Keywords: Working-class culture; socialization; parental involvement in school; activist pedagogy, family-school partnership; parental ethnotheories of child development and learning
The paper considers the role of activist pedagogy and family-school «partnership» model in relation to educational inequalities at the primary school level. In particular, it critically examines the assumption that they are effective means for reducing both cultural distances between families and the school system, and social class differences in school performance. For this purpose, the paper presents some of the findings of a qualitative research on the school experience of Italian working-class families with children enrolled in the primary school. The main findings of the research are: 1) in all families parents try hard to respond to the contemporary primary school demand for involvement in their children's daily school work; 2) but their involvement very often rests on unintentionally «heterodox» interpretations of the school's intellectual demands, which considerably thwarts their efforts to learn successfully the proper «parent's job», as prescribed by contemporary school pedagogy. The paper argues that parents' «misunderstandings» can be explained by important differences between the implicit conceptions of child development and learning that underlie parents' educational practices and representations and those upon which school activist pedagogy is based.