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- Beginning with the third volume of Class, Codes and Control (1977a), Bernstein developed code theory from its sociolinguistic roots to examine the connection between communication codes and pedagogic discourse and practice. In this respect, code theory became concerned with the processes of schooling and how they related to social class reproduction. Bernstein's quest for understanding the processes of schooling led him to continue to pursue the fruitful avenue of inquiry developed in his article 'Class and pedagogies: visible and invisible' (Bernstein, 1977, p. 116–56). In that article, Bernstein analyzed the differences between two types of educational transmission and suggested that the differences in the classification and framing rules of each pedagogic practice (visible = strong classification and strong framing; invisible = weak classification and weak framing) relate to the social-class position and assumptions of the families served by the schools. (For a detailed analysis of this aspect of Bernstein's work, see Atkinson, 1985; Atkinson, Davies & Delamont, 1995; Sadovnik, 1991; 1995.) The article clearly demonstrated that sociologists of education had to do the difficult empirical work of looking into the world of schools and of linking educational practices to the larger institutional, societal and historical factors of which they are a part.
The question that troubles Bernstein throughout this book is why do working-class kids have more trouble with education than middle-class kids do? A one line answer he gives is: "The working-class child has to translate and thus mediate middle-class language structure through the logically simpler language structure of his own class to make it personally meaningful."
This then begs the question as to why working-class children have logically simpler language structures than middle-class kids -- and this is where the discussion becomes very interesting.
This problem is best explained by talking about what he refers to as restricted and elaborated codes. All classes have access to (and use) their own version of a restricted code. This is the kind of talk that people use when they are particularly familiar with each other. He gives a lovely example of a long married couple coming out of a cinema and one saying to the other, "That was some film." The other saying, "Yes, and it touched on some very important themes." All of the content in this exchange is implicit. This is what Bernstein refers to as a restricted code -- its meaning is particular to the people speaking and particular to the context in which they are speaking. If you over-heard them you would not know what they were really talking about (what they really meant, did they enjoy the film or not, for example?) -- but to themselves, after a lifetime together, the way the wife curls her lip would mean some of the themes were not what she would have wanted to see in a film and the way her husband nods and smiles conveys the meaning that he thought the actress was particularly nice looking.
As he says: "Equally as important as the cognitive implications are the social implications. For if this categoric statement is to be challenged, as the reason is the authority conferred upon the person, the challenge immediately gives rise to another typical construction: 'Because I tell you' 'Because I'm your father.' The challenger immediately attacks the authority or legitimacy which is an attribute of the form of the relationship and this brings the social relationship into one of an affective type. However, if a formal language is used, reasons are separated from conclusions. The reasons can be challenged as inadequate or inappropriate which may initiate a second set of reasons or a development of the original set. With a formal language the relationship to authority is mediated by a rationality and the final resort to the categoric statement will come at a different point in the behavioural sequence."
- Bernstein, Basil (1975). Class, Codes and Control: Towards a Theory of Educational Transmissions. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975 [^]
- Halliday, M.A.K. (1975). Learning How to Mean, London: Edward Arnold. [^]