Classified and Classifier: Tilting at Windmills
CLASSIFIED AND CLASSIFIER: TILTING AT WINDMILLS
Volume One: Degree of Failure?
By Cliff Jansen
New revised edition. Degree of Failure is volume one of a two-volume set. Each volume concerns a separate case study in which the systems of classification in legal/bureaucratic institutions, and the actor’s responses to them, are explored. Viewed through the lens of the student, the issues and questions of stereotype in academic institutions are explored in real time.
The structure of this second edition has been determined by the breaking news of a crisis in the GCSE examination on the eve of the publication of the first edition in 2012.
In 1977, the author, Lionel Jansen, appealed against the classification of his degree in Social Anthropology from the University of Sussex to the university visitor, Her Majesty the Queen. The petition (imperfections not withstanding) in argument and analysis, questioned the classificatory system and the absence of appeal against the grades awarded. The seed of a research interest into examinations, sown in 1977, has grown to a tree in blossom.
Examinations are a rite of passage. Public examinations are a national institution involving the classification of knowledge and of persons in the education system. At this level they transcend notions of individual achievement and performance. Examinations reflect what is acceptable knowledge. They are concerned with the inclusion and exclusion of forms and structures of knowledge and consequently social and economic differentiation.
This unique, historic, action-based study captures the moment of transition in English education in the twenty-first century.