The parents school? Narrative research about parental involvement
Sammanfattning: Over the last two decades, educational reforms have stimulated an enormous growth in innovative school thinking, effecting both independent schools and mainstream education. Parents and interest groups, previously excluded from general pedagogic practice and planning, are now faced with new opportunities and responsibilities. Parents “invest” in these newly won options in very different ways. Failing to acknowledge the complexity of a person may lead to narrow stereotypes as a basis for policy making within education. This study is a response to what Lareau refers to as a need to explore “the juncture of biography, history and social structure (Lareau 1993:182) for our understanding of parental involvement. Shared meaning of parental involvement, as expressed through government reports, general debates etc., is compared with the meaning parental involvement carries for one parent, as expressed through his narratives. These narratives about parental involvement are explored within a framework of critical hermeneutic thinking, allowing for a combination between Hermeneutic and Post-structural thinking, where, in this case, both Social constructionism and Post-Freudian thinking have been applied as part of the “appropriation” (Ricoeur 1981) process. This involves exploring the founder’s narrative with a focus on the “valued endpoint” (Gergen 1998) of his stories, with an interest in what events are picked out, glossed over or ignored by him in order to get to this valued end point. The theme and endpoint of the founder’s narratives seem to vary, depending on in which context they are told. In the narratives about objectives and principles of the school, the theme and the end point revolve around decentralisation of power, local and parental involvement and around being “rooted in local circumstances”. The narratives that are told in an autobiographic context point at another direction; the founder refers to self-realization through “letting go of attachments to ideologies, places and people”. These two themes, one that construes the protagonist with reference to belonging and one that refers to the theme of control and autonomy, lead the study into a psychodynamically based discussion. Involvement is viewed with reference to both conscious and unconscious motives and it is suggested that we have to recognise the importance of defences against anxiety when we try to understand the way people mediate their relationship to reality. Different functions of parental involvement that extends to parent run schools are explored in terms of pedagogical-, social, freedom- and reparative functions. “Reparative” motives are particularly emphasised and the function of parental involvement is explored with reference to Alice Miller’s (1982) thinking on the relationship between child rearing principles and unmet needs of the adults themselves. The study shows the complexity of involvement in the upbringing of children. It is suggested that our understanding of parental involvement focus on the combination of social and biographical events, in which unconscious dynamics are crucial in determining a person’s external reality.
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