chapter  4
30 Pages

Industrial training or new vocationalism? Structures and discourses

According to James Donald (1979), the Ruskin speech, the Great Debate which followed it, and the Government Green Paper, Education in Schools (Cmnd 6869) which was published in July 1977, all played their part, discursively, in 'the creation and imposition of a 'new settlement' to replace the old consensus in education' (p. 107). In part this kind of deconstructive/reconstructive process (as outlined in chapter 2) is achieved through the logics displayed in the texts: the speech, the debate and the paper. These texts conjured up a commonsense and real account of schools, the purpose of which 'was the validation of existing knowledges through a sort of populist empiricism' (p. 106). The discursive strategies of the speech have similarities with those employed in the Black Papers, but the overt tone of the speech is somewhat more system-friendly, if no less critical. The Green Paper, while also taking up a neutral, even-handed, even disinterested stance, based on assertion, reported fact, and friendly critique, is nonetheless 'an elegant political and epistemological manouvre to create a rationale for fundamental changes in social democratic discourse' (Donald p. 106). The success of the texts lay in their credibility. Describing the response of the NUT to the Green Paper, Donald says: 'Unable to challenge the status of the Paper's truth, reading it as it asks to be read, the Union's discourse is politically ineffective because it has become residual'(p. 107). Donald goes on to point out that an understanding of these texts, their work and their effects also involves looking at their 'correlation with a range of political and economic practices', that is at their context, 'the institutional conditions which made this discourse and not another "happen"' (p. 108). This is taken up in the second section of this chapter.