Class, Education and Politics in Britain

  • Ted Tapper
  • Brian Salter


In an introduction to a section entitled ‘Education and Politics’ of an Open University set text B. R. Cosin has written, ‘What I am attempting, therefore, in this part of the Reader, is less to set out even a basic introduction to one conceptual scheme than to outline elements of three such schemes, which may be displayed as more or less common to both sociology and the study of politics. This is a fortunate overlap, since the socio-political study of education is overwhelmingly sociological rather than political.’1 Although the disciplinary overlap of these conceptual schemes may have helped Cosin to overcome a dilemma in the organisation of his book, it is to be regretted that he was forced to pursue such a tactic in order to incorporate material on education and politics. In spite of our regrets Cosin is undoubtedly correct in his assessment of the paucity of political material in the socio-political study of education. The purpose of this book is to increase the percentage of that political material in three complementary ways: by collating and analysing the information that already exists (the field is not quite as barren as Cosin implies), by drawing out clearly and systematically the political elements that are to be found within the literature of educational sociology, and by presenting collections of our own data.


Formal Education Educational System Political Order Civic Education Private Education 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    B. R. Cosin (ed.), Education: Structure and Society (Penguin, 1972 ) p. 173.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Although it must be admitted that much of this literature is American. See G. Almond and S. Verba, The Civic Culture ( Little, Brown, 1965 ) pp. 315–24;Google Scholar
  3. L. Milbrath, Political Participation (Rand McNally, 1965) pp. 57, 122–4;Google Scholar
  4. and S. Verba and N. Nie, Participation in America (Harper and Row, 1972 ) pp. 97–100, 129–33.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    For the impact of social mobility (rather than formal education per se) upon party preference patterns, see D. Butler and D. Stokes, Political Change in Britain (Macmillan, 1969) pp. 95–101, pp. 95–102 (2nd edn, 1974). For the impact of schools upon party preferences see pp. 102–6 of the second edition.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    See R. Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969) chs 7 and 8.Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    For the formal controls exercised by the state see H. C. Dent, The Educational System of England and Wales (University of London Press, 1966) ch. 3.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    Consider the following quotation: ‘The advocates of comprehensivization make no secret of their intentions: they have long ceased in the face of irrefutable facts, to argue that a fully comprehensive system would be academically superior to our present arrangements. Their whole campaign is now concentrated on a single issue: the use of education as a means of breaking down the country’s social structure and creating “equality of opportunity” — which is expected to lead inexorably to an egalitarian, possibly even “classless” society.’ See T. Szamuely, ‘Russia and Britain: Comprehensive Inequality’, in The Black Papers on Education, eds C. B. Cox and A. E. Dyson (Davis-Poynter, 1971 ) p. 121.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    B. Bernstein, ‘The Sociology of Education: A Brief Account’, in Class, Codes and Control, ed. B. Bernstein, vol. 3 (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975 ) p. 151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 18.
    I. Davies, ‘The Management of Knowledge: A Critique of the Use of Typologies in the Sociology of Education’, in Knowledge and Control, ed. M. F. D. Young (Collier-Macmillan, 1971 ) p. 268.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    J. Ford, Social Class and the Comprehensive School (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969 );CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. D. N. Holly, ‘Profiting from a Comprehensive Education: Class, Sex and Ability’, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 16 (1965) pp. 150–58;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. T. Tapper, Young People and Society (Faber and Faber, 1971 ).Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    P. Bordieu, ‘Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction’, in Knowledge, Education and Cultural Change, ed. R. Brown (Tavistock Publications, 1973 ) p. 72.Google Scholar
  15. 25.
    C. Jencks et al., Inequality: A Reassessment of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America (Basic Books, 1972 ).Google Scholar
  16. For reactions to Jencks, see ‘Perspectives on Inequality’, Harvard Educational Review vol. 43, no. 1 (1973) pp. 37–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 29.
    A discussion of this topic is taken up in greater detail in the third chapter. For an application of this perspective to the British educational system see, T. Benton, ‘Education and Politics’, in D. Holly (ed.), Education or Domination? (Arrow Books, 1974 ) pp. 9–37.Google Scholar
  18. 35.
    R. H. Tawney, Secondary Education for All (Allen and Unwin, 1922 ) p. 33.Google Scholar
  19. 36.
    See extracts from the Report of the Commissioners appointed to enquire into the State of Popular Education in England (Newcastle Report) in J. Stuart Maclure, Educational Documents, England and Wales, 1816–1963 (Chapman and Hall, 1965 ) pp. 70–8;Google Scholar
  20. and R. Lowe, ‘Democracy, alas, now educate the masters’, inEducation and Democracy, eds A. E. Dyson and J. Lovelock (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975 ) pp. 203–8.Google Scholar
  21. 37.
    For a discussion of differing views see S. Wiseman (ed.), Intelligence and Ability (Penguin, 1967);Google Scholar
  22. and P. Vernon, Intelligence and Cultural Environment (Methuen, 1969 ).Google Scholar
  23. 38.
    H. Rosen, ‘Language and Class’,in Education or Domination?, p. 62.Google Scholar
  24. 39.
    Controversy has broken out on this very issue. See T. Burgess, ‘How it is decided which children go to which schools’, The Times, Tuesday, 18 Jul 1972, p. 12; and S. Jessel, ‘Many head teachers critical of school transfer system’, The Times, Wednesday 19 Jul 1972, pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  25. 40.
    For a sympathetic consideration of these educational advantages, see R. Lambert, ‘The Public Schools: A Sociological Introduction’, in The Public Schools: A Factual Survey, ed. G. Kalton (Longmans, 1966) pp. xi-xxxii.Google Scholar
  26. 41.
    B. Jackson and D. Marsden, Education and the Working Class (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962 ).Google Scholar
  27. 43.
    D. Hargreaves, Social Relations in a Secondary School (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967) pp. 108–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 44.
    B. Bernstein, ‘On the Classification and Framing of Educational Knowledge’, in Class, Codes and Control, ed. B. Bernstein, vol. 1 (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971 ) pp. 202–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 47.
    W. Taylor, The Secondary Modern School (Faber and Faber, 1963) pp. 82–102.Google Scholar
  30. 48.
    The information on the University of Sussex is based on our personal observations; for the Summerhil experiment, see A. S. Neill, Summerhill, A Radical Approach to Education (Victor Gollancz, 1969 ) pp. 3–92.Google Scholar
  31. The Black Papers represent the broadest and best-known attack on many of these educational innovations. See Cox and Dyson, The Black Papers and C. B. Cox and Rhodes Boyson, Black Paper 1975: The Fight for Education (J. M. Dent and Sons, 1975).Google Scholar
  32. 52.
    This reflects a wider debate — whether power is dependent upon the ownership or the control of the means of production. For some comparative perspectives on educational systems located within differing patterns of property ownership see O. Banks, The Sociology of Education (Batsford, 1976 ).Google Scholar
  33. 55.
    See a report by Ken Rowat on the new B.A. degrees in art in Education Guardian Tuesday, 10 Feb 1976, p. 15.Google Scholar
  34. For example, note how the ideological backing of Lysenko held back the development of Soviet agriculture. See Z. A. Medvedev, The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko (Columbia University Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  35. 59.
    B. Berstein, ‘On the Curriculum’, in Class, Codes and Control, ed. B. Bernstein, vol. 3, (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975 ) p. 81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Ted Tapper and Brian Salter 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ted Tapper
  • Brian Salter

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