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Toolkits, Translation Devices and Conceptual Accounts

Essays on Basil Bernstein’s Sociology of Knowledge


Edited By Parlo Singh, Alan R. Sadovnik and Susan F. Semel

For over four decades, Basil Bernstein researched ‘the internal organisation and educational context of the school’ specifically, and educational systems generally. In particular, he was interested in the powerful forms of knowledge transmitted through schooling systems; who gained access to these forms of knowledge; how they did so; and with what consequences. His research began by examining the differences between language and communication patterns in the institutions of the home/family and of the school, and extended to examining the structuring of pedagogic discourse from the level of the state to the classroom.
This collection brings together chapters by researchers from South Africa, Portugal, the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia, to build on the theoretical concepts developed by Bernstein to explore issues of access and acquisition to school knowledge. In addition, contributors explore the strengths and limitations of Bernstein’s work for understanding the structuring of educational institutions, as well as the potential of the theory for assisting educators to make a difference in the lives of students.


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Chapter 3: Educational Policy and Social Reproduction 33


A BERNSTEINIAN FRAMEWORK Basil Bernstein spoke quite sharply from the 1980s on about the rapid exodus of sociologists of education into curriculum and policy studies and even more exotic sub-parts of the mainly teacher education undergrowth. His worry was that, in doing so, they were more likely than ever to abandon intellectual rigour. Many react- ed either by neglecting him as scrupulously as ever, or by asserting that he had noth- ing to say about policy anyway. But as is so often the case in our horizontally inclined knowledge structures, what goes around comes around and even those once inclined to say that Bernstein had little or nothing on policy have taken increas- ing interest in his views.1 Ours, widely shared by others in this volume, has been very clearly declared in Educational Policy and Social Reproduction (Fitz, Davies and Evans, 2006). In the absence of a Bernsteinian turn in publicly funded empirical investigation, its leading edges have been largely shaped by our and others’ doctor- al students working on a variety of aspects of the formation of pedagogic discourse and competition for control of the pedagogic device. Bernstein (1996, 2000) him- self noted in successive editions of Pedagogy, Symbolic Control and Identity that the empirical basis of the theoretical work that he was presenting had been laid, almost exclusively, by his students. Almost every one of their theses, predominantly from Latin America and southern Europe, were driven by, or strongly oriented to, pro- viding answers to burning policy issues....

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