Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see – Neil Postman

School and mothers’ work

I’m currently reading a book called Mothering for Schooling. It’s a research book based on an institutional ethnographic method, which aims to “realise the principles of a sociology for women” (emphasis in original) (Griffiths & Smith, 2005, p. 2). However, they argue, that it is more correctly a sociology of people as it is “located in the contradiction between people’s experiences as they are active, expert practitioners in their everyday worlds, and the organization of those everyday world by social relations that are not fully visible from the local, experiential perspective” (Griffiths & Smith, 2005, p. 2).

As ethnographers, they took experiences of their daily lives as the starting point and then added interviews with mothers and teachers (Griffiths & Smith, 2005). As it is concerned with mother’s work to prepare children for school, the perspective is in people’s experience, their daily lives and their doings that reveals the organisation and social relations that may be invisible in more broad investigations of the social world. This approach has much in a common with case study (cf. Glesne, 2006; Flyvberg, 2005). Flyvbjerg (2006) argues that good case study research contains a “substantial element of narrative” which is “often a sign that the study has uncovered a particularly rich problematic” (p. 237). The use of a case study reveals a large quantity of information about the case because, as Stake (1995) has argued, the role of case study research is to understand the phenomenon and the associated “political, social, historical and especially personal contexts” (p. 17) that surround the case under inquiry.

In their book, the introduction, written by Michael Apple, argues that:

There are very real class and race differences in schooling … [there is] hidden gendered labor that stands behind school success and failure.

(Apple, 2005 in Griffiths & Smith, 2005, p. vii)

In particular, Apple (2005 in Griffiths & Smith, 2005, p. vii) argues, it must be acknowledged that there is much hard work that mothers do and how mothers’ different economic positions (middle class vs. working class) enable their children to have different experiences in schools

Apple argues that there needs to be a connection between

these differences back to the kinds of educational reforms that currently dominate the educational landscape.

(Apple, 2005 in Griffiths & Smith, 2005, p. vii)

He argues that, as a community, we need to reflect on the realities of educational reform to examine whether current policies in education

will actually interrupt or exacerbate the social differences that schooling now produces. Only a focus on the intersections of, say, class and gender, can illuminate why such policies and practices are misguided.

(Apple, 2005 in Griffiths & Smith, 2005, p. vii)

Apple’s (2005 in Griffiths & Smith, 2005, p. vii) introduction argues, further to the other posts I’ve made, that the realities of our ‘meritocratic’ system of education is that, far from being a level playing field, there are real differences that affect real children and prevent some from every experiencing success in schools. Mothers’ work, and the types of activities middle class mothers engage in to prepare their children for school, is just one of those differences.


2 Responses to “School and mothers’ work”

    • Rebecca English

      Wow Amy, that looks amazing. Are you at a university? Do you want to work together to turn this blog post into a co-authored journal article? Or two?


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