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Education
Basic Terms
• education = the social institution through
which society provides essential knowledge
to its members, including basic facts, job
skills, cultural norms, and values.
• schooling = formal education under the
direction of specially trained teachers.
• Education is a cultural universal, with
curriculum and socialization differing
according to the society.
U.S. Education Today
• The U.S. is among the first to set a goal of mass education.
• This standard has been shaped by high standard of living and
democratic principles.
• The U.S. tries to promote equal opportunity and practical learning.
• More people in the U.S. are receiving an education today than ever
before:
– The number of people in the U.S. 25 or older with a High School diploma
has increased from 41% (1960) to over 88% (2014).
– Those with college degrees went from 8% (1960) to 32% (2014).
– Although some racial minorities have lower educational achievement,
education has increased for all racial groups.
Theories: Structural-Functionalist
• Manifest Functions:
– Socialization:
 Schools are an important agent of socialization [Chapter 5], both directly and
indirectly.
 Schools teach basic knowledge (primary schooling), as well as culture (secondary
schooling).
– Cultural Innovation:
 Schools transmit and reinforce the dominant culture by exposing each generation of
young people to the standard beliefs, norms, and values of the society.
 While the transmitted content varies across cultures, the function of education
remains the same.
– Social Integration:
 Schools create social unity by communicating shared norms and values.
Theories: Structural-Functionalist
• Manifest Functions:
– Social Placement:
 Schools enhance the idea of meritocracy and provide a path to
upward social mobility.
 Schools help identify the most qualified people to fill available
positions in society.
– Social Change:
 New programs are introduced as student populations change.
 Changing social issues have created the need for sex education,
drug education, and multiculturalism.
 College faculty are often engaged in new research.
Theories: Structural-Functionalist
• Latent Functions:
– Providing child care while parents work.
– Keeping young people busy at a time in their lives when they are not yet in
the workforce.
• Mandatory schooling laws keep young people off the street and out of the job
market for a number of years.
– Linking schools and career opportunities.
– Matchmaking & Production of Social Networks:
 Students develop long-lasting relationships, and potentially meet future marriage
partners.
– Creating a Generation Gap:
 Students may gain new perspectives that conflict with parental beliefs.
Theories: Social-Conflict
• Access to quality education is connected to one’s social class.
• cultural capital (Bourdieu) = non-monetary social capital – having two
educated parents that can help you, cultural education, elite tastes and
preferences (habitus), etc. – that advantage some students over others.
– Involves “proper” attitudes concerning education, socially approved dress
and manners, and knowledge of high culture (books, art, etc.).
– Different class backgrounds possess differing amounts of cultural capital
which translate into class reproduction.
– Standardized tests often measure cultural capital rather than actual
intelligence or aptitude.
• That is, test contents reflect the dominant culture and tend to disadvantage
minority students.
Understanding Cultural Capital
Upper-Class Student
high level of cultural capital
• Two parents with at least
some college education.
• One parent has secondary job,
allowing them home time to
help their child.
• Parents expose their child to
museums, classic literature,
elite genres of music, etc.
• Parents are aware of, and take
advantage of, college prep
programs, paths to elite
universities, and the necessity
of college in general.
Lower-Class Student
low level of cultural capital
• A single parent with high
school diploma or less.
• Single parent likely works,
leaving their child on their
own in terms of education.
• Lack of time, interest, and
knowledge = child is not
exposed to outside
educational opportunities.
• This single parent has a very
limited social network and is
not even aware of programs to
help their child prepare for
college – even the need for
college is often not a priority
over survival.
I had a fairly easy time in
college, earning five degrees
over 18 years – my parents
educated me a great deal and I
have been reading all my life.
This meant that I entered
college with much knowledge
already accumulated.
THINK ABOUT THIS: How
does the knowledge (or
lack of it) that a student
enters school with affect
his/her educational
opportunities?
Theories: Social-Conflict
• school tracking = the practice of assigning students to different
educational programs based on test scores, previous grades, or other
criteria.
– Also called ability grouping, this method seeks to group students together
based on perceived ability.
– This can end up stigmatizing students as ‘underachievers’ or ‘slow learners.’
– Social categories like race, class, ethnicity, or gender can also impact
tracking.
– Tracking often causes disadvantaged students to end up in lower tracks.
– correspondence principle = schools promote values according to social class
and thus reinforce social class divisions.
• detracking = deliberately placing students in classes of mixed ability in
order to improve student performance.
Theories: Social-Conflict
• The hidden curriculum = cultural values and attitudes implied in
the routines and rules of schools.
• credentialism = the increasing necessity of possessing academic
qualifications in order to secure careers and class position/status.
 Describes the periodic increase in the lowest level of education needed to
enter a field: a high school diploma was sufficient in the 1970s, a bachelors
degree was required by the mid-1980s, and now the same career wants a
masters degree.
