‘Race’, Reform and Research: the impact of the three R’s on anti-racist pre-school and primary education in the U.K. Paper presented at the Symposium on Racism and Reform in the UK at the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, San Diego, April 13-17, 1998. Iram Siraj-Blatchford, John Siraj-Blatchford,
Our intention in embarking upon the construction of the paper was to review the research that had been conducted in the field of anti-racism(1) in primary and early years education and to identify those areas that require further study. In doing so we were struck by the realisation that it has now been two decades since the legislative framework of the Race Relations Act (1976) and subsequent investigations supported by the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) first focused attention on the effects of racial discrimination on Black and ethnic minority groups in the education system. Framed within this problematic, educational research has thus been largely concerned with identifying sources of 'direct' and 'indirect' discrimination in schools and on finding ways to alleviate these 'symptoms' of racism. From the earliest stages this was paralleled by the development of a powerful deficit model that has pathologised, and sought strategies to improve, the educational experiences of Black and ethnic minority students. What was largely neglected in these studies was any investigation of a 'causal' link between the racialised discourses of education and the processes by which these discourses are articulated and constructed to maintain racial disadvantage.
In this paper we explore these issues further and conclude that there is now a need for a change of research focus, to direct attention upon the powerful groups (ethnic majority(2) pupils, teachers and others) as potential transformative agents. The critical tradition in education, through critical pedagogy (Friere, 1974), critical theory (Giroux, 1992) and critical social research (Harvey, 1990; Siraj-Blatchford, 1994b) may offer some of the most fruitful ways forward at a micro-level. The new agendas imposed upon the education system have served to weaken traditional structures and, while the new competitive market-place structures are themselves antagonistic to the equality project, the continued period of rapid change does offer some possibilities for progressive action. The paper distinguishes between two discourses:
1. Black and ethnic minority underachievement in schools.
2. Racism in education.
The first of these is increasingly recognised as a multi-dimensional problem, a problem inextricably linked to gender, class and 'racial' identity formation and to teacher expectations. But we will argue that careful attention to the second of these discourses is required if we are to understand the first, we will also argue that this discourse provides academic purchase on another problem that is arguably even more serious than educational underachievement in contemporary Britain: that is, the underachievement of Black and ethnic minority youth in the social world outside - even where they have succeeded in school. In fact it seems clear to us that the problems associated with the first discourse are unlikely be resolved as long as the second remains unresolved.
Introduction In retrospect, it would have been difficult to predict the ultimate effects of the British government’s encouragement of Commonwealth immigration. The Black British nationals who settled in response to the post war labour shortages were at first subjected to a great deal of open hostility and intolerance from the ethnic majority population. While there is evidence to suggest that some attitudes have softened, both these early settlers and their children and grandchildren have continued to suffer discrimination, abuse and racial violence. In education, cultural and linguistic differences were at first denied and the need for cultural assimilation was emphasised. But the gross injustice and inequality that Black ethnic minority people suffered led to resistance and protest and this has provided a powerful motor for change. There is, however, still a great deal to be achieved, Black and ethnic minority children continue to be victimised,and as adults they are still denied equal employment opportunities (Jenkins, 1986). A well established body of research evidence has illustrated the unequal treatment of ethnic minorities in the labour market (Jenkins, 1986; Brennan & McGeevor, 1987; 1990; Commission for Racial Equality (CRE, 1988a; 1988b) and in educational provision (CRE, 1988, Gillborn and Gipps, 1996). Studies have also pointed to the inhibiting effects of teacher stereotyping on the educational achievements and experiences of ethnic minority pupils (Gupta, 1977; Kitwood & Borrel, 1980; DES, 1985; Tomlinson, 1986; Eggleston et al, 1986; Singh, 1988; Mac an Ghaill, 1988; Troyna, 1987; 1991). While there was a growing awareness and engagement with the problems of racial inequality during the late 1970s and early 1980s, official responses since then have been muted or have even halted. During this period, the economic and ideological imperatives of government policies to reform the educational system have been heavily influenced by the growth in antithetical 'New Right' thinking. This was most clearly expressed in the (then) Prime Minister, John Major's, 1992 Conservative Party annual conference speech, when he asserted that:
'Primary teachers should learn how to teach children to read, not waste their time on the politics of gender, race and class.' The eighteen years of Conservative Government rule were characterised by a dual pattern of thinking, largely influenced by the New Right, but significantly split between neo-liberal and neo-conservative forces (Whitty, 1990). On the one side the Government promulgated a libertarian free market philosophy. For schools, this has meant the implementation of local management initiatives, a Parents' Charter to increase parental 'choice' and financial incentives for schools to opt-out of Local Authority control under the Education Reform Act of 1988 (Halpin et al, 1993). All of this has encouraged greater racial segregation and underachievement in schools
At the same time we have seen a more authoritarian attempt to control the curriculum content through the National Curriculum and its associated assessment procedures, and more recently the debate has shifted from what is taught in schools to what and how is should be taught as well (Alexander, Rose & Woodhead, 1992).
