Challenging the myth that 'the parents don't care': Family teachings about education for 'educationally disengaged' young people



Publication Details

McMahon, S., Hickey-Moody, A. & Harwood, V. (2016). Challenging the myth that 'the parents don't care': Family teachings about education for 'educationally disengaged' young people. In S. Dagkas & L. Burrows (Eds.), Families, Young People, Physical Activity and Health: Critical Perspectives (pp. 41-56). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9781138838185


This chapter focuses on families as sites of pedagogical work. We take up a focus on the pedagogical work of families in relation to formal education and educational exclusion. When describing families' pedagogical work in relation to formal education, we pay particular attention to their teachings about the school and university. Family pedagogies that impact upon educational participation and exclusion are important to consider in parallel with this book's focus on family pedagogies in relation to health. This is because there is a close relationship between levels of educational attainment and health; the more years of formal education that a person experiences, the better their health outcomes (ABS, 2013; Cutler and L1eras-Muney, 2010; Egerter et al, 2006). Our aim is to demonstrate that family pedagogies of formal education are key to practices of educational inclusion and exclusion and as such they are important to understand, and to reconsider in educational theory. It is simply not the case that all young people who are disengaged from education (either not attending at all or attending sporadically) have a background lacking in family pedagogies connected with education. Young people who are educationally disengaged or at the margins of formal education are rarely consulted in educationalliterature and policy-making (Bland, 2012; Duffy and Elwood, 2013; Harwood and Allan, 2014; Morgan et al, 2008). It is not surprising, therefore, to find that while there is a rich literature on families' pedagogical work on young people's position in education (Brooks, 2003; Lucey et al, 2006), less iIterature is available on pedagogical work of families of young people not engaged in education (Stein, 2006). This lack of attention is gradually being redressed. Yet there are assumptions we encounter anecdotally in our experience with teacher education students (in the UK and Australia), that these parents 'don't care' or they set 'bad examples'. Such anecdotes echo literature that describes teachers' deficit understandings of socioeconomically disadvantaged and 'disengaged' children and young people (Comber and Kamler, 2004; D'Addio, 2007; Machin, 1999). This chapter seeks to contribute an understanding of the pedagogical work of families of young people who are currently disengaged from or at the margins of formal education. The young people in our study are, hereafter, summarily described as 'disengaged' from education because they all experienced precarious relationships with mandatory schooling, further and higher education. The school-aged participants were not attending school or attending sporadically, they were excluded from schools, or they were pursuing alternative education programmes. Those participants who were legally old enough not to attend school were also not participating in further or higher education. Whilst we are not claiming that post-school pursuits other than further or higher education lack value, we can state that participants were not involved in post-school formal education options and so may still be described as not educationally engaged. We discuss how these educationally disengaged participants' family pedagogies relating to education are not homogenously negative. We will argue that their pedagogical work is varied, complex and often positive. Following a brief description of the study, the chapter is structured into three sections that reflect the findings from our data: families as sites of pedagogy and learning about 'education'; families' implicit teaching about education; and lastly, families' explicit teaching about education. Theoretically, we use Cambourne's (1995) Conditions of Learning to think through the family's explicit and implicit teachings.

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