?Assess the view that working-class children under-achieve because they are culturally deprived. (20 marks) The idea that working-class children will most likely under-achieve due to a lack of culture, also known as cultural deprivation, refers to children lacking the norms, values, beliefs, skills and knowledge that a society would regard as important and necessary. The attributes that these children should know and learn are, in most cases, taught by their parents and are passed to the next generation through socialisation.
All children are socialised differently, and the social class of the parent has a huge impact on the child and may affect their achievement in education. According to the cultural deprivation theory, some working-class parents fail to communicate and instil the appropriate norms, values, beliefs, skills and knowledge needed for educational success. However, there are other factors that can determine how well a child does within education.
For example, material deprivation, cultural capital and economic capital can also have an impact on how well some children will attain, therefore cultural deprivation is not the only factor and may not be the most important reason to why working-class children under-achieve. Cultural deprivation theorists, such as Douglas (1964) argued that working class parents offer less encouragement and support towards their children’s education. However, others such as Tizard (1981) argue that the apparent lack of interest of working class parents may mask their lack of confidence or knowledge in dealing with schools.
Nonetheless, theorists believed that there are three major factors that are responsible for working-class under-achievement: a lack of intellectual stimulation, the restricted speech code and working-class subcultures. A lack of intellectual stimulation refers to the development of analytical and thinking skills, such as the capability to decipher a difficult problem and use new ideas and concepts. Theorists claim that many working-class homes often lacked the books, educational toys and activities that would incentivise the intellectual development of a child.
Therefore, children from this social class, in many cases, begin their educational journey without developing the intellectual skills needed to improve and progress. Douglas (1964) found that working-class pupils scored lower on tests of ability than middle-class pupils. Due to this study, he argues that this occurred as a consequence from the parents of working-class students by not offering enough support when it comes to intellectual development. Alternatively, Bernstein and Young (1967) found that the way mothers choose toys has an influence on their children’s intellectual development.
Middle-class mothers are more likely to favour toys that encourage and inspire thinking skills in comparison to working-class mothers that may not choose the same toys. Speech codes are also a result of cultural deprivation and they can affect the way a child attains at school. The cultural deprivation theory followed by the two main speech codes, founded by Basil Bernstein (1975), disadvantage working class children from middle class children. The theory suggests that the speech patterns of the working-class are inferior and flawed.
Bernstein proposes that children from working-class backgrounds adopt a restricted speech code, which limits vocabulary, and middle-class children adopt an elaborated speed code, which can communicate abstract ideas. The elaborated code is what most teachers, exam boards, textbooks and university interviewers will be accustomed to because they use it themselves, therefore working-class students are immediately disadvantaged and their speech code prevents them from progressing quickly.
Cultural deprivation theorists distinguish three aspects of working-class subculture that are partly responsible for under-achievement. Barry Sugarman (1970) conveyed the idea the students from working-class backgrounds and middle-class backgrounds have dissimilar attitudes and perspectives. He understood that working-class backgrounds lived for immediate gratification, or instant rewards, whereas middle-class children were more motivated and deferred their gratification, they invested time in planning for the future and were more inclined to study.
In comparison, another subculture, fatalism, was a belief that ‘whatever will be, will be’. This allows working-class children to lose self-belief and accept that they cannot improve their position through individual efforts. The third aspect of working-class subculture is the low value on education. Douglas argues that working-class parents show less incentive to help and encourage their children with their education and ultimately support them less. He believed that working-class parents placed less value on education and therefore were less likely to discuss their children’s progress with teachers.
Correspondingly, Leon Feinstein (1998) found that working-class parents lack of interest was the main reason that their children were under-achieving and was a more important factor than financial factors. Feinstein argues that most middle-class parents provide obligatory motivation, discipline and support, thus they are more successful. Sugarman also argued that collectivism and present-time orientation acted as barriers to educational achievement. Collectivism occurs when a person values being a part of a group more than succeeding as an individual.
Conversely, the middle-class infers that an individual should not be held back by group loyalties. In addition, present-time orientation is another barrier that Sugarman believes affects educational achievement. This feature develops when a person sees the present to be more important than the future, therefore they do not have any long-term plans or goals. By contrast, middle-class culture has a future-time orientation that sees planning for the future as important. On the other hand, some theorists have also criticised the cultural deprivation theory.