Whitty (1990) cites Gamble (1983) to argue that the apparent contradiction between the decentralisation and the centralisation of control inherent in these policies may in fact be only apparent. In introducing its curriculum and competence criteria the state may have been merely acting to protect its fledgling educational 'market' from restrictive practices. The ideological thrust of consumerism and market forces have led to what Stephen Ball (1993) has described as 'a new value context in which image and impression management are more important than the educational process' (p108). In the macro, as much as in this micro-political context 'image' rather than rational consistency is everything. Again as Whitty has argued, this time citing Ball (1990):
"...So greater consumer power over choice and management of schools, a neo-liberal response to criticisms of LEA bureaucracies, and a national curriculum, a neo-conservative response to charges that trendy teachers are subverting traditional moral values and selling the nation short, may both resonate with popular experience and be electorally attractive even if the whole package does not add up" (p23). In May 1997 the 'New Labour' government inherited all of the same ideological baggage and has done little, so far, to counter it. The educational position taken has, however, involved a doggedly determined attempt to counter educational underachievement within the existing structures, and on the face of it at least, this represents an important initiative that has been developed, at least in part, with a view to countering 'racial' inequality in education. ‘New’ Labour has created explicit targets for school effectiveness that will provide important contexts for future engagements with the structures of inequality. One of the most significant of these targets is to improve achievement in Mathematics and English in primary schools so that, by the year 2002, 80% of 11 year-old children reach the educational standards currently met by just 60% of them. Support is being provided through reducing class sizes for 5, 6 and 7 year-olds and through ‘Educational Action Zones’ that are being set up in areas of educational underperformance. The government is also in the process of setting up early excellence centres, literacy summer schools, out-of-school hours learning activities, and family literacy schemes. Whatever the outcome of these projects, equality initiatives may be developed within the structural 'spaces' that inevitably open up as a result of their successes and failures.
The Underachievement of Ethnic Minority Pupils in Britain Two broad approaches can be identified in both the research perspectives, and in the forms of provision that have been advocated and employed to counter the widespread inequalities in educational outcomes:
(1) ‘Multicultural’/equal opportunities approaches that have tended to focus upon the negative effects that education has had upon the educational performance of Black and ethnic minority pupils.
(2) Anti-racist/social justice approaches have more often emphasised the role that education has had in reproducing structural inequality through its preferential treatment of white and ethnic majority pupils.
During the 1970s and early 1980s much of the 'race' equality research was focussed upon the apparent injustice of teacher stereotyping and the prejudicial treatment of ethnic minority pupils (Brittan, 1976; Edwards 1978; Rex and Tomlinson 1979). Black and ethnic minority underachievement was often explained in terms of 'cultural deficits' and this led policy makers towards solutions emphasising compensatory education. Policies based on notions of 'cultural difference' focussed on the need for teachers to 'celebrate'(other) cultures and to make them more educationally relevant. Attempts were thus made to promote limited versions of ‘multicultural’ education and institute 'Black Studies' in the interests of improving minority pupils’ self-esteem. Similar initiatives were introduced in the context of Black, ethnic minority and indigenous education in many other countries and in each case they were criticised for distracting attention from underachievement in the mainstream curriculum (Richie & Butler, 1990; Wilson, 1981). An aspect of this work which has rarely been acknowledged is the progressive effects on the attitudes of ethnic majority pupils (but see Richie & Butler, 1990).
All of these policies operated within an ideological framework that emphasised 'equality of opportunity' and as Williams (1987) has argued, this has been a concept:
"capable of uniting diverse political and educational campaigners precisely because of its vagueness"(p346). Unfortunately, the sort of 'unity' that was gained by such means might have been less productive than it is often supposed. Jewson and Mason (1992) argue, for example, that the benefits of such expedients are often short lived, leading to disappointment and distrust in the long term. They assert that a theoretical distinction should be made between liberal and radical conceptions of equality of opportunity. Liberal equal opportunity policies have aimed to implement fair procedures and to illuminate unfair distortions in the operation of market forces. More radical perspectives, including many anti-racist, by contrast, informed by a critical analysis of 'ability', 'talent' and the function of educational credentials, have actually sought to overcome these 'free market processes' to achieve structural equality.
Jewson and Mason also suggest that equal opportunity policies should not be taken on face value:
"Instead they must be seen as social practices, i.e. social activities which engage groups and individuals in a dynamic structure of intended and unintended actions in relation to others....The expedient, or accidental, adoption of items of an opponent's or a critic's conceptual armoury may lead one along a logical road quite divergent from the straight and narrow path of one's own proffered principles. In these circumstances both liberals and radicals may simultaneously be cynical manipulators and confused victims of their own manipulation"(1992 p229-230) Arguably, the prevailing discourse of equality of opportunity actually limited popular understandings of ‘multiculturalism’. Until the mid-1980s most educationalists, (and researchers) assumed that ‘multicultural’ education was simply about, and for, black and ethnic minority children. The wider context of racism in society outside of the school and the role of white ethnic majority people in the production and reproduction of it had been largely ignored.
The main thrust for ‘multicultural’ educational development had always come from urban multi-ethnic conurbations and as Jay (1992) found outside of these areas there continues to be widespread complacency '- or worse' (p5).
The ‘multicultural’ and equal opportunities perspectives of the past were predicated on educational underachievement and a decade ago the evidence of Black and ethnic minority underachievement (and of girls in many subject areas) was quite stark. Since then we have seen overall educational ‘standards’ improve and behind the improvements in educational achievement by Black and ethnic minority pupils lies a much more complex reality of underachievement that the equal opportunities policies of the past are incapable of engaging with. Today we know that:
* Research on the performance of infant and junior school pupils does not paint a clear picture: on average African Caribbean pupils appear to achieve less well than whites, although the situation is reversed in recent material from Birmingham. * A more consistent pattern concerns the lower average attainments of Bangladeshi and Pakistani pupils in the early key stages; this may reflect the significance of levels of fluency in English, which are strongly associated with performance at this stage.
