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High status private schooling and the processes of an educational hegemony

Kenway, Jane (1987) High status private schooling and the processes of an educational hegemony. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The theoretical centre of this thesis is informed by those neo-Marxist theories of ideology and hegemony which draw their inspiration from Antonio Gramsci. My inspiration is also drawn from class theory, feminist theory, media theory, critical curriculum theory, work on youth sub-cultures and theories about the relationship of education to social and cultural reproduction. The objects of this analysis are situated in what Gramsci calls 'civil society' and the 'political apparatus' and this study is primarily concerned with the part played by education in the construction of class and gender hegemony, i.e., it is concerned with specific hegemonies operating in and through specific related social sites. My particular focus is upon the ideological apparatus of schooling, both state and private, but especially private, and my subsidiary focus is upon some of the intersections between schooling and other ideological apparatuses, in particular the print media. Federal and state governments and their education bureaucracies and the consumption industry. I am concerned to show some ways in which these help to provide the ideological 'cement' of class and gender hegemony. I hope, particularly, to reveal something of the complex mediations which operate therein, and seek to do so by discussing instances of hegemony in process.

Section One explains the theoretical and conceptual framework which informs the rest of the study. A particular version of hegemony theory is developed which emphasises ideological struggle across space and time, at different but related points of the social totality, and which takes into account macro and micro social settlements. In Chapter One in this first Section, I offer an overview of radical critiques of education, focussing particularly on the contribution which feminism makes to Reproduction theory. This is followed in Chapter Two, by a detailed discussion of hegemony theory using Gramsci, Laclau and Mouffe, Foucault and notions of subjectivity. The value of hegemony theory for feminism is explored in this Chapter, and an account of hegemony is produced which takes into account the complex relationship between class and gender. Each of the subsequent three sections is concerned with a different instance or moment in the process of hegemony.

The second Section is concerned about sectional struggles over educational provision, policy and practice at the national (Federal) level. Focus here in Chapter Three, is upon a critical historical incident, the battle over federal funding for private schools during 1983-84 as it was waged through the print media. This examination shows a hegemonic discourse in operation as it was jointly produced by the print media and supporters of wealthy private schools. Chapter Four further explores the discursive politics of the private school lobby and the educational Right, and Chapter Five considers those of the state school lobby, the Left and the Labor government. This Section explains how private school supporters achieved their political ascendency at this time..

The production of meaning about such schools provides the context for the third Section of the thesis, which is concerned with knowledge, power and common sense. Chapter Six offers an ideology critique of the research on private schools and shows that the ideological effect of such research is to underwrite their status. It indicates too, that a significant silence exists therein concerning the relationship between state education systems and private schools. In focussing in Chapter Seven, on both the ways in which broader social conflicts have historically been mediated through State education systems, and on the institutionalisation of certain knowledges, what is shown is that State education departments have been complicit in securing the ascendency of private schools.

The fourth Section is much narrower in scope. It looks at three high status private schools in Western Australia and their clients and at ideological contention within these schools, exploring the ways in which certain class and gender meanings are produced, received and rearticulated. Through the research medium of critical field work and in particular through the use of insiders' narratives, one boys', one girls', and one co-educational school and their communities are studied as sites of complex, conflicting and often contradictory internal discourses. This Section will show that their occupants are displaced across this range, as well as across a range of external discourses which address them. Given such complexity, functionalist explanations about the class and gender operations of these schools are avoided and I focus instead on the ideological dynamics of the schools, on the interplay between forces for challenge and change and forces for reproduction and continuity. Of particular interest are the ways in which those attached to the schools 'read' and 'write' their culture in class- and gender-specific ways. Chapters Eight, Nine and Ten offer the narratives of parents, teachers and students respectively.

In summary, while the first Section explains the theoretical premises which inform this study, each of the following, more empirical sections, deals with what may be regarded analytically as a separate moment, amongst many clearly not addressed, in the whole process of an educational and social hegemony. In each, meanings are produced, processed and experienced. While each Section will make this clear the second Section is more concerned with the production of meaning, the third with its processing through education systems and the fourth with its reception and rearticulation. In conceiving of hegemony in the way outlined, and in employing this theory to analyse the social role of private schools, this study seeks to be both theoretically and politically suggestive.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Porter, Paige
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