A Level Secondary Secondary Sociology

Secondary Sociology – Marxism, Education and Music!

Using a music video to illustrate key concepts

Penned as a critique of the rigid education system of the 1950s, I find that Pink Floyd’s 1979 hit “Another Brick in the Wall” (Part Two) serves as a useful illustration of Marxist concepts. You can see the music video on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4SKL7f9n58

After teaching Marxist theories of education, I usually show the music video to the class in the following lesson to recap their previous learning as follows:

  1. Ask the students to get into pairs. Label as ‘A’ and ‘B’
  2. Inform the ‘A’s that their role is to observe the imagery in the video and note down anything which relates to Marxist concepts. The ‘B’s will focus on the lyrics.
  3. After showing the video, students discuss their ideas with their partner while trying to make as many references to Marxism as they can.
  4. Share feedback as a whole class.

In my experience, students enjoy this activity. Most will not have heard of Pink Floyd, but they do recognise the song and like that it is subversive!

Suggested links to Marxist theory:

  1. Ideological Control – At the start of the video, ‘Pink’ is ridiculed by a strict disciplinarian teacher for reading poetry. The class are encouraged to laugh at ‘Pink’. The teacher therefore acts as an agent of capitalism, using ideological control to discourage creativity.  The lyric “thought control” also suggests this.
  2. Social Reproduction – Althusser argues that the role of education is to reproduce a submissive and obedient workforce – the pupils in the video march to the same beat, wear the same masks, and are pushed into a meat grinder (the school) coming out the other end identical to each other.
  3. Correspondence principle – Bowles and Gintis claim that there is a close correspondence between the relationships in the classroom and the workplace. It is at school where children learn to ‘know their place’ – this idea links to the dominant lyric; “just another brick in the wall”.
  4. The school resembles the means of production – students sit at their desks on a factory-like conveyor belt.
  5. Resistance – ‘Pink’ daydreams that the pupils revolt against the teachers and destroy the school.

Emily Painter
Sociology Teacher, Cadbury Sixth Form College

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