(Gillborn and Gipps, 1996)
Looking at the situation more closely the patterns are even more complex, again drawing upon Gillborn and Gipps (1996), research has shown that, in at least one study, by the end of infant school African Caribbean girls had made more progress in reading and writing than any other group, and yet African Caribbean boys had made the least. If we adopt the more traditional anti-racism perspectives2 in reviewing the underachievement of ethnic minority pupils in Britain we would be forced to conclude that racism has been unable to provide a sufficient explanation. As we shall see, the different Black and ethnic minority groups all experience racism both within and outside the education system and yet the educational outcomes have been entirely different.
Before we can come back to the theoretical difficulties to be settled here, we need to look more closely at the experiences of Black and ethnic minority children in British schools and about the ‘multicultural’ and anti-racist practices that are currently adopted. Banks (1995, 1996) has provided a useful taxonomy, he identifies five distinct dimensions that are concerned with; 'Empowerment in the School Culture and Social Structure'; 'Prejudice Reduction'; 'Equity Pedagogy'; 'Content Integration'; and; 'The Knowledge Construction Process'. While, as Banks argues, all of these curriculum, pedagogic, and personal and social (PSE) elements, ultimately need to be attended to if '‘multicultural’' education is to be effective, we will argue here that 'knowledge construction' poses a special challenge in the British context.
A Review of experiences and Responses An Empowering School Culture and Social Structure
As Bank's (1996) says, to create a school culture that empowers all students, the entire school must be conceptualised as the unit of change. Over the past twenty years a great deal of concern has been expressed in the UK ‘multicultural’ and anti-racist educational literature about structural and 'institutional racism'. The concept encompasses all of the varied practices and procedures that either intentionally or unwittingly act to discriminate against Black and ethnic minority children in schools. This was an approach taken up by many early anti-racist writers and it generally encouraged an assumption that the child had no agency of their own, that they simply and unproblematically absorbed the racism that was all around them. This in turn re-enforced initiatives focused on the development of improved self-esteem of Black and ethnic minority children. However, it is now increasingly recognised that the child is active in their identity construction and this is a theme to which we will return. As we shall see, a great deal may be gained from recognising children's agency and in moving beyond accounts that cast them as passive victims. Yet society also has an infrastructure, and while we must recognise that Black and ethnic minority pupils have agency and resist the racism around them we also need to recognise that they do not do this within circumstances that are of their own choosing.
There has undoubtedly been a tendency at times for researchers to uncritically ascribe all the unequal outcomes and exclusions experienced by Black and ethnic minority students to racism (Troyna & Williams, 1986) and this reductionist tendency may have had extremely serious implications for our understanding of class and gender inequality. Yet, as Morrison (1996) has pointed out in a different context, the 'totalisation' inherent in structuralist analysis has a political intent and not merely one of description, and in any case we may consider the socially determined and social determining 'self' to be reciprocal. As Giddens (1976) suggested we would be better to think in terms of a ‘duality of structure’ (p121). The assumed split between agency and structural determinacy, between the individual and society, therefore represents a false dichotomy.
'Institutional racism' might therefore be seen as just one facet, alongside institutional sexism and class inequality, of the 'hidden curriculum', a useful analytic device, but one incapable of providing a complete explanation of the processes at work on its own. That said, the concept serves to draw attention to a phenomenon that would be extremely difficult to explain otherwise. To take an extremely salient example from the British context, studies of school exclusion and expulsion have shown that African Caribbean pupils are between three and six times more likely to be excluded from primary and secondary schools than ethnic majority pupils of the same sex (Gillborn and Gipps, 1996). School exclusion is the most serious punishment available to headteachers and further qualitative study is undoubtedly needed if we are to understand fully the processes that lead to these events. In the mean time, given our knowledge of racial injustice and not least of that within the criminal justice system, in the wider society, outside of the school, it seems entirely reasonable to assume that racism plays a significant part in determining the fate of these children. While entirely accepting a non-synchronous account of race, class and gender (McCarthy, 1990) then, and recognising the discontinuous and often contradictory nature of the interaction between these structural-cultural variables, we feel that it would be a mistake to reject reductionism in race equality research entirely. That said, it is certainly true that researchers should generally do a great deal more to declare the limitations of their work.
The extent to which the explanatory importance of institutional racism remains open to question by British educationalist may be illustrated by a recent New Community review of the document, Equality Assurance, an anti-racist curriculum resource produced by the Runnymede Trust (1993) (see below). In the review, Foster (1996) argues against taking educational 'outcome data' as evidence of social injustice towards either gender or ethnic groups:
"Such an approach is simplistic and potentially misleading, neglecting differences in ability, aptitude and preferences between groups which are clearly a possibility, especially at the school level..." (p367) If, as we believe to be the case, these views remain widespread even when applied to gender and in multi-ethnic schools, it seems unlikely that research that evokes the notion of institutional racism will be persuasive in schools where the ethnic majority predominate. We need more research evidence that identifies the specific discriminatory mechanisms at work, and we need them to be convincing, employing established methodologies that are widely accepted as valid and acceptable.
While the Swann Report (DES, 1985) sought to direct ‘multicultural’/anti-racist attention from an exclusive preoccupation with underachievement towards a consideration of the educational needs of all children growing up in an ethnically diverse society, racial prejudice and harassment is still rife in some British schools. Cecile Wright (1992) looked at the experience of Black and ethnic minority children in four primary schools, three taking three to eight-year-olds and one middle school. She found that both the African Caribbean and South Asian children experienced name-calling and attacks from white peers on a regular, almost daily, basis. Many of the teachers held negative stereotypes of South Asian children and were reluctant to formally address the racial harassment. She also found that teachers criticised African Caribbean children (especially the boys) more than the other children.
