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Re-reading the history of Western Australian state secondary schooling after 1945

Down, Barry F.R.ORCID: 0000-0003-4843-0563 (1993) Re-reading the history of Western Australian state secondary schooling after 1945. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis challenges traditional accounts of the history of state secondary schooling in Western Australia. Most existing explanations of mass secondary schooling have theoretical weaknesses. These weaknesses relate to the liberal democratic conceptual framework that views the development of state secondary schooling as the gradual realisation of the values of democracy, equality and progress. If education is to contribute to the building of democracy it is necessary to develop alternative explanations of secondary schooling and its relationship to patterns of social and economic inequality. This thesis seeks to contribute to the debate by providing a critical explanation of the relationship of state secondary schooling and capitalism in Western Australia in the period after 1945.

The thesis is not a detailed narrative account of state secondary schooling in Western Australia. Rather, the aim is to explain the social function of secondary schooling within the broader political, economic and social context of which it is a part. The thesis rests on two basic assumptions. The first is that there is no such thing as objective history. From Marx, the thesis takes a dialectic approach to history and a concern with the forces of production in understanding the social function of secondary schooling. The second assumption is that although secondary schooling is a site of social and economic reproduction, it is also a site capable of producing counter-hegemonic ideas and practices.

The interpretation of Western Australian secondary schooling presented here owes much to neo-Marxist state theories and poststructuralist thought. This thesis adopts the view that secondary schooling is an important hegemonic apparatus in producing consent to established social practices. A central argument is that schooling tends to reinforce the naturalness of the cultural form of bourgeois society. It imposes a myriad of regulatory mechanisms to produce students who desire a particular set of unequal social arrangements characteristic of capitalism. Specifically, the thesis seeks to explain how Western Australian state secondary schooling actively constructs social divisions of class, race and gender.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Supervisor(s): Smart, Don and Watt, John
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