Notes on: Maton, K. (2004) 'The Wrong Kind of Knower. Education, expansion and the epistemic device'. Ch 15 ( 218--31). In J Muller, B Davies & A Morais (Eds.)  Reading Bernstein Researching Bernstein London: Routledge Falmer .

Dave Harris

University expansion was brought questions about what new learners should learn, and this has exposed some tacit belief systems.  The 'new student' debate first appeared just before the university expansion of the early 1960s, with a focus on new working class students.  As before, Bernstein's conceptual framework is to be deployed, especially legitimation code and epistemic device.  The debate shows the importance of  'knower code, and knowledge code, and knower code legitimation'(219).  It is a story of maintaining hierarchical relations of power and control.

Bernstein distinguished between relations to and relations within structures of knowledge, as part of his progress from pedagogic discourse to the study of knowledge structures via the pedagogic device.  This device showed how people were able to regulate the principles and bases of pedagogic discourse in their own interests.  The later development turns to intellectual fields and describes knowledge structures and grammars.  However, he did not address adequately how new knowledge was constructed by underlying generative principles. 

This problem is addressed by Moore and Maton (2001) through the notion of the epistemic device, the way in which intellectual field to maintain reproduced and changed.  Maths and literary criticism were used as illustrations, as 'empirical study'.  The arguments expressed in the concept of legitimation codes.  British cultural studies was also analysed, as offering both week classification and framing and strong classification and framing, leading to a split between epistemic and social relations.  This can be further clarified: epistemic relations refer to the connection between knowledge and its object of study, social relations between knowledge and its author.  Each may be stronglyor  weakly classified and framed producing four possible legitimation codes, two of which were predominant - knowledge code emphasizing mastery, knower code emphasizing social attributes of the subject, in brief what matters is what you know as compared with what matters is who you are.

The epistemic device complements the pedagogic device.  It extends beyond classrooms and is indeed  'universal and ubiquitous' [because it is functional as in Durkheim?] (220).  It helps to address conceptual development as well as recontextualization and reproduction.  Here, the social field can be analysed.  Apparently the disciplinary issues are addressed in Maton 2004 [irritatingly, in a paper at a conference—I will have a look on Researchgate].

The new student debate began in the early 1960s following Robbins.  The university field itself develop certain views about this expansion and how to manage it, in particular questions of who should have access and what they should be able to access.  New students were seen as a major challenge and as bearers of substantial change.  Eight new universities were created, and were themselves to be radical and progressive.  They were seen as offering particular solutions to the problem of the new student.  How were these new students to be managed and represented?

The old order saw a division into the ideal university and a lower status technological model.  The first one was based on an idealised Oxford and Cambridge, operating as a social context 'for cultivating knowers' (222), stressing academic freedom institutional autonomy and internal loyalties. Common knowledge for its own sake was the key, and education 'was defined as the inculcation of students into a way of life through cultivating specialised sensibilities', nearly always men.  Universities were organic communities, teaching was about transmitting a culture and way of life and was done '"with leisurely confidence"' [quoting Halsey].  Qualifications on entry were less important than perfect between individual and institutions.  The amateur generalist was celebrated.  Any sort of specialised procedures were given lower status -the social relation was strongly classified and framed, while the epistemic relation was weakly classified and framed: this was an knower code.  The technological universities were nonresidential, offered specialised training, and were open to anyone with the right qualifications - and knowledge code.

The new student threatened the elite ideal - their dispositions would disadvantage them, and they were over committed to specialized knowledge.  Their cultural background would affect their ability to succeed - universities were designed for the cultivated and bookish, with a certain cultural breadth.  [Much of this comes from would be universe ViceChancellors, including Sloman{ the VC for Essex University, one of the insitutions I attended}] - even if they read a lot, they would not know much about music or intelligent conversation.  They had acquired cultural capital solely from school education, and a narrow scholastic background. They lacked social ease and thus would not thrive in the intimate relations of the university.  They were the wrong kind of knower. New students were far too 'pragmatic, utilitarian and careerist' (224), interested in social advancement,  a 'barbarous gaze' for Maton.  Disciplinary allegiances would replace university allegiance.  The knowledge code would dominate.
Function would replace 'intrinsic form as the focal measure of status' [so the whole thing is very much like Bourdieu so far].  Catering for them would mean that specialists would replace generalists, depth breadth, and technical knowledge cultivation.  Disciplines would triumph over the university when it came to identity.  The knowledge code would triumph

The new student could be accommodated in purpose built new institutions, campus universities.  Again these would emphasize the knower code at the expense of the knowledge code.  Robbins also believed in cultivation, liberal education, and this led to multi disciplinary Schools bringing together 'cognate fields', often with a common foundation course.  This also weakened the connection between school qualifications and university courses, and led to a new emphasis on pedagogy [just as in Bourdieu again].  The more vocational courses were marginalised, delayed, hence the need for a fourth year or taught master's degree - specialisation had to follow being socialised.

The new universities could be seen as total institutions, built on green field sites close to smallish towns.  Students required continuous education, hence the adoption of the collegiate system, and maximum interaction between staff and students such as tutorials and coursework assessment.  This opened up new students 'to surveillance and discipline' as well as engendering familiarity and social ease and institutional loyalty.  The university was to socialise, to develop university values.  This was a new kind of knower code.

The new student was mythical, and the social class composition of student population did not change substantially.  New students chose the old universities, working class students were already well socialised.  We can see in the whole debate some underlying principles beneath pastoral concern.  It was a struggle for control of the epistemic device, a defensive move to safeguard the old knower code.  The new student produced a moral panic, and became a focus for 'the more diffuse perception of loss of control by actors within the field'(227).  Elite universities had already been the subject of ridicule.  Robbins undoubtedly believed that the new growing population should be accommodated.  There was encouragement for contest mobility.  But this also produced threats to ownership of the epistemic device

The new universities helped maintain existing hierarchy and underlying principles.  It was assumed that new students should change to fit universities.  The universities were total institutions to reconfigure new students, without challenging established university life.  Working class students were particularly seen as problematic and their habitus had to be changed.  New students either had to endure resocialization or 'attend lower status knowledge code institutions'(228).  The new universities shared the same knower code but with a new variation - Sloman openly supported the traditional ends to be achieved by new means.  New universities also served as a buffer zone for the elite universities.

[So this is a Bernsteinian version of the analysis in State Nobility which depends on dominant groups preserving the reproduction of their privilege by inventing new institutions including vocational ones.  This one just has 'actors', without specifying their social location, although it is assumed that they are some sort of elite].  This can be seen as just one episode in a process of adaptation to change.  Raising the school leaving age has prompted similar debates, complete with a call for a new kinds of curricula and pedagogy.  All this shows that institutional hierarchies remain consistent, as Bernstein has argued.  This discussion also shows the general applicability of legitimation code and epistemic device.  They help to decide what is a change and what is a mere variation, and how hopes and fears for new students have a context.

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