In a study on playground behaviour, Ross and Ryan (1990) highlight very similar findings about racist name-calling and stereotyping during playtime. Grugeon and Woods (1990) ethnographic study of primary schools suffered from some theoretical weaknesses (Macey, 1992), but notably identified a number of the effects of racism upon the self-images of South Asian children. Children were seen colouring themselves pink, describing themselves as having blue eyes and fair hair, they refused to go out into the sun in case they became brown(er), and avoided participation in ethnic minority festivals.
In the circumstances it is hardly surprising that Wright is drawn to the conclusion that:
"It is generally accepted that the foundations of emotional, intellectual and social development are laid in the early years of formal education. The kind of education a child receives at this stage, therefore, is considered to be of greatest importance. From the evidence gathered in connection with this project, it could be argued that some black children are relatively disadvantaged at this stage of their education" (p40, 1992). Troyna and Hatcher's (1991) study showed that while racism is a commonplace feature in the lives of most ethnic minority children, the ethnic majority children who perpetuate this racism also have egalitarian attitudes that anti-racist educators need to engage with. As Troyna and Hatcher say:
"Many children display inconsistent and contradictory repertoires of attitudes, containing both elements of racially egalitarian ideologies and elements of racist ideologies"...and: ". a number of combinations of attitudes and behaviour is possible, ranging from children who hold racist beliefs but do not express them in their behaviour, to children who hold racially egalitarian beliefs but use racist name-calling in certain situations." (p197/198) Davey (1983) suggested that, the pseudo-scientific system of racial categorisation and classification has provided children with an irresistible tool that they use to simplify and make meaning of their social world. A number of studies have also drawn attention to the verbal abuse directed at Black and ethnic minority children by other Black and ethnic minority children (Foster, 1988, Woods & Grudgeon, 1990, Troyna & Hatcher, 1992). While Grudgeon and Woods call for further research to study what they consider 'minorities among minorities' we would argue along with Troyna and Hatcher that these cases actually provide evidence of children simply 'trading' on commonly held and expressed racist ideologies without necessarily believing in them. In these circumstances research directed at these practices could only serve as a distraction from study of those more closely aligned with racism.
Troyna and Hatcher (1992) have provided important evidence that racial prejudice is not restricted to multi-ethnic settings and this is particularly significant given the 'no problem here' attitude of many teachers in white areas as well as the backlash by traditionalists who oppose any form of ‘multicultural’ education' (Tomlinson, 1992). Racism pervades our society and the structural inequalities and background of harassment provide a powerful hidden curriculum for ethnic minority children. Clear and strong policies for dealing with racist behaviour are necessary, as well as curriculum strategies, which allow all children to discuss, understand and deal with oppressive behaviour. These are all essential, but as we shall see these will be insufficient when it comes to dismantling racism, this will only occur when educators offer a carefully planned and coordinated approach to promote an integrated anti-racist perspective throughout the school curriculum.
An Equity Pedagogy
One of the central assumptions in Grugeon and Woods (1990) study of ‘multicultural’ primary schools was that collaborative and child-centred teaching and learning strategies was a necessary prerequisite for effective practice. But as Bernstein (19 ) argued, these kinds of approaches inevitably involve implicit power relations and pupils who do not know the 'rules of the game' are therefore unlikely to benefit from them. In Britain, the influence of progressive child-centred methods upon primary schools has often been exaggerated (Alexander, Rose and Woodhead, 1992), and they are in any event now being discouraged in efforts to improve the 'basic skills'. However, the place of child-centred teaching in pre-school and early years education might be considered hegemonic.
Banks (1996) refers to the need for educators to adopt a variety of teaching styles that are consistent with the wide range of learning styles adopted by various cultural groups. Research in the US suggests that the achievement of African American and Mexican American students improve when co-operative teaching strategies are applied instead of the competitive ones (Aronson & Gonzales, 1988). In Britain, Black and Wiliam (1998) found a similar pattern in a recent international survey that drew upon 600 research studies involving 10,000 children. The survey showed that while the use of formative assessment led to significant improvements in achievement, the use of competitive tests often led to demotivation and underachievement. These are by no means new ideas but the evidence now seems to be overwhelming. Further progress may ultimately require the complete disassembly of our current national curriculum assessment structure, with its emphasis upon accountability and use of summative 'Standard Assessment Tasks' and 'League Tables'. In the short term it is at least arguable that these structures provide a means of identifying the underachieving areas in most need of ‘action zones’, as long as criterion referencing is employed and norm references avoided, they provide a means of evaluating their effectiveness.
This is where teachers use exemplar material from 'Other' cultures to illustrate key concepts or ideas within the traditional 'Western' curriculum framework. The work has usually been carried out in the interests of providing positive role models for ethnic minority children. However, a 'development education' perspective has also found its way into some primary schools. In the main, it has been the self-esteem of ethnic minority children that has been the major concern, so that the additional content has often been closely associated with their specific cultural traditions and practices. Islamic and Hindu festivals are therefore celebrated in many British schools and the practice has been widely recognised as ‘tokenism’. A great deal of work was done in the 1970s and 1980s to integrate this kind of content into schools with significant numbers of Black and ethnic minority pupils. In more recent years there are some indications that the work is being neglected.
