In the brave new world of competitive schools and postmodern research, how do we tell stories about class?

Year: 1997

Author: Yates, Lyn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper discusses some issues arising from the 12 to 18 Project, a longitudinal qualitative study of following students through each year of their secondary schooling. The study was designed to allow for comparisons of students from different backgrounds and in different schools. However, it is being undertaken in a research context which has undercut some traditional ways of representing inequalities in relation to school; and in a political context focussed on promoting success rather than dealing with disadvantage. Although what might loosely be called class differences remain a central feature of Australian education, there has been long-standing debate about just what this means; and the tendency of much recent qualitative work has been to focus on 'difference' rather than 'inequality', and to take gender or ethnicity as central concerns and show class differences within these, rather than the reverse. This paper discusses some ways this project is attempting to take account of these issues; in particular, the problem of understanding patterns of inequalities in the context of a heightened attention to individual and multiple differences; and the problem of writing research reports about class inequalities in schools without exacerbating this process.