-culture

Willis - qualitative RM eg participant observation, unstructured interviews. Study of counter-school culture 'the lads', 12 w/c boys in transition - school -> work. Lads form counter-culture opposed to school. Scornful of conformist boys, have own bran of intimidatory humour - 'tak the ****'. Find school boring + meaningless, ignore rules - smoke + drink, disrupt classes etc - resisting school. Reject as 'con' the school's meritocratic ideology that w/c can achieve m/c jobs through hard work.

Similarity b/ween lads' anti-school counter-culture + shopflor culture of male manual workers. Both see manual work as superior + intellectual work as inferior + effeminate. Lads identify w/ male manual work - explains why see themselves as superior to girls + m/c boys (ear'oles) - aspire to non-manual jobs.

Also explains why counter-culture helps them to slot into jobs capitalism needs someone to perform: accustomed to boredom, don't expect satisfaction from work, good at finding diversions to cope w/ tedium of unskilled labour. Acts of rebellion guarantee end up in unskilled jobs by ensuring failure to gain good qualifications. For W, this is ironic. 

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Evaluation of Marxist approaches

PMs criticise B + Gs' correspondence principle on grounds today's post-Fordist econ requires schools to produce diff kind of labour force than described by Ms. Argue ed now reproduces diversity, not inequality.

Ms disagree w/ each other on how reproduction + legitimation take place. B + G - deterministic view. Assume pupils no free will, accept indoctrination. Fails to explain why many reject school's values. Willis rejects this, combines M + interactionst approaches, shows how pupils may resist + yet still -> w/c jobs.

Critics argue Ws' acc of 'lads' romanticises them, portrays them as w/c heroes despite anti-social behaviour + sexist attitudes. Small scale syudy, unrepresentative, can't generalise findings.

Morrow + Torres (1998) - critical modernists, criticse M for taking 'class 1st' approach that sees class as key inequality - ignore other kinds.

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