The most obvious vehicle for encouraging this work to be developed further was provided by the introduction of the UK national curriculum in 1990. In fact, in clarifying the responsibilities of schools with regard to the Education Reform Act (1988), the Department of Education and Science made it clear that the school curriculum was to provide a ‘multicultural’ dimension (DES Circular 5/89). The National Curriculum Council (NCC) provided instructions to all of the subject working parties that were set the task of writing the national curriculum to include a consideration of the issues in their deliberations. However, the commitment of the subject working parties varied and their work was subject to revisions which meant that, at the end of the day, we were left with only limited, albeit some very useful, components in the English, science, and design and technology Orders. A ‘multicultural’ education task group was also set up, this met for over a year and produced a report but was never published. As previously indicated and, as Sally Tomlinson (1993), one of the Task Group members, has suggested:
"Opposition to ‘multicultural’ and anti-racist curriculum development - became, during the 1980s, a right-wing political tool for encouraging a populist belief that such development threatens the nation's heritage and culture and erodes educational standards." (p26) Right wing attacks on 'race' equality provisions in schools, local education authorities (LEAs) and in teacher education focused on the alleged adverse effects of this work on the teaching of the basic skills. A current of public concern was generated and to a large extent continues as part of the backlash against 'political correctness' (PC).
Since the introduction of the national curriculum the subject Statutory Orders have been 'slimmed down' in order to reduce the load on teachers and give more time for the 'basics'. In the process most of the references to other cultures or non-Eurocentric knowledge has been removed. Little attempt has since been made by governments or their agencies to support the development of ‘multicultural’ education although efforts have been made by some concerned teachers and other educationalists to provide resources.
The Knowledge Construction Process
There can be little doubt that the school curriculum has an important role to play in building a more just and anti-racist society. The curriculum content that is selected in schools should reflect the ‘multicultural’ character of British society and increasingly reflect the character of an interdependent global society. As Banks (1996) suggests, these curriculum contents should also be presented from the appropriate cultural perspectives. Yet what is at stake here is the education 'canon' itself, and what is proposed by Banks is nothing less than its transformation, bringing:
"...content about cultural, ethnic, and racial groups - and about women - from the margin to the centre of the curriculum." (p339) In the British context this would involve the centre of the curriculum shifting from a focus upon the white ethnic majority (the cultural 'insiders'), towards a diversity of perspectives and points of view (including the 'outsiders'). Adapting and elaborating Banks’ (op cit) arguments to the British context, the aims of such a transformative curriculum would be to:
(i) help students to develop an understanding of the complex ways in which the interaction of different groups has resulted in the development of contemporary ‘multicultural’ Britain;
(ii) help students to understand how knowledge is constructed;
(iii) help students to learn how they may construct knowledge themselves, from their own concepts, interpretations and generalisations.
In cultural studies it has become commonplace to note that 'White' identities have been constructed in opposition to the Black 'Other'. In literary and curriculum terms the 'canon' is constructed in opposition to Black and ethnic minority experience and culture. This has an important global dimension, and in science and technology education, to take a significant example, popular curricula have been constructed in opposition to more holistic, ecological and humanistic worldviews (Siraj-Blatchford, J. 1996). Equality Assurance in Schools, a book published by the Runnymede Trust in 1993, provided schools with guidance for incorporating both 'content integration' and, to some degree, 'knowledge construction' as well, and in each of the national curriculum subject areas. Other useful resources published in Britain have included King and Reiss (1993), and a good deal of other 'content integration' resources that have been published to support individual subjects. However, relatively few texts explicitly support the transformation of the British canon, and this problem does need to be addressed.
In this section we have argued that while the concept of institutional racism remains valuable in providing a structural analytic tool in the study of specific discriminatory practices the concept can no longer provide the kind of firm foundations for anti-racist research. Racism and racial harassment remain widespread yet most ethnic minority children, and their teachers’ attitudes are inconsistent and contradictory. We have drawn attention to a possible contradiction between effectiveness research and target setting on the one hand and the encouragement of underachieving students on the other. We argue that we may have to accept this contradiction in the interests of raising achievement across whole schools and local authority areas. We have also argued that content integration can be identified as essentially tokenism and incapable of countering racism directly yet knowledge construction does seem to have this potential. Those researchers concerned with equality will continue to monitor which groups benefit most from these strategies.
Research has provided a great deal of evidence of racial inequality in education and there is clearly a need for further study to investigate the role of schools, the ethnic majority children, teachers, headteachers and other citizens who reproduce this inequality. Further studies are also needed to identify the role of curriculum and pedagogy in this process and to study the process by which a minority of children and adults develop more overt, political commitment to racism. This work would provide a new direction of study, focusing attention away from the ethnic minority ‘victims’ of racial inequality towards the ethnic identities, cultures and the agency of the majority who actively perpetuate or passively tolerate racism.
Meritocracy and the 'Postmodern' Condition As previously suggested, the explanatory power of institutional racism has been found wanting in the face of Black and ethnic minority educational achievement. Schooling in Britain has long been predicated upon liberal 'meritocratic' notions of social mobility, where an individual’s position in the class structure has been assumed to be, at least in part, a result of their own efforts (or lack of them). While this ideology has been widely contested by groups and individuals, and in particular by those involved in the various civil rights and women's movements, it remains a powerful assumption lying behind much of the popular educational discourse. Early radical theorists who questioned this assumption included Bowles and Gintis (1976) who adopted a structural functionalist explanatory framework but overstated the relationship between labour and schooling.
