In a previous post, I talked about the recognition and realisation rule that was described by Basil Bernstein (cf. 2000). This rule was related to the legitimate text which is any text (including behaviour, wearing of a uniform, following rules) that a student produced while at school. The recognition and realisation of the legitimate text involves “the student producing what counts as the legitimate text” (Bernstein, 2000, p. xvi). It is often not really explicit, nor is it always easy to interpret even when it is explicit, but the legitimate text can make or break an educational career.
Bernstein (2000) also argued that producing the legitimate text involved more than just the content a teacher is supposed to be transferring. Thus, in a Math class or an English class or a PE class or a History class, more than just the content is being covered. While I’ve talked about the hidden curriculum (see here, here, here – I really love this stuff!), he was talking about the way that classrooms teach us about demarcating knowledge, about putting things into boxes and only talking Math in Math class (even though, clearly, literacy and numeracy are inexorably linked and you can’t calculate how long the train will take to reach Brunswick Street station if it leaves Oxley at 2.10 unless you can actually read the question). He suggested that the demarcating of knowledge transforms knowledge into power and control relations, so that ideologies can be transmitted (cf. Bernstein, 2000). He said that:
We have a plethora of studies showing the function of education in the reproduction of inequalities; class, gender, race, region, religion. Classrooms have been subject to numerous descriptions, including their role in legitimising some identities and deligitimising others … From all these perspectives pedagogic communication is often viewed as a carrier, a relay for ideological messages and for external power relations, or, in contrast, as an apparently neutral carrier or relay of skills of various kinds.
(Bernstein, 2000, p. 25).
It appears that Bernstein (2000) is arguing that:
- Schools appear to heighten, rather than reduce, the inequalities between groups.
- Schools have a role in naming and shaming the identities of their subjects, because they value some identities and devalue others.
- Schools are able to do this because they appear to be neutral, and words like meritocracy make this possible.
- Schools put the blame on students for their failures, so that it is not the way that the messages are targeted that are the problems, rather it is a failure of the student to do what they’re told, when they’re told and how they’re told that is the problem.
I guess that’s why people homeschool.