Education and the Working Class - Ambivalences and Paradoxes

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:10
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ove SKARPENES, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Agder, Norway
The hero in the construction of the Nordic Model (full employment, collective bargaining, salary flattening, unified school, universal welfare rights) was the working class. However, the societal trends of the last decades have in a peculiar way given the working class a central place in political discussions and in the public sphere. The worker image is in a curious way influenced by sociological stereotypes, in the sense that it resembles an inverted (negative) copy of the virtues attributed to some of the elites, as cultivating the fine arts, having “green” values, liberal attitudes in issues of immigration, healthy lifestyle. As a counterpoint, the worker image of the public sphere is a person eating fast-food, drinking excessively, watching reality-tv etc. The backstage for this is that issues of welfare state services and their payment, “value” issues, immigration problems, has replaced many of the traditional issues of democracy, power and economic distribution on the political agenda. But the perhaps most dramatic role given to the working class in contemporary Norway is to be the electoral backbone of the Progress Party and the seedbed for currents of "rightist populism", introvert nationalism, egoism, xenophobia etc. The paradox is, evidently, this: Once the heroes of the making of the Norwegian welfare society, the Norwegian working class are now presented by many as an impending menace to this egalitarian social state.  An important solution offered from all political parties is (higher) education. In this discussion there is a deficit of basic knowledge about the cognitive universe of workers, and their modes of thinking. Based on in-depth-interviews of a larger sample of workers we here report findings based on how the working class experiences the worker image and how this potential (class) ambivalence influences the values and educational aspirations the class promotes in child rearing practices.