Posts Tagged ‘social class’

Kim on Channel 4 news – poverty not aspirations!

Written by Kim. Posted in News

In case you didn’t see it, on Wednesday, Sir Michael Wilshaw – Chief Inspector for Schools (Ofsted) – released his annual report on the state of education in England.  Identifying major gaps and regional variations in educational attainment,  Wilshaw blamed low expectations and mediocre teaching while dismissing ‘real poverty’ :

I suppose what I would say to them [regions that are struggling] is to raise your aspirations and make your aspirations for your young people really clear and that poverty is no barrier to success and I think that is what London has proved more than anything. (BBC 11/12/13)

As you will know from our past blog posts, Wilshaw is the latest in a number of politicians and government figures who have explained educational differences through recourse to  individualised explanations rather than structural causes – ignoring both a raft of research (including our own) that reveals that young people from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds have no shortage of aspirations, and an international body of evidence that shows time and time again that unless income inequality and poverty are tackled, schools and teachers can only do so much.

Such comments come at a time of growing poverty in England – evidenced by the tripling of families using food banks, and growth of in-work poverty - arguably exacerbated by the government’s punitive welfare reforms.  To ignore the role of poverty in shaping young people’s lives and educational outcomes is not simply ignorant but irresponsible.

kim channel 4After a flurry of calls and cajoling from her university press office, Kim was interviewed by Channel 4 reporters on Wednesday afternoon. She appears very briefly in this Channel 4 report – aired on Wednesday night – challenging Wilshaw’s comments that poverty of aspiration rather than real poverty is to blame for educational inequality.

(Bit of a shame they spelt Kim’s name wrong but you can’t have it all…..)

‘Crap town slags’, Gove and ‘Educating Rita’: some (more) thoughts on aspiration and ‘class mobility’

Written by Kim. Posted in Featured, News

At the gym last week, I listened to the latest episode in one of my favourite podcasts, ‘The Slate Culture Gabfest’, a funny, critical and intelligent review of cultural ‘happenings’ from film to literature. In the show, the presenters interviewed fashion commentator Simon Doonan about his new book ‘Asylum’, a collection of essays on the fashion industry’s ‘glamorous madness and stylish insanity’. Leaving aside my issues with this kind of highly selective appropriation and celebration of ‘madness’ and ‘inclusivity’ within the art and fashion world, I was intrigued by Doonan’s account of his literal and social journey from his working-class parents’ home in ‘the boonies’ (the suburbs of Reading) to become part of New York’s fashion elite. In this post, I share some of my reflections on the significance of Doonan’s story and how it led me back to Michael Gove’s class project.

The job of the royal family is to be a family: can celebrity elites William and Kate keep up the good work?

Written by Heather. Posted in Featured, News

William and KateYesterday David Cameron tweeted: “I’m delighted for the Duke and Duchess now their son has been born. The whole country will celebrate. They’ll make wonderful parents.” Like many celebrity elites and as a ‘super class’ of the very rich and privileged the security of the royal family as a national institution is partly dependent on a contradictory cult of ordinariness. This is best nurtured through the managed intimacy of living a family life in the public eye. In Michael Billig’s words, ‘the job of the royal family is to be a family’. In this guest post Anita Biressi and Heather Nunn reveal the class camouflage that helps keep the royal family popular.

Youth and the ‘enterprise culture’: forgetting the lessons of the 1980s?

Written by Kim. Posted in News

‘Now’ can feel a lot like ‘then’ – the 1980s – with young people urged to ‘raise their aspirations’, take ‘responsibility’ and grasp the challenge of ‘enterprise’; all in a political context of high youth unemployment and drastic ‘reforms’ to welfare entitlements. Again we hear calls for ‘a nation of young entrepreneurs’. In this guest blog post, Robert MacDonald reflects more critically on the lessons we might learn from research in the 1980s about youth and ‘the enterprise culture’.

From Ladette to Lady: Kerry Katona vs. Cheryl Cole

Written by Heather. Posted in News

Kerry Katona and Cheryl Cole have similar personal histories, and comparable journeys to fame. Both come from distinctly working-class families in the north of England, both have been in girl bands; in reality shows; and in very well publicised marriages. But their realities now are polls apart. In this guest post, Laura Clancy asks: How, and why, has Cole transgressed her working-class roots to become the ‘nation’s sweetheart’, idolised by girls as the pinnacle of femininity, whilst Katona is mocked for being a ‘chav’- the ultimate working-class insult? Why is fame and success measured by distance from working-class-ness?

Snog Marry Avoid: The moral economies of whiteness

Written by Kim. Posted in News

In this guest post for the CelebYouth blog, Gemma Ahearne a PhD student from Liverpool John Moores University, looks at the regulation of class and gender in UK TV programme Snog Marry Avoid in which ‘ordinary’ women can get their 15 minutes of fame by transforming from ‘bad girls’ to ‘good girls’ and subjecting themselves to the scrutiny of the male audience and the camera.

Mr Sneery strikes again: Gove’s Canon, ‘policy-based evidence making’ and the screen discourse of ‘low aspirations’

Written by Kim. Posted in News

On 9th May, The Education Secretary Michael Gove delivered a keynote speech at a conference hosted by Brighton College (The Sunday Times ‘Best Independent School’ no less). The title – What does it mean to be an educated person? is provocative enough, but the full speech is really something else. There has already been a lot of excellent analysis of Gove’s sneering and patronising speech on twitter, in cartoon form, on several blogs (a great example being this by The Plashing Vole), among professional associations, and in the news.  We don’t want to repeat too much of this, but rather to draw attention to three key issues about education reform and aspirations discourse under this government – crystalised within Gove’s speech – which continue to raise concern for us.

Brian Cox, TV talent shows and the BBC’s ‘Bad pedagogy’

Written by Kim. Posted in News

On 7th May the UK’s Guardian newspaper carried a short story headlined “Brian Cox urges BBC to do more to educate viewers”. It reports that, in an interview in Radio Times, Physicist and Science TV presenter Brian Cox said:

Television is the most powerful way of getting ideas across. Often, it doesn’t take its responsibilities seriously. … We have had enough of talent shows. I don’t want my kids exposed to them and get it into their minds there’s a shortcut to riches. I want them to go to university and work hard for everything they get.

While we welcome the recognition of the importance of television as a pedagogical tool, we are troubled by some of the assumptions underlying Cox’s statement about young people’s aspirations and their relationship to Reality TV talent shows.  In this blog, Kim and Heather share their concerns.

‘Aspirational’ youth, the craft of interviewing, and enforced narratives

Written by Kim. Posted in News

Interviewer: Is there anything you would like to be known for [in the future]?

Jason:   Um, no, not right now.

Our first phase of data collection is almost complete, and the team are currently working their way through pages upon pages of transcripts from 24 group interviews with year 10 and 12 pupils from six schools across England. In this post, Kim reflects on some of the emerging findings and the thornier methodological issues arising for us as a team.

Gove, Goody and Gramsci: equity cannot come through elitism

Written by Heather. Posted in Featured, News

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.

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