Re: [xmca] Allan Luke on Race and Language as Capital -- part 2

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Mon Nov 24 2008 - 23:27:53 PST

In mitigation of this "proposal" by Alan, my understanding
was that he was saying: there are certin "logical
possibilities" for intervening in the institution of
educaiton, let's look at them one at a time. This is not
quite the same as suggesting that someone has answered
Marx's famous question of "who will educate the educators."


Beth Ferholt wrote:
> SO much to think about here, obviously -- thank you!Just on one point that
> is vexing me right now, as I apply for jobs to teach teachers:
> Have you encountered any teacher preparation/professional development that
> does remake teacher habitus, despite your apt observations on this
> recommendation of Alan Luke's?
> Beth
> On Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 8:30 AM, Jay Lemke <> wrote:
>> So, for any of you who are still reading my reactions to Allan Luke's essay
>> ... I pick up with the question of unified response to oppressive logics of
>> practice and the practices that implement them, and then with reactions to
>> Allan's proposals for school-based reform.
>> Yes, kids move across institutions, including home, school, popular culture
>> media worlds, etc. And we know from some very old and disheartening research
>> about kids raised in liberated, pro-feminist households where daddy did half
>> the cooking and housework, that young kids still held the same dominant
>> ideological views about sex-role stereotypes --- because they picked these
>> up outside their own homes, in the homes of friends, from television and
>> movies, etc. Ideologies are pervasive in their reach, part of our social
>> realities, and no single institution can reform in isolation with respect to
>> these.
>> But Allan does seem to leave the point there. His analyses and
>> recommendations thereafter deal only with schools, curricula, teachers, etc.
>> He does not consider how the recommendations would be subverted by the
>> failure to simultaneously address kids lives in non-school contexts. Or
>> possible solutions. Once upon a time I think many of us imagined the
>> solution to be a total political revolution, replacing the policy makers,
>> and so on down the line to the institutional practices. But as Allan points
>> out, that was really when it was all about a single principle of division:
>> replace the ruling capitalist class with the working class, and voila! But
>> now this logic leads us to consider working class women, and non-working
>> class oppressed women, and gays, and non-european peoples, and
>> non-dominant-language speakers, etc. etc. Today there is no unified
>> anti-dominant interest whose representation obviously leads to a unified
>> replacement for capitalist policies.
>> The problem once again, I think, is residual, even if critical,
>> essentialism. The idea of the nation-state, the ideal of democratically
>> setting single unified policies for massive numbers of diverse people and
>> communities ... is itself part of the problem, not a framework for a
>> possible solution.
>> And so, finally, to the recommendations.
>> Accurately and fairly recognise and evaluate the cultural capital that
>> students bring to school ...
>> But by whose standards? according to Bourdieu, those standards are a
>> function of where we sit, and the dominant standards are those defined by
>> sitting with a lot of money and power. How can there be ANY universal
>> standards for doing this, no matter how critical or well-intentioned? not to
>> mention that the value of cultural capital is RELATIVE to a social field ...
>> change that of the school and the evaluation changes. Shift to a non-school
>> setting for an internship or apprenticeship, it changes again.
>> Change the lingua franca of the school field:
>> Change the regulative rules of interaction in the school field:
>> Both are probably better than doing nothing, but which other languages are
>> to be accepted as legitimate in the school? in many urban settings
>> throughout the world, there are multiple non-dominant languages in the same
>> school. And making the change in the school does nothing about what happens
>> outside the school. Shall we put to a vote to make discrimination anywhere
>> in society based on language a crime? (I'd do it, if it would pass.) Think
>> through the consequences. And as to changing the regulative rules (which
>> means things like how discussions and learning are socially organized within
>> the school or classroom), this works well in some case for a specific
>> cultural model, but what again when the classroom has multiple cultures and
>> their preferred models of learning and interction represented? You can't
>> change from one hegemonic practice to another and be ahead inthe long term.
>> (Though it's nice to make the dominant group kids suffer briefly ... or is
>> it?)
>> Revise the curriculum:
>> Yes, let's dump the canon and try not to replace it with another ... and in
>> the multi-cultural setting (and multi-gender, sexuality, age, class, etc.)
>> if everyone gets their five minutes of curriculum time, we have the most
>> superficial and useless possible curriculum. The problem is not the wrong
>> curriculum. It is having a universal curriculum at all. It lies in the
>> assumption, which functions to support hegemonic ideologies, that everyone
>> ought to learn the same stuff, rather than learning some of what the
>> community needs to have known, and learning how to combine it with what
>> others know.
>> Critique social fields:
>> Well, I can't argue with the goal here. But it's damned hard to do, because
>> it goes against much of the values, loyalties, identities, and habitus of
>> the students and teachers themselves. Not to mention that critique is also
>> socially positioned: there are many critiques, from many viewpoints. Not the
>> stuff of a planned curriculum, I think.
