I’m sure you remember the news a year or so ago about the closure of libraries? Well now it seems other public cultural spaces are also to suffer with museums and galleries under threat.
Almost a quarter have closed all or part of their sites, most alarmingly perhaps is the hit school services are taking. Many children only go to these places with school; is a new culture-deprived generation going to emerge? What effects will this have? Studies show the more culture a child experiences the better they achieve throughout their school career.
Elias and Scotson (2008) recognised how one group monopolises and uses sources of power to stigmatise others, later applying this to class. The education system shows that the dominant classes’ values are expressed, leaving working-class students at a disadvantage. Bernstein (1973) identified two forms of language, the elaborated code which is context-independent and universal and the restricted code which is context-bound and consists of less complex vocabulary. Whereas middle-class children are well equipped to deal with both, working-class pupils are disadvantaged as they are only accustomed to the restricted code. Therefore, middle-class children are more likely to succeed, leaving the working-classes to be viewed as less intelligent, hence, creating a cycle of inequality due to the social and cultural differences experienced by the classes. However, Bernstein has been criticised for his crude, stereotypical distinctions between the middle and working classes (Rosen, 1974).
Bourdieu argues cultural capital allows one class to hold an advantage in education, stating the dominant culture is misrecognised by the subordinate classes as legitimate; meaning excellence and academic achievement are defined in terms of the dominant cultural paradigm. Therefore, those who receive the appropriate cultural training are most likely to succeed (Jenkins, 2002). Also, Bourdieu and Passeron (1990) claimed the disposition of students to capitalise on their experience and thus succeed depends on the chances attached to the social classes. On the other hand, Halsey et al (1980) criticised Bourdieu since they saw state education as creating cultural capital in those who were from backgrounds which consisted of no formal education, thus suggesting education advocates social mobility rather than reproducing class inequality (Jenkins, 2002).
Already the extent of relevant cultural experiences affects grades since education has a very middle-class atmosphere; so, with the increased limitations on the ability of some to access cultural spaces such as museums and libraries will the gap between middle-class achievement and working-class achievement widen in the years to come?