A major critique of the structural functionalist approach emphasised that it neglected and tended to characterise negatively the autonomous workings of racial and patriarchal structures of domination (Weis, 1988). But as McCarthy and Apple (1988) have argued, 'racial' and gender divisions were seen by structuralists as the effects of economic divisions in society and as a by-product of more fundamental conflicts between the working class and their capitalist employers who adopted 'divide and rule' policies to disorganise the working class (p18). However crude this work might have been at times it was valuable in identifying the role of the school, albeit seen as just one socialising institution, in the reproduction of capitalist economic relations. In more recent years, cultural reproduction theorists like Apple (1982) and Giroux (1983) have drawn upon a new range of perspectives informed by the sociology of knowledge. Writing by Bourdieu and Passeron (1977); Bernstein (1977); and Wexler (1976) contributed to what became known as 'the new sociology of education'. This 'new sociology' emphasised the relative autonomy of schools to the social structure and focussed attention on what was seen as the 'hidden curriculum' and 'invisible pedagogies' which operated to the advantage of middle class, male and ethnic majority pupils. The 'new sociology of education' focussed attention on the triad of knowledge, ideology and power and thus offered a new basis for 'race' (and gender) analysis without at the same time ignoring the effects of economic and social class dynamics.
A growing interest in post-structuralist theory has drawn renewed attention to the essentialism of ‘race’ and class analysis and has led many women, Black and ethnic minority, homosexual and other marginalised groups to seek alternative theoretical models from a range of disciplines including psychoanalytic theory, literary criticism and linguistics (Irigaray 1982; Said 1983). This has in turn given voice and legitimacy to the exploration and analysis of social phenomenon at the level of agency and experience as well as structure. In education, 'critical educational theory' has been advanced by Wexler (1982), Apple and Weis (1983) and Giroux (1992) to look beyond social class to analyse the interrelationship and dynamics of 'race', gender and class. These new perspectives have developed along side the development of poststructuralist and postmodern analysis is the social sciences, and in cultural studies in particular.
As a discourse, 'postmodernity' is concerned with the nature, foundations and the limits of (Western) modernity. Rattansi (1994) has provided us with what he refers to as a particular 'take' of postmodernism, which he then applies, to the study of racism and ethnicity. The 'take' is a useful one, although we would argue that postmodernity might otherwise be seen as a self-critical radicalisation of the Enlightenment trust in reason, and as a super-reflexive phase of modernity. As it is we feel that Rattansi's position is useful because it identifies a valuable point of consensus that may be drawn between what increasingly appears to be two antithetical social research traditions. Rattansi cites Habermas in drawing a line between the theoretical work of Giddens (1990) and Bauman (1991), and he argues that; 'while Giddens appears to hold out some hope for modernity completing its project, Bauman baldly asserts its impossibility' (p18). As Rattansi suggests, it is difficult to see how this difference of perspective could actually be settled, but we could accept that, in the minority North and Western world, radical changes in working patterns, the application of new forms of technology and communication applications, in the welfare state and in commodification are currently being felt. We can also accept the accounts of heightened reflexivity or the ‘double hermeneutic’ (Giddens, 1990) that are apparent in the operation of the social sciences. This phenomenon is especially visible in education where so many new research studies can be seen to have been taken up to reinforce, adapt or transform institutional practices and the discourses surrounding them. For academic purposes, we feel that we can legitimately put to one side, or bracket out, for the time being, the question of whether these changes are desirable, sustainable and/or relevant to human kind in general.
Along with many of the authors in Smith and Wexler's (1995) collection, and with C. Wright Mills (1959) three decades before them, we would argue that responsible social researchers should hold on to their intellectual authority and continue to put it in the service of the disempowered. We feel that social researchers must be willing to make knowledge claims and to assert expert opinions and established 'truths' and we feel that this is especially important for educational social research - where the professional commitment to education is combined with academic study.
We are of the position that we should not embrace 'postmodernism' too closely because it would be entirely consistent for postmodernists to reject social justice itself. We would only be able to see different accounts of 'racisms', with no common economic, political or cultural driving force. As an academic discourse, postmodernism as derived from Bauman, Giddens, Foucault, Derrida and others can also be seen as deeply ethnocentric and as Rattansi says this can be seen; 'particularly in its failure to grasp the significance of imperialism, colonialism and their associated racisms as constitutive of modernity' (p19). He argues, the postmodernists have been astonishingly silent about the effects of forced and voluntary migrants who now populate the societies of advanced modernity, what some have referred to as the ‘empire within’ Western societies. This omission has led to a neglect of questions of racism and the new politics of cultural difference that have become endemic features of Western European societies. Yet the postmodern condition has given us societies that are regulated through the institutional production and surveillance of individuals through schools, factories, hospitals, the criminal justice system and crucially, 'normal' Western identities are constructed in opposition as distinct from those who are ‘others’, those who 'underachieve', and from those who are 'handicapped', 'incompetent', 'sick' or 'criminalised'.
Research concerned with 'race' identity and 'identification'
As we have seen there are a growing number of studies which show that children of different ethnic backgrounds experience their school education in different ways (Gillborn, 1990; Grugeon & Woods, 1990; Wright, 1992 and Mac an Ghaill 1992). A good deal of this work draws upon the concept, derived from Derrida, that identities are formed in binary oppositions that are characterised by 'difference' - a concept that combines 'difference' with 'deference'. It has become commonplace to observe that in the very act of identifying ourselves as one thing, we simultaneously distance ourselves from something else. Hall (1992) has been influential in drawing attention to the contradictions to be found in the construction of ethnic identity as well as between ethnic identity and other identities e.g. of sexuality, class, dis/ability.