>> Remake teacher habitus:
>> In how long? the 2-3 years of most teacher preparation programs? when
>> teachers are in their early 20s or older? Or for serving teachers who are in
>> their 40s or older? Bourdieu's model of habitus argues that core
>> dispositions, which include those towards values as well as practices, arise
>> over the lifespan, and if changed, do so on a timescale of decades. Some of
>> us culturally inherit a belief in Conversion Experiences, where in a matter
>> of days or minutes, people suddenly see the Light and are Re-Born with
>> totally changed habitus (Paul on the road to Damascus). I find Bourdieu's
>> model applies more frequently.
>> I respect Allan's years of work to improve social justice and valuable
>> learning in schools, and in research on education. He has accomplished so
>> much that I take seriously his arguments and recommendations. Seriously
>> enough that I wanted to respond to those points where I perhaps see things a
>> bit differently.
>> JAY.
>> Mike Cole wrote:
>>> Thanks for your summary and comments, Steve. I have been finding Allan's
>>> article difficult to grasp as a whole, perhaps because I am insufficiently
>>> schooled i Bourdieu and his relationship to other contemporary thinkers
>>> and
>>> Marx. If we could get a joint reading of "Forms of Capital" perhaps it
>>> would
>>> help. The use of many hypenated ""-capital that are in the discussions I
>>> participate in often confuse me as to their (often implicit) causal
>>> claims.
>>> Two, perhaps, useful small comments.
>>> One, I strongly recognized Allan's comment that the use of colour is "not
>>> the exclusive domain of any particular dominant class or colour of male
>>> patriarch, followed by listing of various forms of domination that occur,
>>> among other ways,
>>> ""not just white upon black and brown, but yellow upon white, black upon
>>> black."
>>> In the Liberia of the 1970's, and I suspect now, color was not the
>>> characteristic upon which racism was organized. I was classified along
>>> with
>>> President Tubman using the same term, an amalgam of "civilized, rich,
>>> powerful, to be feared, etc."
>>> and people from Monrovia spoke of the people among whom I worked as
>>> aborigines. I have seen similar phenomena in Japan vis a vis Koreans and
>>> from Allan's broad experience, he must have seen every possible
>>> combination
>>> of distinction used as a form of essentialized racism.
>>> Second, re school practices that offer solutions. Little to argue with
>>> there
>>> other than the manifest inability to get such an ensemble of practices
>>> instituted. I can add on practice, however, at an explicitly anti-racist
>>> school my kids attended. It
>>> was manifested in a producation of the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy gets
>>> blown
>>> out of Kansas a white girl and appears again in Oz as a black girl, but
>>> her
>>> identity has manifestly/symbolically not changed: an explicit,
>>> institutionalize rejection of skin color as a phenotypic marker of a
>>> distinction that makes a difference.
>>> Apropos of the enormous challenges remaining after the election and
>>> Michael's comments earlier today, a story in the NY Times today about the
>>> southern state of Alabama explains that many democrats could not bring
>>> themselves to vote for Obama, although rejecting Bush, as a result of
>>> which
>>> a pretty nasty law forbidding adoption of children by non-married couples
>>> passed. A great deal has remained the same (ditto here in California),
>>> including the very important illusion that assembly line workers at Ford
>>> are, and are supposed to be, part of the middle class.
>>> I hope others will help enlighten me and others concerning the important
>>> issues
>>> raised by Allan and your commentary. If you could get folks to follow you
>>> and lead a discussion of forms of capital, that would be great.
>>> mike
>>> On Sat, Nov 8, 2008 at 9:27 PM, Steve Gabosch <>
>>> wrote:
>>> I've been reading over and thinking about Allan Luke's paper, Race and
>>>> Language as Capital in School: A Sociological Template for Language
>>>> Education Reform, which is posted on the lchc site here:
>>>> I heard Allan speak at an AERA conference a few years ago. He gave an
>>>> impressive talk and was well-received. Wikipedia has a little article on
>>>> him here:
>>>> Luke's paper discusses how to view, critique and synthesize a variety of
>>>> existing strategies to end racial and linguistic discrimination in the
>>>> school systems, using Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital, and field.
>>>> First, a little on the theory behind the paper. My take on Luke's
>>>> analytical framework goes in two directions.
>>>> On one hand, I like aspects of the way Luke uses the concepts of habitus
>>>> and capital to describe issues of racial and linguistic discrimination,
>>>> and
>>>> strategies to overcome it in the school setting. He uses these concepts
>>>> in
>>>> ways that reveal **descriptive** and **analytical* power when looking at
>>>> the the individual and intersubjective levels of racism and linguistic
>>>> repression, and they prove useful to him when he generalizes about
>>>> different
>>>> strategies to overcome discrimination, oppression and cultural repression
>>>> in
>>>> the classroom.
