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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 6: Pedagogic Discourse and Sex Education: Myths, Science and Subversion 85


INTRODUCTION The topic ‘sex’ can be associated with birth and death, separation and union, and masculinity and femininity. The term ‘sex’ carries an almost limitless symbolic potential yet, once framed within a discourse, the network of meanings associated with it is brought into alignment. Therefore the structure of the discourse within which the term ‘sex’ is framed provides the key to how it is understood. This paper focuses on the structure of discourses as a key to investigate the potential for sex education within elements of the curriculum. Insights from Moscovici’s work on common-sense knowledge and Bernstein’s work on pedagogic discourse are used to argue that one potential source of sex education lies in juxtaposing discourses that frame ‘sex’ in different ways. The term ‘sex’ can be seen to cover at least the following five strands: • the sex act performed between people or auto-erotic sex acts; • the anatomy and physiology of reproduction; • forms of social identification and recognition such as heterosexual, les, bi, gay; • eroticism; and • aspects of morality such as family values and gender relations. C H A P T E R S I X GABRIELLE IVINSON Pedagogic Discourse and Sex Education Myths, Science and Subversion Sadovnik_Bernstein Collection_use for ch 6.qxd 2/23/2010 3:46 PM Page 85 86 | ESSAYS ON BASIL BERNSTEIN’S SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE Schools are modernist institutions (Epstein et al., 2003) that privilege scientific knowledge above common-sense knowledge.The curriculum can be viewed as a col- lection of scientific or specialist discourses (cf. Bernstein, 1990, 1996,...

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