 Degree requirements are raised for jobs based on new technological
requirements OR simply because the market is flooded with the previous
minimum requirements (supply and demand = when the # of those with
the degree is high, the value of the degree decreases).
Theories: Symbolic Interactionist
• Symbolic interactionist perspectives on education focus on classroom
communication patterns and educational practices.
• Labeling theory and the idea of “self-fulfilling prophecy” theorize that if
students are treated in certain ways (reflecting what is expected of
them) then they will tend to fulfill those expectations.
• This effect has been seen with IQ tests, where students end up fulfilling what
an IQ test supposedly indicates about their intelligence and ability.
• teacher-expectation effect = teacher expectations have a significant
determinative impact on student performance.
• Symbolic Interactionism demonstrates beliefs about inferiority and
superiority are built into existing systems of inequality.
Theories: Rational/Utilitarian
• Researchers are faced with a paradox on the topic of education: education is
the current predictor of social position and the overall level of education has
risen – and YET, the gap between rich and poor has actually widened!
• Social Exchange theorists explain this in terms of seeing education as a market:
as the level of education has risen, the relative value of education has
decreased [NOTE the overlap here with Social-Conflict and the concept of
credentialism previously discussed].
• Educational Inflation:
 1920s = a high school diploma could “purchase” a decent job.
 1960s = so many high school graduates are in the market that a HS diploma can
only “purchase” a working class job.
 21st century = so many people now have college degrees that higher degrees have
become the desired “cultural capital” for the market.
Competition for Public Schools
• Parents in the U.S. now have alternative school choices.
• Public charter schools, while facing issues like high turnover rates, have
offered minority families an alternative by offering college prep programs
and addressing the academic gap between many minorities and the
majority.
• School choice includes the use of school vouchers which expand parental
options.
• Other choices include: private schools (often religious), gifted schools, and
home schooling.
• Pro: School choice creates a market for schooling so parents and students
can shop for the best value.
• Con: Such programs erode national commitment to public education,
especially in urban schools.
Home Schooling
• Over 1.5 million children are homeschooled.
• This has proved to be a good alternative for ADHD students.
• Typically, homeschooled children score higher on standardized tests.
 This may be due to a smaller instructor-to-student ratio.
• Some theorists believe that the lack of social involvement that
characterizes some homeschooling can be a problem, as well as
parental incompetence.
• Homeschooling is allowed in all 50 states.
• Pro: Better results.
• Con: Removes some of the most affluent and articulate parents out of the
system.
Colleges & Universities
• Community Colleges:
– Community college systems are growing throughout the U.S.
– Currently, these systems educate about 50% of the nation’s
undergraduates.
– However, both state and local governments have decreased funding for
these systems.
• Universities:
– College tuition is continually increasing, and student debt is likewise
increasing.
– Some racial groups continue to be underrepresented, and experience
prejudice.
• backstage racism = discrimination taking place on campuses in whites-only spaces
(e.g., parties) where minorities are not present – mocking, racist language, etc.
College Student Subcultures
• Every student is exposed to differing student
subcultures and attempts to fit in somewhere.
• Merton’s Types of College Students:
 collegiate – focuses on fun and socializing.
 academic – values learning and knowledge.
 vocational – education as means to an end (i.e., a career).
 nonconformist = hostile to college environment and
usually involved in other relevant issues.
Problems: Elementary & Secondary
• Unequal Funding of Public Schools:
• Because local sources figure prominently in school funding, schools in
newer suburbs have an advantage over schools in poor areas.
• School Dropouts:
• Over 3 million in recent years.
• Males, some racial minorities, and those residing in the Southern and
Western U.S. are disproportionately affected.
• Although declining in recent years, rates may be as much as double the
numbers reported by the government.
• Racial Segregation:
• Many school districts, especially in the southern U.S. remain racially
segregated or have experienced resegregation as previous integration laws
have been struck down.
Problems: School Safety & Violence
• School officials at all levels are focusing on ways to improve safety.
• Violent incidents are reported each year by nearly 75% of all public
schools:
– Physical attack or fights
– Vandalism
– Theft/larceny
– Possession of a weapon
– Illegal drugs
• Many believe schools need to teach discipline because it is not
addressed within home setting.
– Zero-tolerance policies have been set up in many areas.
• There is a debate concerning whether new “carry on campus” gun laws
will help or make situations worse on college campuses.
Problems: Student Passivity
• The U.S. educational system encourages passivity.
– Rigid uniformity
– Numerical ratings
– Rigid expectations
– Specialization
– Little individual responsibility
• College: The Silent Classroom
– Passivity is common among college students.
– Most students think classroom passivity is their own fault (Karp & Yoels).
– Students often find little value in classroom discussion.
– Teaching strategies can enhance the classroom environment.
Problems: Academic Standards
• The quality of schooling is a major issue today.
