Categories
diversity Education

Cultural Capital: a means of enabling a culture of whiteness

Ofsted defines the term Cultural Capital as: “the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens” (McTavish, 2019)

While it is intended to close the deprivation gap, I think we need to confront and challenge this term due to its myopic and classist connotations.

As a teacher, Cultural Capital has always been problematic for me. It often seems to go unchallenged, despite the problems that subtlety and unsubtly emerge from its day to day use in discussions and implementation. For instance, a trip to the Globe theatre is instantly hailed as the perfect anecdote to increasing the Cultural Capital of a supposedly disadvantaged child from a minority background. Just to clarify, I love Shakespeare and the theatre, however I refuse to view Culture as purely through the lens of whiteness. Mansell, (Guardian, 2019) argues that the importance given to Cultural Capital in the new Ofsted framework raises many issues. For instance, Mansell uses the argument from Yandell that “the notion of cultural capital implies that certain cultures are objectively more valuable than others.” (Mansell, Guardian, 2019).  This relationship between Cultural Capital and cultural value is crucial and underlines my critique of the inclusion of Cultural Capital in the new Ofsted guidelines. The two most serious issues are: a) It is socially elitist and relies on an exclusionary view of culture and its value, b) the guidelines themselves are highly ambiguous on this topic.

There are a variety of hidden capitals that exist but are rarely discussed in mainstream academia. Here, the term Cultural capital is seen in a more pejorative manner. However, it is also seen as the starting point to create a discussion. The prevising idea and theme are that cultural capital views the term Culture as being synonymous with whiteness. As a scholar of Bourdieu, Yosso argues that the term Cultural Capital seems to be intrinsically linked to elitism. When used in its least contested form, what we have is a term that argues knowledge is hierarchical and therefore places certain values and most importantly some people at a deficit. Yosso argues that “while Bourdieu’s work sought to provide a structural critique of social and cultural reproduction, his theory of cultural capital has been used to assert that some communities are culturally wealthy while others are culturally poor.” (Yosso, 2006). The main idea seems to be that prevalent interpretations of Cultural Capital have in themselves become problematic and rather than challenging social hierarchies, have instead validated said hierarchies.

Cultural Capital as an explanation is not a panacea for all explanations of inequality and therefore Yosso’s work seeks to unearth a variety of these. These goes as follows: ‘Aspirational capital’ which refers to the notion of resilience and the ability to maintain hopes and dreams for the future (2006). ‘Linguistic capital’ focuses on the capital that many students have that is undoubtedly ignored, that of ‘communication experiences in more than one language and/or style’. Linguistic capital relates to a lot of students who are categorised as having English as an Additional or Second Language. Their Capital is often ignored, due to assumptions of intelligence and capability. Familial capital refers to those ‘cultural knowledges nurtured among family’(2006). Again, when certain cultures are stereotyped as having some sort of innate deficit, the role of familial ties and connections that are far less overt, go unnoticed.  Social capital is defined as ‘networks of people and community resources’ and has a clear correlation with ‘Familial capital’ (2006).  This poses the question of how and why the work of certain communities in enhancing and supplementing a child’s education is often unnoticed. ‘Navigational capital’ refers to skills of manoeuvrings through social institutions, this takes place mainly in institutions where minorities find themselves to be less present (2006).  Resistant capital refers those knowledges and skills fostered through oppositional behaviour that challenges inequality (2006).

The main variation of capital that I am going to mainly focus on is ‘resistance capital’ (Yosso, 2006). This term does not see students of different backgrounds as being at an acute disadvantage. I want to question why this more nuanced analysis of Cultural Capital is not used more widely.  This leads me to enquire whether Yosso’s statement, whilst now comparatively old, is still is too progressive for mainstream educational policy.  If so, does this speak of the structure of Education as being complicit in constantly upholding an idea of hierarchy? What can we do as teachers? Well, we must challenge the status quo, uphold the cultures that get ignored, present a new form of capital that is not performatively inclusive and understand that our children deserve more than a tick box trip to a museum.

Bibliography

Mansell, W(2019) “Ofsted plan to inspect ‘cultural capital’ in schools attacked as elitist” Guardian (accessed 20th April)

McTavish, A (2019) “Cultural Capital” Early Education  https://www.early-education.org.uk/cultural-capital (accessed 06/09/2020)

Yosso, T, J (2006) “Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth”. University of California. Race, Ethnicity and Education. (accessed 20th May)

Categories
BLM diversity Women in Leadership workplace

Black Women and Leadership: a fight against misogynoir

‘The most disrespected person in America is the black woman’ (Malcolm X)

As a woman of African Caribbean descent and a middle leader in education, the conversations surrounding institutional racism and representation were particularly at the forefront of my personal experiences and encounters with racism. This work became even more topical and pressing due to the implications they have in a world that is becoming more aware and allowing conversations to be far more equitable.

