Oh, the irony.

Was roaming a scrap of the wasteland today and came across a crumpled one-page student essay on ways the working classes are disadvantaged.

The scrap of paper is itself a cogent answer, which is why I’m putting it up here.

The text reads…

One way in which the working classes are disadvantage is due to the educational systems. The education system is used to help middle classes pupils get middle class jobs.* Also, education system are greater economically for middle classes due to the money that they own. The working classes are disadvantaged due the lack of money they have so they can’t afford extra support. They are disadvantaged due to the middle class being able to afford better off schools while they have the schools that aren’t as good.**
Another way that the working classes are disadvantaged is due to the health systems. The Black Rapport (
sic) shows that working classes have a higher death and disease rates. This shows that in health department the working classes are worser off than the middle classes due to them being working and living in worse conditions. Also, they die younger compared to middle classes. Also, they are disadvantaged as they can’t afford to pay for better health services and better medical treatment.

Along with the tutor’s markings:

* Who argues this? → Bourdieu
** cultural + economic capital
3/10 Good reference to Black Report — another piece of evidence needed e.g. Lobstein. Education evidence is more commonsensical than sociological → Bourdieu; YCS

Let’s suppose this was written by an A-Level (~senior high school) student, despite that fact that I wrote several essays worse than this at university, and have seen worse papers while tutoring other university students. I can’t think of a university that would do a 10-point essay. I can’t imagine this being primary school work. (As in, since when did Pierre Bourdieu and political economy become primary school reading?)

So this is Secondary school stuff. Then there’s the matter of handwriting cf. word processing. I suspect this will have been at a school whose pupils don’t tend to have laptops, and the school itself works primarily with handwritten assignments. Bluntly: a school without a lot of middle class resources. Possibly catering to people whose first language is not English. Pretty much fits the description of the schools in the area.

I’m also supposing the student was meant to read and regurgitate some Bourdieu, some (Tim?) Lobstein, the (Sir Douglas) Black Report on Health Inequalities, and a Youth Cohort Study on obesity. This is where it gets good.

A working class kid is asked to read, write, and reference a sociological theory on why working class pupils fail at school.

Does the kid succeed? NO. Of course not. The teacher makes sure of that. Or more likely, the target-minded administration probably compels the tutors to push underprepared students through with little or no remedial support. Someone and some thing in this institution are deliberately failing this kid. This is England in the 21st Century, and lower class areas just don’t get the wider network of support services that an affluent area would. Confirming what Bourdieu was on about a few generations earlier.

But oh my god, what shit is the tutor perpetrating on the student with those notes? ‘Education evidence is more commonsensical than sociological’?

I’m reacting partly to the notion that Bourdieu, political theory, and other academic or policy-based text is being pushed on 16-year olds. I can imagine it happens, but it just seems daft.

Tossing in a bit of opinion about educational epistemology ices the cake. Why say something like that to a student who has trouble distinguishing between the spelling of disadvantage and disadvantaged, let alone abstract concepts like Education and Health systems? Is the tutor wholly oblivious to the needs of that particular student?

So here it is, folks. Bourdieu’s theory at work. As revealed on a scrap of paper on a bit of waste ground.

Do you get the feeling that a dismayed and despondent student tossed it aside while crossing the waste ground on his way home?

Are we talking about clusters of negative reinforcement?