Play reinforces existing hierarchiesPosted: June 9, 2016
If a relationship already exists and you do nothing to intervene then you might expect that relationship to persist.
This is the logic explored in a recent paper in the British Journal of Sociology of Education. The paper is written in a regrettable style, full of sociological jargon and lashings of ‘neoliberalism’. It also uses an interesting empirical approach; the researchers investigate three pre-schools that use a play-based approach and then try to draw conclusions about the effects of such an approach. If you want to know that then you need a control condition that doesn’t use play. To do this would be pretty difficult, however, because a play-based approach to pre-school has become ubiquitous and has even been written in to legislation.
As the authors note, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework in England, “privileges play as the primary means of delivering the aims of EYE [Early Years Education]”. They also quote Bernstein’s illuminating 1975 comment:
“If the ideologies of the old middle class were institutionalised in the public schools and through them into the grammar schools, so the ideology of the new middle class was first institutionalised in private pre-schools, then private/public secondary schools, and finally into the state system, at the level of the infant [to which we might add nursery] school.”
Across the three pre-schools that the authors study, they suggest that it is middle-class children who are most likely to be deemed ‘school ready’ and working class children who are most likely to be seen as ‘difficult’. However, the laissez-faire play-based philosophy doesn’t allow for the instructors to intervene and teach children the behaviours that would make them school ready. Instead, assumptions are made about the ability of the students, assumptions that then persist through time. The authors’ view is that a potentially mutable social reality has been taken as a fixed attribute of the child.
They tentatively suggest the need for a new pedagogy. Good luck with that. Anyone who criticises the play-based orthodoxy is likely to be lynched as a hater of children and childhood.