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Theses

Enfances du langage et langages de l'enfance. Socialisation plurielle et différenciation sociale de la petite enfance scolarisée

Abstract : At the end of the 20th century, the French nursery school has become the school of language for a whole age group, early childhood, in order to reduce school inequalities. However, both language and childhood are not unique and uniform because both of them are socially variable. This thesis questions the primacy of language in the nursery school from a double point of view: how do norms of school language, i.e. early literacy, affect children from socially different backgrounds? What are childhood’s languages and how are they connected? By taking language socialization as a research object, this thesis studies the plural socialization and social differentiation in schooled early childhood. The sociohistorical analysis shows that the primacy of language in nursery school came from social attention towards the young child. After having studied his fragile body, it invested his symbolic productions, revealed by an ethnocentric “science of the child”. Gradual-ly, the young child becomes a “cultural object”. Over the 19th century, this process took place in the educated and dominant parts of the upper class and the aristocracy. Women from these social groups took a close interest in early childhood. A first pedagogy of language was invented, at least ideally, in the Third Republic’s nursery school which aim was to bring up a reasonable citi-zen. But over the second half of the 20th century, language became a school issue, when the social problem of “school failure” appeared with mass schooling. A professional intervention field of early literacy was formed and imposed contents and norms for legitimate practices. Those early literacy entrepreneurs convey the educational standards and expectations of the cultivated middle class towards an “ideal customer”: by the elitist definition of a young child as someone with pre-supposed political and cognitive autonomy. The ethnographic inquiry describes plural socializa-tion involving several instances together and their socially differentiated products: school accul-turation, socialization among peers, family socializations, children material and symbolic culture (i.e. playful, fictional, graphic, alphabetical and reading culture, “school traditions”, legitimate culture). It reveals how the unequal distribution of these language products structures social rela-tions (both class & gender) between children at nursery school, at the crossroads between school acculturation and peer language. It reproduces social structure. The study concludes that the dif-ferential functions of nursery school are structured around both a real curriculum, (which part of the working class is comfortable with), and a hidden reflexive curriculum, (i. e. as a principal of extended literacy). This latter one belongs to social groups with education resources (i. e. middle class) and is the legitimate object of the professional intervention field in early literacy. Finally, the thesis shows that language established as a priority in order to reduce school inequalities actually perpetuates school domination. It happens through the pedagogical domination imposed by the norms entrepreneurs on the early language socialization’s agents.
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Fabienne Montmasson-Michel. Enfances du langage et langages de l'enfance. Socialisation plurielle et différenciation sociale de la petite enfance scolarisée. Sociologie. Université de Poitiers, 2018. Français. ⟨NNT : 2018POIT5004⟩. ⟨tel-02462031⟩

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