One of the few studies concerned with primary schools, 'All Lads Together?: racism, masculinity and ‘multicultural’ education/anti-racist strategies in a primary school' was conducted by Connolly (1994). As the title suggests Connolly was concerned to identify the manner in which the school, in the declared interests of encouraging the older African Caribbean boys, promoted their involvement in sports and football in particular. This, it seems, had the unintended result of promoting a distinct masculine ethos that in turn provided a strong context for the development of racial harassment. Connolly concludes by arguing that, if racism is to be understood, further studies are needed that look at the context specific forms that racism takes in articulation with gender subordination.
In the US, Okihiro (1994) also argues that mainstream white Americans derive their identities from their representation of those on the margins of US society, the 'Others'. This form of analysis follows Said's (1983) identification of the Orient as the antithetical 'Other' that was applied in the construction of the dominant European cultural identity. In the British context Modood et al (1994), coming from a different perspective, take a parallel position and their main concern has been with the self identifications accepted by Black and ethnic minority adults. They argue that:
"It is quite possible for someone to be torn between the claims of being, for example, 'black', Asian, Pakistani and Muslim, of having to choose between them and the solidarities they represent or having to rank them, synthesise them or distribute them between different areas of one's life - and then possibly having to reconcile them with the claims of gender, class and Britishness" (p5). In our opinion Modood et al are exaggerating the problems here, some necessary contradiction seems to be assumed and even where there may be contradictions we have found that for many people this does not present significant problems. Yet Modood et al ask us to do nothing less than ‘reconceptualise race relations' (p5). They argue that the 'American-derived' framework of British race relations has been set within an assumption that the descendents of immigrants would lose all their 'difference' except colour and would then be thought of as a 'relatively undifferentiated 'black' mass both by themselves and by the white British' (p6). Such a crude assumption seems unlikely to us in the American context and it is one that we have not heard before in Britain, despite fifteen years active involvement in anti-racist education. It seems that there has been some concern in recent years regarding the perceived failure of Black and ethnic minority groups to develop greater political solidarity. Yet it is very different to say that the common experience of racism, the experience of being ‘Black’ provides a basis for political solidarity and for sociological analysis, and saying that Black and ethnic minority individuals should identify their predominant 'mode of being' (to adopt Modood et al.’s own phrase) as Black.
In contrast with this and other studies that seem to assume some kind of crisis of identity we wish to emphasise the idea that we all have multiple identities. Individuals adopt political solidarity with a variety of groups in response to different struggles. Identities are complex, we are all gendered, racialised etc. and all have friends, relations, employers and sometimes rivals who know us as rather different people. We feel that it is important to recognise that a typical white working class pre-school assistant may be simultaneously a mother, a lover with a particular sexual orientation, she may be an advocate of early childhood rights, active in her trade union and yet totally opposed to any suggestion that taxes be increased to support increased social welfare provision. This final commitment may be strong enough to determine her political allegiance when it comes to a general election but in her day-to-day micro-political struggles of the preschool she may be an ardent supporter of anti-racist education. As hooks has argued, identities are 'fluid', 'multiple' and 'always in process' (p208). We believe identities are multi-faceted and are often even contradictory.
Given the heightened reflexivity of our 'postmodern condition' we feel that it is essential that anti-racist academics critically engage with the mainstream and not the margins of society. It is white identity and white ethnographic realities that we need to be studying and changing and not those of the Black and ethnic minority pupils. It may well be that the forms of analysis represented by Modood and Okihiro suggest that the discourse of 'race' relations is moving beyond the identification of dichotomies towards that of a dialectic engagement between the margins and the mainstream. If that is the case it is essential that the terms of this engagement include reference to the relative power that the groups may draw upon in ascribing their identities. The research approach that is being suggested here was employed in a Racial Equality in Initial Teacher Education (REITE) project (Siraj-Blatchford, I. et al, 1994). That project was developed from an earlier national study of racism experienced by Black students in initial teacher education (Siraj-Blatchford, I. ,1991). A major concern here has been to shift attention away from underachievement alone, towards research that engaged critically and directly with the content and contexts of mainstream educational provision (Siraj-Blatchford, 1993). The REITE project provided a systematic analysis of the culture and processes of initial teacher education (ITE) which enhanced or constrained the development of racial equality initiatives. We may find studies of Black and ethnic minority identities useful in the consideration of policy but as Epstein (1993) has argued (p144), the experience of the white, ethnic majority group is equally important when it comes to addressing the hidden curriculum and racial equality. It is often the anti-racist education of ethnic majority children that is poorly catered for in schools. We need to recognise that it is their attitudes and behaviours that are the cause of racism and we must also recognise that they are racist because they have learned it from others around them. In this context the growing literature which addresses the subject of ‘multicultural’ and anti-racist education in mainly white areas is directly relevant (see Epstein & Sealey,1990; Tomlinson, 1990, Gaine, 1987).
We have argued elsewhere (Siraj-Blatchford, J. and I., 1995) that it is important to highlight the complexity of identity formation in children, and how children from different structurally disadvantaged groups may often hold contradictory positions. But we also need to be aware of the danger of reducing identity entirely to individualistic terms. We must be wary of those who see identity as something essentially static, identities are multifaceted and plastic, and may at times be instrumentally adopted by individuals in pursuit of transient micro-political ends. Perhaps even more significantly, collective identities, whether they are class, race or gender based are also multifaceted and plastic. As long as the need for collective struggle remains, individuals will find the need to declare their membership of particular groups even though they may not share every aspect of a common experience.
