Both Functionalist and Marxist accounts of working class underachievement may reinforce and reproduce the negative labelling schools and teachers have of working class students and encourage them to blame the family and/or society rather than addressing the organisation of the school and teachers’ expectations and labelling .
“ The results of the present study show that there are very important differences between urban comprehensive schools .... The level of achievement is radically higher in some schools than in others. The findings show that the same child would get a CSE grade 3 in English at one school, but an O level grade B in English at another. There are equally large differences in maths and in exam results in total across all subjects.”
To understand the meanings people give to their actions it is necessary to understand the culture , perspective , and strategies of the social actors. It is only through using Interpretativ e research methods such as informal interviews and participant observation that sociologists can understand the meanings social actors give to their actions.
To Interactionists, the explanation of human behaviour needs to take account of the subjective states of individuals, and the meanings that individuals attach to external stimuli. For example, a pupil who achieves a poor test result might interpret the result in different ways and attach different meanings to it.
For Interactionists, your view of yourself, or self-concept , is produced in interaction with others. Status is key element of our self concept. The self-concept of a pupil may be modified if others constantly contradict it. For example, pupils who consider themselves to be a ‘joker’, may be forced to reconsider if nobody laughs at their jokes.
Similarly, pupils may have different ideas about what makes the ideal teacher , or for that matter the ideal pupil . They may be unable to live up to the model of the ideal pupil held by their teachers.
As a result, pupil may start to develop new patterns of behaviour. They may form subcultures in which the pupil role becomes modified and types of behaviour which are punished by their teachers are rewarded by their peers .
Functionalist Cultural deprivation theories also use the idea of subculture , but in a very different way.
For Interactionists, subcultures emerge through social interaction within school as pupils develop ways of coping with school life. Subcultures for Interactionists are actively produced by those who are members of them.
In cultural deprivation theory, however, the subcultures which influence educational attainment exist prior (before) to the child going to school, and those who fail in the education system are the passive victims of the limitations of their own upbringing.
Interactionist are very critical of cultural deprivation theorists model of sub-cultures which they consider deterministic .
In contrast, Interactionists emphasise that subcultures emerge when students cannot achieve status through conventional status channels and therefore need to adopt their own alternative status channels .
The type of school and how it is organised can have a very profound influence upon teachers expectations of students and students self image and self esteem. Some types of organisations reinforce negative labelling while others may encourage students from poorer backgrounds to do well.