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Asses the View That Working Class Children Underachieve Because They Are Culturally Deprived


Submitted By AmyPownall
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Asses The View That Working Class Children Underachieve Because They Are Culturally Deprived

There are many cultural deficiencies often associated with a child’s potential and achievement in education. Cultural deprivation is a theory that many working-class children are inadequately socialised from a young age, and therefore lack the “correct” culture appropriate for a successful education.

Cultural deprivation theorists agree that humans acquire basic attitudes and values needed for education through primary socialisation in the family. However, many working class families do this inadequately, therefore their children become culturally deprived. There are three main aspects of cultural deprivation: intellectual development- which refers to the development of thinking and reasoning skills eg solving problems. Traditional Marxists believe that working class families lack educational books and toys that stimulate a child’s intellectual development, as they cannot afford them. Therefore children start school without the skills allowing them to progress. Douglas found that working class children scored lower than middle class children in intellectual tests. Bernstein and Douglas found that middle class mothers are more likely to buy educational toys to encourage their child’s learning from an early age; to assist the development of their thinking and reasoning skills, thus giving them a steady start and more likely to lead to educational success.

Engelmen and Bereiter claim that language used by working-class families is deficient. As a result, the fail to develop the necessary language skills and grow up incapable of abstract thinking. Bernstein identified two types of language, the restricted code and the elaborate code, which he claims to be partly responsible for the underachievement of working-class children. The restricted code is used by the working-class and includes a lot of hand gestures, grammatically incorrect sentences and restricted vocabulary. Their speech is descriptive and context bound, whilst assuming the listener understands the topic of their conversation. The elaborated code is used by the middle-class and includes good vocabulary, grammatically correct and complex sentences, which are not context bound. This gives working-class children a disadvantage in school as education is based around the elaborated code. Teachers communicate using the elaborated code, assuming that their pupils understand that style of language. Text books contain complex vocabulary and sentences and exam questions are written in the elaborated code. Therefore the working-class student is unable to understand the information to interpret, and they are unable to understand the question to then answer correctly. Early socialisation of the elaborated code means that middle class students are already fluent users when they begin schools and are more likely to be successful.

Cultural deprivation theorists argue that parent’s attitudes and value are a key factor in underachieving. Feinstein found that working class parents were less ambitious for their children and took little interest in their education. They were unconcerned and have been through the same cycle, so they are unable to help with their child’s homework and lack support. As a result, children had low motivation levels for school and struggled to engage in their learning. Sugarman’s idea of fatalism argues that working class have the idea of “whatever will be will be”. They think they are going to fail within education from the offset, so why bother. Hyman also says that working class families have present time orientation goals, they do things for the now instead of their future. This could lead to underachievement as they only think for what is happening now, and not what will benefit them in the future.

Another factor which affects working class children underachieve is within the home. Housing can affect underachievement directly and indirectly. A direct input is by over-crowding. This affects the child by distractions, making the child having a lack of sleep therefore less focus in school to learn. Furthermore, the distractions can make it difficult for the student to study and finish homework at home, allowing them to fall behind. Housing can affect indirectly by causing health problems. For example, over-crowding can cause accidents. Damp conditions in working-class houses can cause respiratory problems such as asthma. These can lead to multiple hospital visits, which decreases attendance and can again allow the student to fall behind. Lastly, a constant change of accommodation can leave the child feeling a lack of stability and can cause distress. These factors affect the child’s achievement by a lack of concentration, illness and attendance.

Alternatively, another factor that effects underachievement is the cost of education. With increasing use of external equipment needed for education, eg laptops and calculators, and a lack of financial support, working class children have much greater risk of underachieving. This is referred to as “the cost of free schooling” by David Bull (1980).

Although cultural deprivation theorists have provided some evidence for the effects on educational achievement, there are still some criticisms of this approach. Keddie describes cultural deprivation as a myth and a victim blaming explanation. She argues working class families are different, and not deprived, and fail because of biases in educational system which put working class students at a disadvantage.

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