This text continues, and completes, The Scene of Teaching. A work in progress. The earlier parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
“My Struggle is the chronicle of Knausgaard turning his back on the genre of the novel…He has described the writing of My Struggle as an act of ‘literary suicide’: ‘There is nothing left; I can never again write something from the heart without repeating myself, but I wanted it that way. In Volume 6 I even wrote a couple of lines about future novels, stories I’d thought of, just to kill them off. The last sentence in that book is: “And I’m so happy that I’m no longer an author’” (Lerner, 2014, citing Karl Ove Knausgaard)
54. To reiterate, invisible pedagogies generate procedures of control based on multi-layered class patterns of communication required to support and promote their concept and practice of social order.
[Is this the case even for those who have come to realise that the heart of discourse is not order but disorder, not coherence but incoherence, not clarity but ambiguity and that the heart of discourse is not control but the possibility of new realities?]
[55. Is this not also to neglect to consider that the preservation of (fixed, hierarchical) order is not the priority for the class fractions under consideration, who seek not just an overturning of an established order but a continual ‘revolution’, a churning of hierarchy and of order? Is this view of order, as a certain kind of controlled regularity, not one from pre-bourgeois Europe, when the preservation of order was more important than the generation of new ideas, a time when power, the ability to act politically and the ability to act economically, was centralised in royal families and professional guilds?]
56. The construction of these communicative competences, concerning, that is, social order, is “likely to be”, Bernstein says, class-based. Thus, where these competences are not made available in the home (the scene of domesticity, the scene of familiarity, the scene of domestication), the child is less likely to be self-regulating in school, according to the requirements of the school’s invisible pedagogic practice. The child, therefore, is likely to mis-read both the classroom practice and its pedagogic context.
[We are in the domain of some kind of ‘literacy’ here, with its communicative competences and readings/mis-readings, but not of texts, this time, rather mis/readings of situations, behaviours, intentions and inter-actions. We might punningly call it ‘class literacy’: the literacy of the classroom through the literacy of being middle class]
Bernstein reiterates: The assumptions of invisible pedagogies as they inform spatial, temporal and control grids [how ‘inform’?; why ‘grid’?] are less likely to be met in working class or ethnically disadvantaged groups. In consequence, the working class or ethnically disadvantaged child is likely to mis-read the cultural significance and the cognitive import of classroom practice articulating/articulated by an invisible pedagogy. Equally, the teacher is likely to mis-read the cognitive and cultural significance of the child.
57. Bernstein recounts: in his analysis of the social class assumptions of visible and invisible pedagogies, he has defined two sites:
the school/classroom, where his analysis dwelt upon visible pedagogies; and
the family/home, where he dwelt on invisible pedagogies.
The ‘scene of teaching’ stretches across these two sites, sites which are both institutions and locations, taking into account the ambiguity of our understanding of ‘situation’, being situated, being environed (inter-corporeally), perceiving-being-perceived, being positioned (inter-subjectively). Two times, two places, one scene. The strength of a particular pedagogic practice, Bernstein suggests, depends on how well it articulates and coordinates the pedagogic practice of the school/classroom and that of the family/home, i.e. how well they supplement one another.
58. To complicate matters, Bernstein argues that one rarely finds pure forms of pedagogic practice. Rather, the invisible pedagogy is embedded in a visible pedagogy. The form of this embedding is such that,
“The specific specialised skills and attributes of a visible pedagogy are beneath the surface of an invisible pedagogy.” (Bernstein, 2004: 211)
On the 'class supports’ of visible and invisible pedagogies, Bernstein states that advocates of the ‘new education’ of the 1920s and 1930s were drawn from professional agents of symbolic control; while those who opposed invisible pedagogies were likely to be members of the middle class whose work had a direct relation to the production, distribution and circulation of capital.
59. The conflict between these fractions of the middle class, Bernstein suggests, is over principles of social order, i.e. over control, and not over the distribution of power. They differ over the necessity for and the role of the nation-state, i.e. the parliamentary and legislatorial apparatuses of a representational democracy.
