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5 Social Structure and Pedagogy Introduction In classroom research, it is often maintained that culture (i.e. the enveloping social structure) has an effect not only on what is taught in schools but also on how it is taught. For example, researchers have attributed classroom practices to the social structure in which such practices occur (e.g. Yoder and Mautle 1991; Harber 1994; Cleghorn et al. 1989; Fuller and Clarke 1996; Vavrus 2009). It is often stated as an article of faith that the ‘oppressive’ African culture contributes heavily to the substance and resilience of the teachercentred pedagogy. Often lacking, however, is an articulation of how exactly the social structure finds its way into the classroom. For example, in the Botswana context, Prophet (1990:114) observes that: …. no research appears to have been carried out concerning the extent to which fundamental world-views of Setswana culture reinforce or contradict the views being put forward in schooling. He goes on to make this pertinent observation: …. the quality of learning in the classroom here in Botswana may not be drastically improved by curriculum reform which simply alters the surface features of that which is on offer to the pupils…. The problem is more fundamental and is related to the issues of culture and language (p. 116). It is clear that at the time of writing these words, Prophet may not have been awareoftheanthropologicalworkdonebyAlverson(1978)whichdemonstrates the relationship between Tswana child-rearing practices and didactic teaching practices.This oversight notwithstanding, Prophet’s observations were apposite in that they demonstrated an awareness of the social/cultural groundedness of Teaching and Learning in Context: Why Pedagogical Reforms Fail in Sub-Saharan Africa 92 teaching and learning – a position that negates technical rationality and all that it stands for. What Prophet is calling for in the statements cited above is the linking of the macro (structural features) and the micro (classroom practice), in particular the following three aspects: the enveloping social structure, education as the transmission of culture, and pedagogical practices in the classroom. In this chapter I examine aspects of the African social structure, childrearing practices and pedagogical practice. Salient aspects of social structure are the structures of domination and subordination which govern interpersonal relations and practices in the African context. Child rearing in Africa generally emphasizes the domination and subordination of the child. During both overt and covert socialization, children internalize these structures as their subjective reality which in turn informs their habits of thought and positively orients them towards their society’s authority structures.The habits of thought thus engendered are perfectly congruent with the prevailing traditional social structure and are, therefore, essential for the perpetuation and reproduction of the latter. Agents (e.g. teachers and students) who are products of more or less the same objective conditions will tend to share a commonsense world as well as harmonized and homogenized actions and practices. The mode of thought produced through the internalization of these objective conditions is what students and teachers carry to the school situation as their ‘cultural baggage’. Teachers and students do not leave this baggage at the school gate. Being part of their ‘unconscious’ (Bourdieu 1971), they take it with them into the classroom where, through the mediation of pedagogical style, it influences their classroom practices and actions. Viewed in this way, teaching ceases to be a neutral activity that is dislocated from its broader social context (Flanagan 1992). Freire (1972) has argued that education is never a valueneutral activity; it either functions as an instrument for integrating the young into the logic of the present so that they conform to it, or it becomes the practice of freedom. Research on classroom processes in sub-Saharan Africa, as indicated in the previous chapters, clearly shows that education there serves to integrate students into the existing paternalistic social structure, a point emphasized by Harber (1994). Taking the cosmology of the Tswana of southern Africa as an example, I demonstrate the relationship between the social structure and classroom practices. The reader is encouraged to relate my rendition to their own context as a way of establishing how their own culture interacts with education. I begin by a brief consideration of Bourdieu’s thinking on education as a social institution and its role in the transmission of culture. Such explication is necessary if we are to appreciate how schools in the African context and 93 elsewhere for that matter, produce and reproduce the social structure that in the first place shaped them. This...


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