This is part 2 of the series-
I assume that the inclusive of cultural capital in the OfSTED framework means that schools should be equipping students with a schematic repertoire to navigate society. This is fine; teaching students how to make choices that make them more ‘successful’ is not controversial. ‘The best that has been thought and said’ and ‘an appreciation of human creativity and achievement’ needs the addition of ‘by those imbued with whiteness’ and ‘of whiteness’ to be truly authentic.
Now in each micro field, let’s ask which cultural capital is valued? Whose unwritten rules and structural expectancies are held as worthy? In the playground, whose games are catered? Whose norms are adhered to? In the classroom, the poetry of Shakespeare has more value than Rumi, the Rza, or Chip. Why is this? Is it the aesthetics of the language? The content? The highfalutin nature of the language?
Akala at TEDxAldeburgh compares the valued work of Shakespeare to hip hop artists.
” “To destroy the beauty from which one came.” To destroy the beauty from which one came. If you think that’s hip hop, raise your hands please. If that’s Shakespeare, raise your hands please. Brilliant, okay, that’s 70% towards Shakespeare. It’s from a gentleman known as Sean Carter, better known as Jay-Z, from a track called “Can I live?”"To destroy the beauty from which one came." To destroy the beauty from which one came. If you think that's hip hop, raise your hands please. If that's Shakespeare, raise your hands please. Brilliant, okay, that's 70% towards… Click To Tweet
We’ll go for another one. “Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit.” Maybe it’s hatred I spew, maybe it’s food for the spirit. Hip hop? Shakespeare? Getting overwhelmingly towards Shakespeare. Interesting. Anyone heard of a gentleman known as Eminem? He’s not Shakespeare. That’s from a track Eminem did with Jay-Z actually, called “Renegade.”
We’ll go for a couple more. “Men would rather use their broken weapons than their bare hands.” Men would rather use their broken weapons than their bare hands. Hip hop? Shakespeare? Pretty even spread with a Shakespearean lean. That one is from Shakespeare, it’s from a play known as “Othello.”
We go for: “I was not born under a rhyming planet.” I was not born under a rhyming planet. Hip hop? Shakespeare? That one is Shakespeare. It’s from “Much Ado about Nothing.”
We go for two more. We’ll go for: “The most benevolent king communicates through your dreams.” The most benevolent king communicates through your dreams. Hip hop? Shakespeare? Ah, 50:50 there. A gentleman known as the RZA who’s the head of the Wu-Tang Clan.
It isn’t that easy, is it? Once we remove the context, the cultural setting (and power), it becomes complicated to differentiate between hip hop lyrics and academically valued work. Kingslee Akala going on to asks the question, who is allowed to be the custodian of knowledge? The beauty of the lyrical words is very similar to the accepted pantheon. The apparent only difference is that an alternative culture brings us one, which is not known or accepted to the ears of those defining which ideas are worth spreading. “
Is This About Knowledge?
Let’s think about the educational canon in schools; what is the decision makers’ cultural capital? The culture they accept and propagate. Power begets power, and the habitus begets, well, more habitus.
Why do certain groups cluster together in the playground and tend to behave in similar ways? In staff meetings, why do teachers of colour rarely feel comfortable wearing traditional garments? Who decides where value resides in your organisation?
Is ‘value’ a synonym for how entrenched in whiteness the cultural activities are?Is 'value' a synonym for how entrenched in whiteness the cultural activities are? Click To Tweet
The etiquette of a ‘business wear’ style uniforms are more important than the students’ expressions of self in the classroom’s micro field. These different sections of society all have different levels of value. Through teaching a preselected narrative, we endow our political views on the children we serve. I have no issue with being political; After all, teaching is an act of politics (Freire).
But, we have to admit this is a form of brainwashing—just a brand so unique it may be sponsored by Daz.
What happens when we elevate one culture over another?
People of colour’s cultural capital, no matter how valuable, if it does not align with whiteness’ metrics, is deemed worthless. Students of colour are forced to adapt by rejecting that part of themselves; forced to have to navigate this discord constantly. The process presents as subconscious code-switching between social groups, home and school; this is exhausting takes up precious cognitive resources, leading to many issues.
It begs the question, is this about knowledge or is this about protecting the status quo? We are trained through our education system to endorse this ideology by promoting a particular type of knowledge and actively denigrating the majority’s cultural worth of knowledge; Who, if anyone needs reminding, are the working class and our melanated kith and kin?It begs the question, is this about knowledge or is this about protecting the status quo? We are trained through our education system to endorse this ideology by promoting a particular type of knowledge and actively denigrating the… Click To Tweet
It is okay to state that hip hop/bhangra/bongo, graffiti/tinga tinga/rangalo, and street dance/garba/forho are not accepted because they are not borne solely of whiteness. But, stop pretending this is about the quality of academia or the ‘best’ of anything.