"There has been a neglect of the links between social inequalities and the distribution of knowledge, and social inequalities and the nature of educational knowledges. On the one hand, there is the need to ensure that all students are provided with the core disciplines such as language, math's and natural and social sciences... On the other hand, it needs to be recognized that knowledge itself is culturally specific, and has different effects according to social group.
Access itself is only the beginning of an equality policy. The fetish with access to the curriculum, without considering the curriculum itself, is symptomatic of a central weakness in mainstream equality discourse. This weakness springs from failure to grasp the normalizing role of education. " (Margison, 1993: 244, emphasis added) Explain the concept of the 'normalizing role of education'. Refer to Margison's concerns, and how this normalizing role is involved in the construction of 'social inequality' and 'difference'.
Normalizing in education refers to trying to make everyone the same; it does not honor diversity but honors sameness and conformity. Honoring sameness in the school environment, creates social inequalities as it focuses mainly on students who are considered 'normal' and leaves behind those students who have differences, such as disabilities. There are many issues across the education system where normalization is a key concern. These may include class, gender, sexuality, ability, cultural background/ race, religion, and age.
A key issue where normalization may be addressed is with students with disabilities and special needs. These students may be made to feel different and socially unequal as they do not look or act the same as other students at their school. They may have to attend 'special needs classes' and feel as if they are excluded from mainstream education. Another social inequality within the education system may be that of students with culturally diverse backgrounds as they may not fit into the curriculum due to language barriers or other skills which are needed.
By normalizing in the school system teachers are assuming that all students are fitting into a normal curve which is a "statistical idea developed in the nineteenth century" (Preston,N. & Symes,C. , Schools and Classrooms: A cultural studies analysis of education, Longman PTY LTD, South Melbourne, 1997). By assuming that all students fit into this curve, and basing the curriculum around this theory, students who have a social inequality are left behind as do not fit into this theory of 'normal' leaning.
Schools need to ensure that they are offering equal opportunities to students who do hold a social inequality so they are not made to feel as if they no not belong. "Equity requires that the school system and schools themselves be organized in ways that treat all students fairly and, as far as possible, avoid policies and practices whereby some students are disadvantaged compared to others by circumstances outside their own control or influence" (NSW Dept. of School Education, Girls and Boys at School, 1996). There are many different theories about normalization and the impact that it has on society.
The functionalists believe that normalization does not cause social inequalities. "Functionalists argue that the modern school furthers the selection of individuals on the basis of family background, race, sex, or religion. Thus, for the functionalist, schools serve both a social and an individual purpose. " (Feinberg,W. & Soltis,J. F. Schools and Society, 1985, pp. 43). The conflict theory is based on many sources but the most common and influential is Marxist. Conflict theorists believe that normalization in society does not cause social inequalities. Whereas functionalists believe that the driving force behind social and educational change is the progressive movement toward technical development and social integration, conflict theorists believe the driving force in complex societies is the unending struggle between different groups to hold power and status" (Feinberg,W. & Soltis,J. F. Schools and Society, 1985, pp. 43).
Conflict theorists believe that schools favour the dominant privileged class by providing more opportunities for them based on economic and political status quo. (Feinberg,W. Soltis,J. F. Schools and Society, 1985, pp. 43). Marxist theorists believe that conflicts are usually "traced to differences among social classes... direct conflict may be one among blacks and whites, males and females, or Christians and Jews" (Feinberg,W. & Soltis,J. F. Schools and Society, 1985, pp. 43). Conflict theorists believe that functionalists aim to advantage the dominant social groups in society and therefore believe that this normalization develops social inequalities for the less advantaged in society which agrees with Margison's concerns.
The problem with functionalism, according to conflict theory, is that, consciously or not, it takes the interests and perspectives of the dominant social groups in society and elevates them to the status of universal norms. Having done this, it then uses these norms to measure the contributions of members of all other groups. In this way the interests of a particular class are misrepresented as belonging to the society as a whole, and this misinterpretation then serves to maintain the privileged position of the members of that class" (Feinberg,W. Soltis,J. F. Schools and Society, 1985, pp. 43).
By recognizing that not all students are the same and by honoring diversity instead of normalization students are able to be given a fair and equitable education. Schools need to address issues of difference and diversity and ensure that all students are given equal opportunities within the classroom. The law in Australia makes it illegal to discriminate against a person because they have a disability.
