In the UK, the educational failure of Black and Ethnic Minority young people, is largely blamed not on systemic racism, but on a lack of ‘role models’. Multiple initiatives exist to diversify the teaching workforce justified on the basis of the need to provide more role models to inspire young people. These initiatives contain naïve assumptions of culture matching, and gender matching. They simplify the relationships between teachers and students to ones of mimicry and ignore the experiences of the teachers involved. A new study by Patricia Alexander (pictured), focuses on teachers’ experiences. In this post I summarise what she found when she spoke to Black and Ethnic Minority teachers who identify as role models.
Posts Tagged ‘teachers’
We are now coming to the end of the reality TV series Tough Young Teachers. This show, screened by UK publicly-funded youth channel BBC Three, focuses on the lives of six beginning teachers in ‘challenging’ London schools. We see these new teachers taking their first lessons. We hear their frustrations and their triumphs. We follow their progress through the ups and downs of the year. This makes good television, as the number of excited tweets each week using #ToughYoungTeachers indicates. However, among the enthusiasm is a strand of critique and concern coordinated by TeacherROAR, for the show focuses not on any first year teachers but on those who enter teaching through a relatively small but rapidly expanding route into teaching: Teach First. Politically popular with both the Labour party and the Conservatives, Teach First brings many fantastic – mostly young – people into teaching. So why the resistance? While Michael Gove may see this as yet more evidence that many teachers are leftie ‘enemies of promise’ more interested in ideology than in supporting young people, in this post Heather shows why we really should be concerned about Teach First and its celebrity teachers.
Last week, David Laws, Minister for Education, attacked teachers and careers educators for creating a culture of ‘depressingly low expectations’ and holding back disadvantaged children by discouraging them from ‘aiming for the stars’. Laws argued that the flatlining of ‘social mobility’ (highlighted by Alan Milburn’s recent report) was not simply the result of poverty but a lack of ambition among teachers which led young people to only consider local employers and ‘lower status’ careers:
Even in my own constituency, Yeovil, which would not be regarded as one of the deprivation blackspots of the country, most young people would regard going into investment banking as almost leaving the country, because it’s a different world… They will often be encouraged to think it is beyond them…. there are too many young people who think that the two or three big employers in their local town are the limit of their aspiration.
Laws is not a lone voice here. Only a few weeks ago, Michael Gove spoke at the Conservative Party Conference about a ‘soft bigotry’ of low expectations among teachers which was failing to address the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils.
Scholarship in the sociology of education has critically engaged with the ways in which discourses of ‘aspiration’ circulate across government policy and how these constitute particular kinds of pupil – and parent – subjects. This research, including my own work with Heather and elsewhere with Sumi Hollingworth – has problematised asocial discourses of ‘low aspirations’. As I have previously argued on this blog, such individualising discourses negate the wider economic structures within which aspirations can be realised.