The role of the media and implicit and unconscious bias is at the forefront of this discourse. For instance, in 2019, Trevor Phillips during an interview for The Guardian described diversity in the UK media as being ‘tokenistic’ and that as a result of this, there has a been a ‘mishandling of race issues’(1). The application of the term ‘tokenistic’ can be used and used to discuss the lack of diversity across all sections of society (1).

To begin with, I am going to bring in the idea of whiteness and power. MacIntosh in her seminal essay discusses how there is an assumption that the ‘person in charge’ will be the same race as you. This is an idea that I want to delve into, the notion of assumption and power (2). The issue of Whiteness is that it is, for the most part, largely invisible and therefore difficult to analyse and critique. However, when considering the prevalence and relevance that whiteness has when considering power, privilege, and hierarchy, it is an important place to begin.  It is also an uncomfortable place to begin.  However, now is not the time to shy away from things being uncomfortable. For us as women, particularly women from any minority, discomfort has been the burden that we have been forced to bear in a myriad of ways.

When considering whiteness, we should see the space that Black women inhabit in a much more nuanced manner. However, the representation of black women in the media has been largely myopic. West, in her 2016 chapter titled ‘Mammy, Sapphire, Jezebel and the Bad girls of reality television: Media representations of Black women’ seeks to dismantle the archetypes that are prevalent as used in the media representation of black women’(3). The first thing that is interesting to note is that these archetypes have also become stereotypes, roles that seek to reinforce a negative image of black women. As a result of these images the idea of black women becomes synonymous with aggression and overt sexualisation. If in anyway different, the roles are diminished to be very little, a quick tokenistic hello. Whilst this is changing- thanks to Black female led television shows such as ‘I May Destroy you’ and ‘Insecure’, there is still significant work to do. My question is whether and how these images create obstacles for black women in leadership positions.

In the UK, there is a lacuna of representation within educational leadership field. We must realise that Black women account for ‘0.2%’ of Headteachers in the country’(4). This is significantly low and seems to coincide with the issue of ‘erasure’ that is apparent in the media. However, the question here must relate to the obstacles that are leading to a lack of representation of black women in UK educational leadership. The Miller Report proclaims that ‘Institutional racism can reinforce racist attitudes’ and ‘behaviours that blight the experience’ of ‘staff from minority ethnic backgrounds.’ This clearly indicates that the issues of racism create a tangible difference in the experience of staff(5).

There have been studies that consider the specific issues that Black women face as leaders in education. I have found that like most areas of race discourse, this is written from a largely American perspective, there are still parallels that exist in the UK educational field.  Alston argues that the “appearance of a possible problem regarding the transference of power from White men to Black women is not really the issue” (6).The comment of the transference of power really struck me. This seems to be looking beyond the obvious solution to thwarting racism. Is this arguing that this idea of transference oversimplifies the issues?

The answer is that these issues have continuously been over simplified. The complexity and intricacy of being a black woman in any field has so far been confined by white supremacy. This notion pf whiteness that will always prohibit true and honest representation. As black female leaders, our roles may seem confined to what the media inextricably perpetuates, however, we will constantly exercise resistance in ways that are expected, unexpected and everything in between.

References

1. Press Association (2019)”UK media is tokenistic in its attitude to diversity, says Trevor Phillips” Guardian (accessed 10th June 2020)

2. Mcintosh, P (1989) “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” Wellesley College Centre for Research on Women, Wellesley, MA 02131 (accessed 2nd April 2020)

3. West, C (2013) ‘Mammy, Sapphire, Jezebel and the Bad girls of reality television: Media representations of Black women’ in the book ‘Representations of Black women in the media: the damnation of black womanhood’ Routledge

4.Author unknown (January 2020) ‘School teacher workforce’ (Gov.uk)

5. Miller, P (2019) “International Studies in Educational Administration” Volume 47 CCEAM  (accessed 1st July)

6. Alston, J (2000) “Missing form action: Where Are the Black Female School Superintendents?” Bowling Green State University. Available from: Sage Journals (accessed 27th May 2020)