Dudley-Marling, Curt
Faculty of Education
York University

Curt Dudley-Marling
82 Lilac Avenue
Thornhill, Ontario L3T 5K2

Strand: educational

Title: Language of the classroom: Resisting democracy in schools

Current theory and research in language arts education suggests that students' language should play a central role in classroom learning (Barnes, 1976; Cazden, 1988; Dudley-Marling & Searle, 1991; Edwards & Furlong, 1978; Hynds & Rubin, 1990; Jones, 1988). From a constructivist perspective oral language provides the means by which students make sense of classroom learning by drawing on their background knowledge and experience as social and cultural beings. Additionally, language rich classrooms, which immerse students in language, extend students' language competence by expanding the range of purposes for which and the physical, social, and cultural settings within which students use language. The evidence indicates, however, that efforts to revise the language of the classroom--how students and teachers use language to construct relationships and to negotiate situated understandings of what counts as knowledge (Lin, 1994)--have met with little success (Brown, 1991; Cazden, 1988; Goodlad, 1983). No doubt many teachers have difficulty finding room for students' language in a crowded curriculum that is increasingly "reduced" to a catalogue of measurable outcomes prescribed by local, state, or provincial education agencies. Parents and students may also resist efforts to challenge their understandings of what (and whose) knowledge is valid within the context of schooling (Bloome, 1989; Curry & Bloome, in press). In this presentation I will use data from a study of teachers' language in three special education classroom to examine the ideological implications of language in classrooms (Fairclough, 1989, 1995; Gee, 1990). This analysis will, in turn, be used to explain resistance to efforts to rethink traditional understandings of the language of the classroom which position students as passive recipients of "official" knowledge (Apple, 1993), while devaluing much of the knowledge and experience students bring with them to school.


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