>>>> On the other hand, I see problems with the concepts of habitus and
>>>> capital
>>>> to the extent they are used as more than just metaphors and are mistaken
>>>> for
>>>> having sociological **explanatory** power. I suppose this is a kind of
>>>> "the
>>>> emperor has no clothes" kind of perspective on my part, but I'll take the
>>>> risk and be blunt: Bourdieu's theory of social and cultural capital
>>>> strikes
>>>> me as little more than offering new terms and metaphors to describe
>>>> things,
>>>> but not explain them. In other words, while his theory about "capital"
>>>> adds
>>>> some new ideas on how to do the "what does it look like" side of analysis
>>>> and description, it adds little or nothing on the "why does this or that
>>>> happen" side.
>>>> Perhaps Luke's paper and his use of the concept of cultural and social
>>>> capital could spark a discussion of Bourdieu's article "Forms of Capital"
>>>> sometime. I have some thoughts on something I think I see Bourdieu
>>>> doing.
>>>> I see him **compressing** together different levels of reality, such as
>>>> the
>>>> socio-economic, the socio-cultural, and cultural-psychological, thereby
>>>> losing a handle on the generative/emergent cause and effect relationship
>>>> between these different integrative levels. These levels operate under
>>>> different developmental dynamics and time frames - while at the very same
>>>> time, they interpenetrate and inter-transform one another. Both of these
>>>> aspects are vital for theorizing, describing, analyzing and intervening
>>>> in
>>>> any aspect of social reality.
>>>> What I see Bourdieu as doing has similarities to, but is different from,
>>>> reductionism. I call it "compressionism." In some ways, according to a
>>>> view I am developing, compressionism is the opposite of reductionism.
>>>> Both
>>>> reductionism and compressionism can offer interesting insights and
>>>> metaphors
>>>> in the short term, but both can also quickly become one-sided and
>>>> obfuscatory if used mechanically and exclusively. These two approaches
>>>> tend
>>>> to overstate one aspect or the other of the complex relationship between
>>>> integrative levels. The solution must be to see and understand both
>>>> aspects, and all sides of the thing being investigated. Compressionism
>>>> and
>>>> reductionism (and lots of methodological -isms - structuralism,
>>>> functionalism, relativism, etc.) can be used as helpful tools for
>>>> thinking
>>>> and asking questions - but are not so helpful, in my opinion, when used
>>>> as
>>>> methods to draw conclusions with.
>>>> Bourdieu's "Forms of Capital" can be found at:
>>>> Now to some commentary on the content of the paper.
>>>> Luke's articulate and potent discussion of discrimination and oppression
>>>> regarding racism and linguistic repression creates the impression that an
>>>> explanation is being advanced. But on closer examination, I don't see
>>>> an
>>>> explanation in this paper. Just a description. And a solid, outspoken
>>>> one,
>>>> may I add, which I appreciate. This is perfectly okay - science is about
>>>> both explanation and description.
>>>> Luke applies his descriptive framework to various strategies that are
>>>> being
>>>> tried in various schools to overcome aspects of discrimination. He
>>>> analyzes
>>>> each approach in terms of habitus, which I found interesting. Increased
>>>> descriptive power leads to sharper analysis, which leads to better
>>>> questions, which leads to deeper explanations, so this is a good road.
>>>> Generally speaking, the concepts of habitus and what could be
>>>> metaphorically called "personal capital" seem to help fill a need in our
>>>> language to point to and describe, in precise terms, an individual's
>>>> accumulated and practiced cultural and historical connections. I am
>>>> thinking that once we get clearer on the explanatory limitations of these
>>>> concepts, we can better harness their descriptive strengths. Luke offers
>>>> examples of how to effectively use these descriptive strengths in his
>>>> paper.
>>>> I'll finish up my little commentary on Luke's paper by quoting snippets
>>>> from his summary of suggested solutions. Luke is offering some
>>>> interesting
>>>> ideas for synthesizing a variety of approaches into something he calls a
>>>> "whole-school" approach. Many ideas I have heard on xmca, at AERA
>>>> conferences, etc. are contained in this summary.
>>>> a) ... recognise and evaluate the cultural capital that students bring to
>>>> school.
>>>> b) Change the lingua franca of the school field: depending upon community
>>>> and student aspirations, it would provide a balanced program of English
>>>> as a
>>>> Second Language and/or bilingual program ...
>>>> c) Change the regulative rules of interaction in the school field: ...
>>>> complement and reflect student cultural and community practices of
>>>> exchange
>>>> and gifting, paralinguistics and gesture and turn-taking.
>>>> d) Revise the curriculum ...
>>>> e) ... engage students with a broad analysis of how social fields
>>>> discriminate, their rules of exchange, and who they historically have
>>>> included and excluded.
>>>> f) Remake teacher habitus ...
>>>> - Steve
>>>> _______________________________________________
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>> --
>> *Jay L. Lemke*
>> Professor
>> University of Michigan
>> (on leave 2008-9)
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Received on Mon Nov 24 23:28:53 2008

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