It would be considered discrimination for a school to exclude form the classroom a child's wheelchair or walking frame because it clutters up the classroom or refuse to make necessary adjustments for a child with a disability to complete their work. Schools need to address issues concerning children with disabilities and ensure that they feel the same as the other students and are included in the classroom.
The text book Integration and Inclusion in Action takes the viewpoint that normalization with relation to disabilities is a good thing i. . "Normalisation involves making the circumstances of life for people with a disability the same as, or close to, those experienced by all people" (Foreman,P. Integration and inclusion in Action, 2001, pp. 38). This view of normalization is very debatable as it is allowing students with disabilities to attend mainstream schooling and attend classes with students that are considered 'normal' but it may also be disadvantaging the student as they are expected to do the same work as their peers.
If a child is severely disabled this may be an impossibility as they do not have the mental capacity to do the same work as their peers, however is the child suffers from minor disabilities they may be able to handle mainstream classes quite well. By allowing students with disabilities to attend mainstream schooling the school is creating equal opportunities for the student but it may also disadvantage the student as they are not able to keep up with the rest of the class in regard to workload as the curriculum has been designed for those students who fit into the normal curve of education learning.
Parents need to assess their child's particular needs when deciding whether to put their child into a mainstream class or putting their child into a special needs class. Normalizing students with disabilities creates social inequalities and difference as referred to by Margison because it puts an emphasis on the fact that these students are outside of the normal curve and are not capable of completing tasks designed for students who are 'more able'. This puts a social inequality on them as they are constantly being left behind due to lack of time in the hurried curriculum.
Teachers can however still adopt an inclusive classroom that has able bodied students and students with disabilities as long as they cater for the special needs of the student and do not assume the role of normalization. In order to do this, teachers need to enlist the support of a special education teacher who is with the student throughout the day to assist them with their work. The teacher of the classroom may work with the special education teacher to develop a program for the disabled student to follow that is designed at the level of work which they are at.
This caters for both the disabled student and the rest of the class as they are not held back waiting for him/her to finish their work. It also helps to create an inclusive atmosphere in the classroom which will allow the students of the classroom to become comfortable and tolerant of people with disabilities that will benefit them throughout life. (Holzschuher,C. How to manage your inclusive Classroom, 1997). The issue of normalization in relation to gender is rather complex. In order for normalization not to occur, teachers need to honour the diversity of both sexes and identify the interests and abilities of all of their students.
The idea that both sexes receive exactly the same education is of itself problematic given the evidence that teachers treat girls and boys so differently... when tow sexes are held to have different status, when they are seen to have different needs and interests and different roles awaiting them in adult life, when the society is organized on the basis of sex differences- then what must be taken into account is the consideration that the very same education might not be equally useful or helpful when required to function for two such diverse ends" (Foster,V.
Including Girls, 1987, pp. 5). By normalizing boys and girls in the same normal curve, schools are assuming that both genders are going to react and respond the same to the curriculum and the information being taught. This however is not true. It is often assumed in society that girls are the prevailing sex when it comes to reading and English related subjects and that boys are somewhere below females in this field. This type of assertion stereotypes males and females into categories that simply are not true.
For some part, statements like these may hold some ground, but as a whole, this can not be set in concrete as males could be seen to be just as superior at English as females. Other misconceptions that appear in relation to gender could be that of offering certain subjects to certain sexes such as woodworking to males only and cooking and sewing to females. This type of gender stereotyping causes bias in the community and causes social inequalities as both sexes aren't being offered the opportunity to succeed in subjects that they may be interested in.
In schools bias may also exist in relation to sports where there may only be a male rugby team and no team available for females to participate in. This type of normalization creates inequalities between the sexes as it isn't allowing the same opportunities for each sex. It is stereotyping each sex into doing activities that society believes are suitable for that sex and is not honoring the diversity that school should offer. The experience of `growing up' in the future may well be one of `growing out' of traditional gender identities. Increasingly it seems that schools will need to listen to male and female pupils to learn how far and in what ways boys and girls have different ways of knowing and of learning and a diversity of gender identities" (Arnot,M. Gender Relations and Schooling in the new Century: Conflicts and Challenges, 1999).