In simplistic terms, middle-class sponsors of invisible pedagogy support state intervention and the expansion of agents and agencies of symbolic control, and in consequence support growth in public expenditure. This, argues Bernstein, is self-interested because such growth provides ground and opportunity for their own advancement. In contrast, middle-class sponsors of visible pedagogies, drawn from the economic sector and the entrepreneurial professions, oppose growth in public expenditure.
Thus, these two middle-class fractions represent opposed material and symbolic interests.
Visible pedagogies; two modalities
60. Schools and universities are increasingly engaged, Bernstein argues, in struggles over:
what should be transmitted
the degree of autonomy of transmission
conditions of service of those who transmit
the procedures of evaluation of acquirers
Bernstein considers two modes of settling those conflicts:
in favour of a knowledge-oriented visible pedagogy; or
in favour of a market-oriented visible pedagogy
A market-oriented visible pedagogy, Bernstein comments, is a truly secular form, born out of the context of cost-efficient education.
61. The explicit rules of selection, sequence, pace and criteria of a visible pedagogy translate readily into performance indicators of schools’ staff and pupils action; while a behaviourist theory of instruction (i.e. of teaching and learning) readily leads to the realisation of programmes, manuals and packaged instruction. In this way, the market and the economy and reproduced in the school.
The knowledge-oriented visible pedagogy justifies itself through the intrinsic worthwhileness and value of the knowledge it ‘relays’ and through the (behavioural) discipline its acquisition requires: the dispositional discipline of acquiring a disciplinary discipline; the subjectivity acquired through subjection to the subject discipline[, a form of subjectivity, it might be said, that under-emphasises inter-subjective relation in favour an an (imaginary) relation to a disciplinary subject as a ‘body of knowledge’, elaborated from a ‘set of principles’ or possibly ‘laws’ - of nature and of society].
62. Bernstein notes that the arrogance of a knowledge-oriented visible pedagogy lies in:
its claim to the moral high ground;
its claim to the superiority of its culture;
its indifference to its stratification consequences;
its conceit in presuming the possibility of a lack of relation to anything other than itself; and
its (presumptive) self-referential, abstracted autonomy.
Ideologically, the market-oriented visible pedagogy is a far more complex construction. In one direction, it incorporates some of the criticisms of the knowledge-oriented visible pedagogy, often deriving from a Leftist position (to use this political imagery, inadequate though it has become), but these criticisms are woven into a new discourse.
63. Thus, Bernstein critiques:
First, the explicit commitment to greater choice by parents and pupils, because it is not a realisation of participatory democracy. It is, rather, a thin cover for the ongoing stratification of schools and curricula.
Second, new forms of assessment and profiling, which are criteria-referenced rather than norm-referenced. While purportedly to recognise and liberate individual qualities, they actually permit greater control of assessment.
Third, periodic mass testing of pupils concentrates new distribution procedures for homogenising acquisition while creating performance indicators of its effectiveness.
Fourth, vocationalism, while appearing to offer the lower working class a legitimation of their own pedagogic interests in a manual-based curriculum, thereby seeming to include them as important pedagogic subjects, at the same time closes off their own personal and occupational possibilities.
64. In the UK, the market-oriented visible pedagogy, while apparently creating greater local independence for, and competition among, schools and teachers, at the same time ties the schools more directly to central state regulations and control.
The shift which seems to be taking place in the UK is away from the state regulation of the economy to state regulation of symbolic control, accomplished through the intermediate agency of managers, administrators and industrialists.
65. In sum, for Bernstein, the ideological message of a market-oriented visible pedagogy is less the regulation and realisation of ‘relevance’ [to market-based conditions] than the new regulation and realisation of symbolic control in the transition from a form of capitalism based on financing industrial production and consumption, and extracting value from surplus labour, particularly though the processes of automation, to one based on financing broadcast mass communications and tele-communications as ‘industries’ in their own right.
And I am so happy I am/no longer/never was a teacher. Delete as appropriate…
Lerner, Ben (2014) Each cornflake. London Review of Books, 36 (10), 21-22.