tutor2u | Evaluating Neo-Marxist Views on Education

Study Notes

Evaluating Neo-Marxist Views on Education

A Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, Eduqas

Last updated 26 Nov 2019

In this study note we briefly explore some potential evaluation points on neo-Marxist views on education.

One potential problem for all Marxist theories of education is that people who work in education are famously left-wing biased (!) and often got into education specifically to do the opposite of what they are accused of in these theories. Many teachers give their reason for joining the profession as being that they wanted to make a difference.

However, the neo-Marxist argument that this is often about processes that happen unconsciously or semi-consciously rather than Althusser-style brainwashing seems more credible. While schools might be full of teachers who encourage their pupils to challenge and question authority and who are highly critical of aspects of capitalism and bourgeois society, those same teachers might easily unconsciously assume pupils with a working-class habitus and who always speak and write in a restricted rather than elaborate language code are less able, less engaged, less interested or making less effort.

However, school teachers come from a wide range of social backgrounds. As the percentage of pupils from a working-class background going on to university degrees has increased, so the number of teachers from a working-class background has also increased, and these teachers will recognise working-class habitus and should understand issues relating to language codes. However, some would argue that, whatever someone’s background, by the time that person is working as a teacher they have become middle-class and will have adopted a middle-class habitus. However, if this is the case, then that suggests it is less deeply-ingrained than Bourdieu suggests.

Interactionists would argue that what is being described here is teachers and pupils constructing meaning from their interactions and, while social class is clearly a key factor, social actors have agency to respond to one another in these ways and not driven by the fundamental structures of society. Many neo-Marxists would have some agreement with this, showing they do not fit neatly into a structure/action macro/micro typology.

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