Ethnicized Culture, Curricular Imagination, and Divisive Patterns of Schooling
Sociology Masaryk University Brno, Czech Republic
The paper critically addresses the idea that poor performance of Roma children in Czech (and other East Central European) schools is an inevitable consequence of a deep schism between the ?particular? cultural environment in which they are raised and the ?universal? culture of schooling within the education system. It is the different symbolic status of ?the particular? and ?the universal? which underlies the widespread view that while the dominant school culture is legitimate (natural), it is the Roma who should adjust to it. It is the ?particularity vs. universality? pattern of perception that also eventually congeals the assumed gap between the Roma and the dominant culture as a natural given, with serious practical consequences for, e.g., the attitude of teachers to Roma pupils or their parents (and vice versa), the government policies, etc.
Czech school curricula have, in the past two decades, gradually been weakening their explicit national basis and contents. Yet the patterns of educational inequalities along ethnic lines have continued. Now the argument has been that school curricula tend to test logical and abstract cognitive capacities, whereas the Roma children are predisposed (by the character of their early socialization) to think more intuitively and concretely. This has transposed the perceived difference between the dominant (universal) and the minority (particular) culture onto a less substantial level, yet it has even strengthened the sense of a cultural difference at the same time.
Within this framework, the paper pursues a number of empirical issues, like, e.g., the role of pre-school testing, the role of expert bodies (pedagogical counselors, etc.), the character of school curricula, the makeup of the school-class environment, etc. Along this way, it shows how ?Roma culture? gets reified and particularized through the school experience itself (even in the eyes of the Roma kids and their parents), and how this affects the (dis)integration of Roma children in and through the educational system. The paper is based on an ongoing extensive empirical research project EDUMIGROM which focuses on educational careers of Roma youth in the contemporary Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.