When Jade Goody manoeuvred her body through an elastic band in her 2002 UK Big Brother audition video, little can she have imagined that a mere 11 years later she would be cited alongside Italian neo-marxist Antonio Gramsci as the twin inspirations for government education policy. She was inscribed thus, within UK Minister Michael Gove’s speech this week to The Social Market Foundation. Gove’s speech is in this and other ways remarkable as he presents himself as standing up for equality and social mobility against the forces of educational progressivism. In this post I argue that he does this through a doublespeak in which he simultaneously reasserts elitism.
We’re now about half way through the group interviews with young people aged 14 to 17. When we finish next term we will have talked to about 150 people across six schools in London, the South West and the North West of England. All school names used are pseudonyms. From these data we are going to select 12 celebrities to explore as case studies – delving into the discourses of aspiration that feature in talk about them. In a recent meeting we came up with this list of 12 based on the first half of the interviews…
We were delighted to see Caitlin Moran telling John Lanchester why celebrity culture is too important to leave to the gossip magazines. She explains how celebrity seems to be confined to the likes of OK, Heat and Hello which tend to reduce the discussion to “always being, ‘well, she’s sweaty, she’s fat, she couldn’t hold it together’, end”. Instead Moran wants to see people “treating it with the importance it deserves”. Laura, Kim and I are spending a lot of time doing just that through this project and feel lucky that we managed to convince the ESRC that it was worth £170k. Despite welcoming this intervention from Moran and her earlier one into debates on feminism, we have a few qualms about one aspect of what she said…
This post is a shout out to Bryony Kimmings‘ new artistic experiment. Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model (CLSRM for short) is a collaboration between Bryony and her 9 year old niece Taylor. Bryony got in touch with us a few weeks ago when we launched this website. She introduced herself:
I am a performance artist. I am based between Cambridge at a venue called the Junction and Soho Theatre and Southbank Centre in London. A contact in the education department of a big theatre sent me a link to your wonderful website and the research project you are currently amidst. Its raising some attention! They thought it would be useful reading for my current project.
The social statement for Bryony’s new project describes how it:
seeks to promote a non-conventional character as a role model for young people using the current strategies and methods available. The aim is to explore whether this character can have the same amount of influence on young people as the current conventional offer. If this succeeds then we can conclude that there is potential for an alternative offer for young people. If this fails we can make a more informed social comment on the current offer and the powers generating it.
The blog has been fairly quiet over the last couple of weeks because we’ve been focused on finding six schools in which to carry out interviews with young people. With schools busier than ever and having more and more demands on them, fewer and fewer feel able to support research activity. So, in the hope of making this process a bit less painful for others (and for ourselves in the future), we’ve compiled ourtop ten tips for negotiating access to schools below.
The ‘Page 3′ debate has kicked off again. For those unaware of the proclivities of the UK tabloid pres. Page 3 is a weekday feature in the Sun newspaper consisting of a photograph of topless woman accompanied by a short caption allegedly about her. In the 1980s feminist politician Clare Short attempted to ban this ‘British institution’. Now there’s a new petition calling for the Sun to voluntarily pull the feature. Page 3 has been a route into celebrity for a small number of women from Sam Fox onwards (and you have to love the irony of her later coming out as lesbian) but what has this to do with young people’s aspirations? I explore that in this post but first I need to say something about my own changing position on Page 3.
This summer young people aged 16 across England and Wales had confidence in their examination results undermined by being given different grades than would have been awarded in January for the same work. Now UK Education Minister Michael Gove can position himself as the restorer of faith in our academic system by announcing an end to modular assessments and multiple exam boards and their replacement from 2017 with new single end of course examinations and just one government-endorsed exam board.
Who comes to mind when we think about contemporary celebrities? Perhaps like me you watched Summer 2012’s UK Celebrity Big Brother so it’s Julian Clary, Julie Goodyear and Danica Thrall who stood out from the gang of A-to-Z-listers. Or, if you spent a summer watching the Olympics and Paralympics, perhaps it’s ‘our’ medal winners. In my first post I want to mention a few less talked about sporting celebrities – those famous for throwing arrows.