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Some theorists think that cultural deprivation is the reason why working class children fail and middle class children succeed. To succeed in education you will need cultural equipment (language, self-discipline and reasoning skills) something that the working class children lack. They lack this equipment because their parents cannot socialise properly with their children, so these children grow up culturally deprived leading to their under-achievement at school. Whereas middle class children have parents who can socialise properly with them, giving them all the cultural equipment they need.

Intellectual development is one aspect to cultural deprivation. Many theorists argue that many working class children lack equipment at home for example books and toys, so they can’t prepare themselves for school. The reason for the lack of equipment is because their parents get low paid working jobs so they can’t afford the equipment. Even if the parents can afford books J.W.B Douglas (1964) found that the parents wouldn’t help their children with reading or give them enough support for school. Basil Bernstein and Douglas Young (1967) found that middle class mothers would buy books and toys that would encourage their thinking and reasoning skills and prepare children for school.

Language is another aspect to cultural deprivation. Carl Bereiter and Siegfried Engelmann (1966) found that language used in the lower class lacks quality and they communicate through gestures single words or disjointed phrases. As a result the children fail to develop the necessary language skills. They grow up unable to describe, explain and compare. So when it came to the tests they would not gain many marks when any question was to describe, explain or compare.

Basil Bernstein (1975) found differences between the two types of family and made two language codes between both families. The restricted code is the speech code of the working class. It has a limited vocabulary which is based on short, simple and unfinished sentences. The speech is predictable and sometimes gestures are used instead. It is called the restricted code because the language is very restricted. It is not a wide range of words and the speaker assumes that the listener is on the same level as them.

The elaborate code is spoke by the middle class. It has a wider range of vocabulary and is based on longer, more complex sentences. The speaker does not assume that the listener is on the same level so they use language to spell out a meaning if their vocabulary is too complex.

These differences in speech give the middle class children an advantage in school and puts the working class children at a disadvantage. This is because the elaborate code is the language used by teachers, text books and exams. Not only is it seen as the correct way to speak but more effective for analysing and reasoning which is essential in education. Early socialisation into the elaborate code means that middle class children are already using the code when they start school. This makes them feel at home when at school giving them confidence going into exams. Whereas working class children are lacking the code and feel excluded when everyone is speaking in the elaborate code and everything is written in the elaborate code which leads to their under-achievement.

Many people criticise that Bernstein is a cultural deprivation theorist as he describes the working class lacking quality. However unlike most cultural deprivation theorists Bernstein came to a conclusion that not just the home is the reason for working class children’s failure but the school is another reason for why working class children fail. Bernstein argues that the school fails to teach the working class children the elaborate code.

Attitudes and values is the final aspect to cultural deprivation. Theorists argue that parents’ attitudes and values is a key factor for their children’s success or failure. For example Douglas found that working class parents placed less value on education, not determined on their child succeeding, gave them hardly any support and had no interest in their education. Also, working class parents wouldn’t attend school to discuss their child progress, resulting in the child’s motivation levels decreasing.

Leon Feinstein found that working class parents lack of interest in education was the main reason for their child’s failure and was even more important than the lack of books, toys or factors at school. Feinstein says that the reason why middle class succeed is because their parents provide them with the proper motivation and support. According to cultural deprivation theorists, large sections of the working class have different targets, beliefs, attitudes and values from the rest of society and is another reason why working class children fail at school.

Herbert Hyman (1967) says that the working class believe that they have a small chance of individual advancement and place little faith in get a high status job. Therefore they put no hard work into education and are less willing to make sacrifices, so they leave school early looking for a manual job.

Barry Sugarman (1970) says that the working class has four key features that act as barriers to educational achievement. Fatalism is a belief in fate - that “whatever will be, will be” and there is nothing you can do to change who you are. However the middle class would disagree with this as they believe that you can change who you are by working hard for yourself. Collectivism is that being a part of a group who are similar is better than being a standing out student full of success. However the middle class believe that you should not be a follower in a group, you should stand out to say that you are the best person and everybody should pick you for university or job placements. Immediate gratification is a belief to find pleasure now rather than work hard to get a better future. However middle class believe that making sacrifices now will find you pleasure in the future. Present time orientation is believed to seethe present more important than the future and not have long term goals. However middle class will see that planning for the future is the key to a successful life.

However Nell Keddie (1973) describes cultural deprivation as a myth and sees it as a way of blaming the victim. She disagrees that working class children fail due to having a poor background. She argues that the working class children are culturally different not deprived. They fail in school because they are put in an environment that is dominated by middle class values and are put at a disadvantage. Keddie argues that instead of seeing working class as hopeless, schools should recognise that these children need help and give them the correct support.

Barry Troyna and Jenny Williams (1986) argue that the problem is not the child’s language but the school’s attitude towards it. They say that teachers have a speech hierarchy. Middle class first, working class second and black last.

Tessa Blackstone and Jo Mortimore (1994) disagreed with the statement that working class parents don’t attend school because of their lack of interest about their child’s education. It’s because of their multiple or long hour jobs to earn them enough money to keep their family under a roof and keep their child in education. Their long hour jobs means they cannot attend these after school events due to work. Also at home they may want to help their children in education but lack the knowledge and education to do so. Evidence was found that schools filled with mainly working class children provided less parents evenings so it was harder for parents to see their child’s progress.

Overall I think that it is not the working class backgrounds fault. I feel that the education system has changed a lot from the 1950’s to now. For example I agree with Keddie that the working class are different not deprived as the working class children felt that they were being ignored and left out. Comparing it to today, if there are children that struggle they are put in a group of students on the same level as them and with a teacher who they will understand. Also the teachers speech hierarchy has changed with everyone’s speech being equal.

I also agree with Blackstone and Mortimore saying that parents work hard and long and this is the reason why they miss parent evenings. Also this statement sound true because both parents are probably working hard and long to keep their child in education and provide a work environment at home. Whereas today parents evenings last longer so parents can come at the best time for them. Also if parents still cannot attend they phone details are usually given and the child’s progress is discussed over the phone. Also evidence about the schools filled with mainly working class children has less parents evenings seems to look like that the schools have made a judgement about working class parents without any evidence of their own.

So overall I believe that it was not the working classes fault due to the major change in the education system, making everybody equal.

Sanjeev Purewal

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