For example, Nell Keddie (1973) explained cultural deprivation to be a myth and a victim-blaming explanation. She disregards the idea that the lack of success at school can be blamed on a culturally deprived background. She argues that a child cannot be deprived of its own culture because different social classes have different cultures. Working-class children are more likely to fail, not because they are culturally deprived, but because they are disadvantaged by a middle-class dominated education system.
She believes that schools see working-class culture as insufficient, and instead schools should build on its strengths and challenge anti-working class prejudices. However, in comparison to the different effects cultural deprivation can have on a working-class child, there are indeed other factors that some sociologists might consider more important and have a more substantial impact on how well a child will attain at school. Material deprivation refers to poverty and having a lack of material necessities such as an adequate and safe home and enough income.
Poverty is a huge factor that can affect how well a child will achieve. It is closely linked with educational under-achievement for example, in 2006 only 33 per cent of children receiving free school meals gained five or more GCSE’s at A* to C, as against 61 per cent of pupils not receiving free school meals. Different factors of having a working-class income can affect a child’s education in numerous ways. Poor housing can be a result of having a low income and this can affect a student’s achievement directly and indirectly. An example of a
direct impact could be overcrowding, having too many inhabitants in a confined space can result in having no quiet space to study and do homework. Deficient housing can also have indirect effects, especially on the child’s health and welfare. For example, children that live in crowded homes are more likely to have accidents. Cold or damp housing can also cause respiratory illnesses. In addition to housing, diet and health also falls under the category of material deprivation. Marilyn Howard (2001) understood that children from poorer homes are more likely to have lower intakes of energy, vitamins and minerals.
A lack of healthy foods and good nutrition can seriously affect health, for example by weakening the child’s immune system and lowering energy levels. Children from poorer backgrounds are also more likely to have emotional or behavioural problems according to Richard Wilkinson (1996). Finally, a lack of financial support can materially deprive a child and seriously affect how well they attain at school. A lack of financial support can result in children having scarce resources that may help them throughout school and enhance their achievement.
A study in the Oxford area by Emily Tanner (2003) found that the costs of transport, uniforms, books, computers, calculators, and sports, music and art equipment, places a heavy burden on poorer families. Due to this, less fortunate children might have to use hand-me-downs and cheaper but less trendy equipment. This may result in certain children being stigmatised and even bullied. Furthermore, cultural deprivation and material deprivation can have a substantial affect on how well a working-class child attains at school however, cultural capital is also an important constituent.
Pierre Bourdieu (1984) argued that cultural and material deprivation are interrelated and both contribute to education achievement. Bourdieu argues that there are three different types of capital; cultural, economic and educational in which he believes middle-class children possess more than working-class. Cultural capital refers to the knowledge, attitudes, values, language, tastes and abilities that the middle class would usually utilise. He describes middle-class culture as a type of capital because it gives an advantage in a similar way that wealth would.
He argues that through socialisation middle-class children obtain their cultural capital. This allows middle-class children to advance quicker in school because their attributes are more valued by teachers. By contrast, working-class children have a culture that is devalued as ‘rough’ and much lower in status. Alternatively, Bordieu argues that economic, educational and cultural capital can be transformed into one another. An example would be, that middle-class children that have cultural capital would achieve more in school because they are better prepared to meet the demands.
Similarly, wealthier parents, that have economic capital, can convert it into educational capital by sending their children to a private school and paying for extra tuition. To conclude, cultural deprivation definitely does affect how well working-class children attain as well and it is a very important factor to why they underachieve. However, there are numerous factors, such as material deprivation, and cultural, economic and educational capital, that challenge whether cultural deprivation is the most influential and important reason to why working-class students don’t achieve as well as middle-class students.
A child that is culturally deprived may affect how well they will achieve in school because they may not have important norms, knowledge and more that is expected of them. In addition, a lack of materials such as school uniform, no where quiet to do work and an unhealthy diet can lead to bullying, poor quality work and low energy levels which all contribute to doing worse at school. Not only that, but cultural, economic and educational capital also impact how well children will do.
A middle-class student who is sent to a private school will, in most cases, do better than a child that is in a common state school and can’t afford extra tuition. Therefore, all of these factors contribute to underachievement at school and they all correspond with one another. They are all equally as important and coincide with one another, for example a child that is culturally deprived might also have parents that have a low income and are therefore materially deprived which can lead to having no economic or educational capital.
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