Some working-class families and their struggles over education: how can we know what is real?

Collier, R., 2001. Some working-class families and their struggles over education: how can we know what is real? PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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My study is an account of two journeys, one ethnographic and the other epistemological. The first is set within the context of a history of educational disadvantage that has persisted in this country since the implementation of the 1944 Education Act. My first journey leads on from this and I explore the relationship between teachers from an infant, a junior and a comprehensive school with the children and parents from 25 families living in a particular working-class community for whom the schools provide education. The teachers consider that these families do not benefit from education and wish to change this. The research question asks: what are the practical problems facing schools in their communities as understood by the families and teachers concerned. I engage in a series of discourses and dialogues with the teachers, families and some school governors In order to draw up a map of my own of this terrain. These reveal that they, too, have their own maps. Additionally, I consult the comprehensive school's GCSE examination results and disciplinary records, I conclude that not only the children from these 25 families but the pupils from this whole community are failing to access effective education. I argue that this community is experiencing the effects of cultural disintegration and that the pupils' failure to access effective education stems from cultural misunderstanding and disaffection between schools and community. I make recommendations for changes to the schools aimed at countering this, based on evidence I have accumulated. I conclude by proposing that the results of my study have major implications concerning present central government policy and for the selection and training of teachers.

I begin to have doubts concerning the fit between the theoretical underpinning for this study and the emerging data. Subsequently, I experience a crisis in my professional/personal life that makes me question my capacity to observe and interpret effectively. A further encounter with the philosopher, David Hume, calls into question the possibility of knowing about the world around us. This motivates me to embark upon my second, epistemological, journey in an attempt to develop a more applicable theoretical template for my map and for those of others I encounter on my ethnographic journey. The question addressed on this journey asks: is it possible to know about what is real within such a context of overlapping, differing and conflicting perspectives that also include my own.

In Part Two I explore the nature of socially constructed reality, emerging from those sceptical arguments that question our capacity to know and to understand. The developing theory is continually focused back upon the data from my ethnographic inquiry in Part One. The theory also reflects back on to itself and continually challenges its own premise. I make use of the epithet 'we', in Part Two, as a means of situating the theoretical development into a more public arena. This reminds the reader to check continuously regarding common ground between us. The theory affirms that what is real for us is formed at the unpredictable interface between our beliefs, our knowledge/thoughts about our constructions of our worlds and our experiences. It confirms the collective nature of our constructions and the centrality of culture that enables us to become identified with and participate in our social milieu as a means of involving us in the process of constructing ourselves within our worlds.

Finally, this theoretical development forms the template for the map of my ethnographic journey, with all the latter's former doubts and reservations. It also, potentially, forms the template for the maps of other educational journeys and for the maps of other individuals encountered by researchers. The implications for social justice in the process of educational provision are identified and my original recommendations concerning the need for radical change in the cultural basis through which it is mediated are confirmed. I conclude by confirming the premise taken up by Hume concerning induction and affirm my conclusions by forming a bridge between the sensitive and cognitive aspects of his philosophical approach.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Collier, R.
Date: 2001
ISBN: 9781369316773
Divisions: Professional Services > Libraries and Learning Resources
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 30 Sep 2020 13:28
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2023 13:29

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