The cultural deprivation theory implies that the upper class are better off in all areas when compared to the working class and this is especially seen in education and schools. The implication of the cultural deprivation theory is that people who are working class have themselves to blame for the failure of their children in education. Alternately, the culture of the upper class, it is claimed, is responsible for parents suitably pushing their children to succeed at school.
Marxism influences cultural capital. This means that people should not assume that the higher class is far better than the working class. Pierre Bourdieu argues that the working class failure is the fault of the education system, not working class culture.
The major role of the education system is cultural reproduction. This is the reproduction of the culture of the dominant classes. These groups have the power to impose meanings and to impose them as legitimate. They are able to define their own culture as worthy of being sought and possessed and to establish it as the basis for knowledge in the education system. However, there is no way of showing that they are any better or worse than other subcultures in society.
Bourdieu refers to possession of the dominant culture as cultural capital because with the education system it can be translated into wealth and power. Cultural capital is not evenly distributed throughout the class structure, and this largely accounts for class differences in educational attainment. People who have upper class backgrounds have a built in advantage because they have been socialised in that dominant culture. Bourdieu says that the education attainment of social groups is therefore directly related to the amount of cultural capital they possess. Thus middle-class students have higher success rates than working-class students because middle class subcultures are closer to the dominant culture.
Three theorists who would argue that a ‘Ruling Class Ideology’ exists are Marx, Althusser and Gramsci. They believe that education has been developed by the bourgeoisie and that the working class have never been able to find any form of ownership in the education system they are confronted with.
Educational achievement can depend on:
1. Social labelling
2. Access to money
3. Self-fulfilling prophecy – those born to money will succeed and those born in poverty will not.
5. ‘False class consciousness’
6. Parental attitudes
7. Environmental factors
Courtesy of Lee Bryant, Director of Sixth Form, Anglo-European School, Ingatestone, Essex