In this context the greatest weakness of 'identity' research has been its failure to adequately address the hegemonic power base/politics of the right.
Conclusions: Is complacency passive complicity?
It has only been in the past ten years that anti-racism has really begun to shift its emphasis beyond teacher expectation, the adoption of policies and practices for combating racist harassment and name-calling. But there is now a firm understanding among committed researchers and activists that there is a need for all children to be taught about racism through curriculum and school processes even in predominantly white areas. But a major weakness in Troyna and Hatcher's (1991) study, was, as Roberts (1992) observed, their failure to explore the teachers’ views in greater depth. Why is it that teachers and headteachers are so ineffectual in countering racist harassment and abuse? As Roberts suggests it may well have been that the majority:
"..shared the white and black pupils' opinions that victims of mild forms of racial harassment needed to learn to handle such incidents, that intervening made the aggressor the victor, and that punishing the abusers might inflame the situation". (p378) Roberts (1992) argues that we need to know more about the teachers and their pupils 'taken-for-granted Britishness', we need to know more about the perceptions of shared history and culture held by white Britons and more about how they feel that this might be threatened. Roberts also draws particular attention to the minority of the primary school children identified by Troyna and Hatcher as 'unequivocally racist'. These are the children who will grow up to provide the most serious racist menace including serious physical attacks. Roberts refers to a 1987 survey, which identified one in ten of Liverpool’s 16-19 year-olds (rising to one in five among the unemployed) who, expressed support for the UK fascist group the National Front. As he argues, while these individuals may be unrepresentative of their age group they are sufficiently numerous to present a real threat and this has serious implications for the employment prospects of Black youth. In the same study: 'Three-quarters of the black 17 and 19 year-olds in Liverpool said that they felt unsafe outside their own parts of the city' (p378). As Roberts observes we really should be concerned that Britain's 'anti-racist' majority appears to be unable or unwilling to tackle this minority. In preschool settings and primary schools we have the opportunity to deal with the problem before serious damage is done. The problem is of course that the ethnic majority is not anti-racist, they are caught in an intellectual trap, a tautology that Said (1994) referred to as the 'impressive circularity' of British self-identification:
"...we are dominant because we have the power (industrial, technological, military, moral), and they don't, because of which they are not dominant; they are inferior, we are superior...and so on and on." (Said, 1994, p127) The ethnic majority identity has been constructed in opposition to non-Western ‘others’ who have been treated as:
“... ‘primitive’: child-like both in the sense of being at a stage of development that ‘the West’ had already passed through and as indicative of a state requiring tutelage and governance.” (Fabian, 1983 - cited in Rattansi, 1994 p36)
In the interests of political correctness, the ethnic majority denounces racism but continues to practice it. Gender inequality provides a useful parallel, the majority of British citizens now profess a commitment to equal gender opportunities yet women continue to carry out most of the housework. The REITE project argued that teacher education, and initial teacher education in particular, while not determining inequality, played an important part in reproducing and sustaining educational inequality.
In the 1970s and 80s, Black and white anti-racists drew upon the 'Black is Beautiful' campaigns to establish and support a community of resistance founded upon the shared experience of being identified as 'Black'. This resistance was constructed specifically in opposition to white racism, and while there are studies of white, working class racism, little has been done to study what it means to be white.
As Bonnett (1996) argues we need to understand 'whiteness' as a temporally and spatially contingent and fluid category. According to Bonnet, the tendency to consider 'whiteness' a fixed entity has been particularly damaging and has led towards the:
"positioning (or self-positioning) of 'white' people as fundamentally outside and untouched by, the contemporary controversies of 'racial' identity politics" (p98).
Most significantly this has meant that anti-racism in predominantly white areas has not sought to enable whites to see themselves as racialised subjects:
"Nor has it attempted to explain why and how white people might have a stake in, or be able to engage with, anti-racism as a project that speaks to them about their own identities and histories." (op cit, p102)
Bonnett cites MacDonald (1989) in arguing those anti-racist policies that exclude and/or stereotype 'whiteness' are unlikely to be effective. We need to include white pupils and parents in the process of developing anti-racism practices:
"Anti-racists need simultaneously to recognise and resist 'whiteness' whilst enabling and analysing its hybrid mutation and supercession. "Whiteness' has traditionally been the centre of the 'race' equality debate. It is now time to draw it into an explicit engagement with the anti-racist project."(op cit p108)
(1) The debates surrounding the relative merits of '‘multicultural’' and anti-racist approaches to promoting educational equality continue unabated in Britain (Short & Carrington, 1996, Cole, 1998). While these discussions lie beyond the scope of this paper, in the interests of consistency with a number of US sources, the term ‘multiculturalism' is applied in parenthesis to indicate its problematic nature.
(2) The term 'ethnic majority' is used here as a curative for the common tendency of 'ethnic minority' to be used, just as 'coloured' was once used, as a euphemism for 'black'. The usage also serves to remind white readers that they have, what some might argue to be at times an exotic, ethnicity of their own. Up until the 'black is beautiful' campaign that began in the United States in the 1960's, 'black' was exclusively used in a pejorative sense. Where we use the term 'Black', it is used in a similar socio-political sense rather than as a biological category. In common with many other anti-racists we may thus be taken to be referring to all of those who share the experience of being victims of racism.
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