Miseducation inequality education and the working classes

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miseducation inequality education and the working classes

Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes by Diane Reay

I was chatting to a friend at work today, we are working on a project together and it was the first time we had caught up in ages – and I mentioned I had just finished reading this book. She is doing her PhD and had originally thought to use Bourdieu for her theoretical framework and so she had read some Reay because Reay uses him too. But I was a little surprised by what I decided to tell her about this book. Mostly, I told her that Reay had been a coal miner’s daughter who had first gone to a grammar school and then to Cambridge University, (I seem to have misremembered that – she in fact doesn’t make it clear which ‘good’ university she went to), and that on her first outing, a ball for new students, she was humiliated when she arrived by a group of young men, nominally her ‘peers’, who came over to her and asked if they had seen her earlier in the day at Woolworths. The implication being that she was a check-out chick – that is, they were letting her know she was lower class.

When I started this review the other day I didn’t include that story at all, which made me wonder why not. This book isn’t really an academic book – at least, not in the same sense that the other two books by the author I’ve read have been academic books. As she says at one point, in this book she barely mentions Bourdieu, which, given the important role he’s played in her research over the years, even she can’t help finding that a little odd.

This book is a nice introduction to the impact social class has on the possibility of education of the working class in England – and I mean that quite literally, that ‘possibility’ word. The point is that people like Reay, who is now a professor at both Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, are often presented as proof that if only the working class just applied themselves they too could succeed. That is, in a world based on merit, her success is proof that the system works.

What is seriously interesting here isn’t just that she provides a wealth of information to show just how heavily stacked against the working class the education system is – but what I mentioned to another friend at work about this book the other day that also didn’t make it into my previous and now abandoned review. That is, that this book has made me hyper-conscious of just how often we think that education is about ‘helping’ the working class to leave the working class. That education for the working class means becoming something other than what they previously where – and not in the sense of a kind of homage to Heraclitus, to the world as flux, where you can’t stand in the same river twice, where everything you learn changes you – no, rather that our culture sees only two paths available for working class youth: the ‘you’ve wasted your opportunity’ path so as to be stuck in a kind of uncultured hell of violence and ignorance or the virtuous path that leads to escape by any means necessary.

And such an escape from the working class also means an escape from everything and everyone the child has ever known and loved. The escape means to adopt a new way of speaking, a new way of thinking, a new way of deporting one’s self. This is straight Bourdieu – that you don’t just learn things in your head, but what you learn impacts upon all other aspects of your being. What you learn becomes as much a part of your body as it does a part of your mind.

If you are working class you will be told by everyone the benefits to be gained from an education. But no one tells you the costs. How you will be estranged from those you have known and loved – how you will have joined the class of your family’s ‘betters’ and the betrayal this is likely to imply to you. But also, how you are likely to never feel you fully belong in the new world you have struggled so hard to join. And that by the time you try to choose, by the time you realise there is even a choice to be made, it is likely that it is already too late. That is, by the time you realise you can’t actually make it all the way over the bridge and over into ‘the other side’ you have already travelled too far to go back ‘to where you came from’. Your brain has changed, your body has changed, your voice has changed. You now belong no where.

She does present an alternative, though. Rather than proposing we ‘rescue’ the lucky and worthy few from the working class, an idea that implies the majority deserve their fate and should be left to it, she says we should find ways to raise the working class with their children, rather than seeking to raise some of their children from the working class.

This book provides an unflinching look at how the education system is stacked against working class children, how the system of ‘academy schools’ and other forms of privatisation by stealth in the UK is making matters worse, how even the students marked as ‘successes’ end up battered and bruised by the process of education, and how the need for change ought to be one of the major rallying cries of our age, but is proving anything but. If you ever find yourself thinking, ‘well, if only the working class would apply themselves more, if only they would put in some effort, then they would receive the rewards the middle class have’ – then this book needs to be moved up your ‘to read’ pile.

She covers in this book some of the research she discusses in more depth in her two previous books. When I teach my sociology of education class I always quote a part of her book Class Work, where a middle class mother looks back on her primary school education and says she was happy there, but then can’t think of a single thing that happened in her seven years of primary school to justify it being remembered as a happy time (which, when you think of it, is just about the definition of happiness, in many ways). But then I also quote the working class mother whose experience of primary school was a series of humiliations, misunderstandings and breathtaking abuse from her teachers. You could read this book rather than reading her other books – or you could read this book as a stepping stone towards deciding to read her other two books. I would highly recommend the latter option.
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A Walk in My Shoes: Social Justice in Education Full Documentary

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Diane Reay

Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes

Recommend to library. North and South American customers click here. Drawing on over interviews, the book, part of the 21st Century Standpoints series published in association with the British Sociological Association, includes rich, vivid stories from working class children and young people. It looks at class identity, the inadequate sticking plaster of social mobility, and the effects of wider economic and social class relationships on working class educational experiences. The book addresses the urgent question of why the working classes are still faring so much worse than the upper and middle classes in education.

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Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes. Diane Reay. Policy Press. Find this book:. Fees for state secondary education were abolished in , over 70 years ago; however, class inequalities in UK education persist to this day. In Miseducation: Inequality, Education and the Working Classes , Diane Reay draws on interviews with over children, as well as her own experiences growing up in a working-class family, to show that children are educated differently depending on their social position.

The way class works in education shifts and changes over time, but what do not change are the gross inequalities that are generated through its workings Reay , p. Skip to main content. Advertisement Hide. Miseducation: inequality, education and the working classes. Diane Reay Policy Press, Book Review First Online: 16 April

Specially selected by Diane Reay, this is a collection of innovative and thought-provoking recently published papers that 'use' Bourdieu to put theory into practice in order to understand and analyse educational problems. Bourdieu's work is renowned for its focus on inequalities and its centering of social justice. The contributions utilise a wide range of diverse concepts in Bourdieu's theoretical 'tool-kit', and address educational inequalities across different aspects of the educational system — from higher education and parental choice of schooling, to teachers' professional development and the PE classroom. The chapters in this book were all originally published as articles in Taylor and Francis journals. Her main research interests are social justice issues in education, Pierre Bourdieu's social theory and cultural analyses of social class, race and gender. A webjournal publishing reviews of recent publications books, journal issues in the humanities and social sciences.


  1. Newsfastsuche says:

    Miseducation by Diane Reay (ebook)

  2. Lior L. says:

    Book Review: Miseducation - Inequality, education and the working classes | Workers' Liberty

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