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The ‘Reading War’ in Early Childhood Education: a Marxist history

Charles Mabbott, Judith (2010) The ‘Reading War’ in Early Childhood Education: a Marxist history. EdD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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The greater strength of the reactionary forces in the ‘reading war’ in the twenty-first century is now forcing early years practitioners systematically to drill young children in synthetic phonics in preparation for a statutory assessment at age five. My inquiry adopts a Marxist perspective in order to investigate the historical circumstances in which different approaches and methods have been used to teach working-class children to read, in the hope of thus being able to illuminate and support the work of today’s early years practitioners who are committed to progressive values and beliefs. My thesis focuses on three main research questions. These are to discover how the different methods and approaches to teach reading have been identified with ‘traditional’ or ‘progressive’ ideologies; whether these two approaches are, in practice, equally reactionary; and whether a teacher employed by the state can make a difference. The argument running through the thesis is that state-sponsored schools, including the methods used to teach reading, were devised as a means for the social control of working-class children. However, the thesis will show how parents resisted the state system and maintained instead the tradition of independent, working-class education, including progressive methods to teach children to read. The thesis will also show how, in the face of this opposition, the government resorted to compulsion, forcing children’s attendance at state schools in order finally to destroy the independent working-class curriculum. Thereafter the reading war resurfaced as a permanent feature within the state sector of education. What emerges from the thesis is that early years practitioners should take heart from the knowledge that the expression of their own progressive views can in itself contribute to changes in the wider social conditions in which we work and thereby help to prepare the way for a more democratic and revitalised progressive education in the future.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.531121
Depositing User: Dr Judith Charles Mabbott
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2011 14:17
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2016 14:09
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1530

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