– General marginal performance in basic skills: reading, science,
writing, logic, and mathematics.
– We have functional illiteracy for one in three U.S. children.
• A Nation at Risk report recommendations:
– Completion of several years of English, mathematics, social
studies, general science, and computer science by all students.
– No promotions without achievement of standards.
– Improved teacher training and compensation.
– Concordance with public expectations and public willingness
to compensate for quality teaching.
Problems: Grade Inflation
• Substantial grade inflation has become a problem in
recent decades.
– Grade inflation is related to teacher concern about
student morale and self-esteem.
– It is also influenced by competitive pressure to get into
college and graduate school.
• Many college students today feel entitled to a
decent grade in our capitalist system (as if they are
paying for a grade itself rather than an educational
opportunity).
Students with Disabilities
• Half of children with disabilities are in special
facilities, while the remaining attend public schools.
• Mainstreaming:
– Seeks to integrate students with disabilities or special needs into
the overall educational program.
– Works best for physically impaired students who can keep up
academically.
• Educators have long debated the best way to teach
children with disabilities.

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Week 9: Education

  • 2. Basic Terms • education = the social institution through which society provides essential knowledge to its members, including basic facts, job skills, cultural norms, and values. • schooling = formal education under the direction of specially trained teachers. • Education is a cultural universal, with curriculum and socialization differing according to the society.
  • 3. U.S. Education Today • The U.S. is among the first to set a goal of mass education. • This standard has been shaped by high standard of living and democratic principles. • The U.S. tries to promote equal opportunity and practical learning. • More people in the U.S. are receiving an education today than ever before: – The number of people in the U.S. 25 or older with a High School diploma has increased from 41% (1960) to over 88% (2014). – Those with college degrees went from 8% (1960) to 32% (2014). – Although some racial minorities have lower educational achievement, education has increased for all racial groups.
  • 4. Theories: Structural-Functionalist • Manifest Functions: – Socialization:  Schools are an important agent of socialization [Chapter 5], both directly and indirectly.  Schools teach basic knowledge (primary schooling), as well as culture (secondary schooling). – Cultural Innovation:  Schools transmit and reinforce the dominant culture by exposing each generation of young people to the standard beliefs, norms, and values of the society.  While the transmitted content varies across cultures, the function of education remains the same. – Social Integration:  Schools create social unity by communicating shared norms and values.
  • 5. Theories: Structural-Functionalist • Manifest Functions: – Social Placement:  Schools enhance the idea of meritocracy and provide a path to upward social mobility.  Schools help identify the most qualified people to fill available positions in society. – Social Change:  New programs are introduced as student populations change.  Changing social issues have created the need for sex education, drug education, and multiculturalism.  College faculty are often engaged in new research.
  • 6. Theories: Structural-Functionalist • Latent Functions: – Providing child care while parents work. – Keeping young people busy at a time in their lives when they are not yet in the workforce. • Mandatory schooling laws keep young people off the street and out of the job market for a number of years. – Linking schools and career opportunities. – Matchmaking & Production of Social Networks:  Students develop long-lasting relationships, and potentially meet future marriage partners. – Creating a Generation Gap:  Students may gain new perspectives that conflict with parental beliefs.
  • 7. Theories: Social-Conflict • Access to quality education is connected to one’s social class. • cultural capital (Bourdieu) = non-monetary social capital – having two educated parents that can help you, cultural education, elite tastes and preferences (habitus), etc. – that advantage some students over others. – Involves “proper” attitudes concerning education, socially approved dress and manners, and knowledge of high culture (books, art, etc.). – Different class backgrounds possess differing amounts of cultural capital which translate into class reproduction. – Standardized tests often measure cultural capital rather than actual intelligence or aptitude. • That is, test contents reflect the dominant culture and tend to disadvantage minority students.
  • 8. Understanding Cultural Capital Upper-Class Student high level of cultural capital • Two parents with at least some college education. • One parent has secondary job, allowing them home time to help their child. • Parents expose their child to museums, classic literature, elite genres of music, etc. • Parents are aware of, and take advantage of, college prep programs, paths to elite universities, and the necessity of college in general. Lower-Class Student low level of cultural capital • A single parent with high school diploma or less. • Single parent likely works, leaving their child on their own in terms of education. • Lack of time, interest, and knowledge = child is not exposed to outside educational opportunities. • This single parent has a very limited social network and is not even aware of programs to help their child prepare for college – even the need for college is often not a priority over survival.
  • 9. I had a fairly easy time in college, earning five degrees over 18 years – my parents educated me a great deal and I have been reading all my life. This meant that I entered college with much knowledge already accumulated. THINK ABOUT THIS: How does the knowledge (or lack of it) that a student enters school with affect his/her educational opportunities?
  • 10. Theories: Social-Conflict • school tracking = the practice of assigning students to different educational programs based on test scores, previous grades, or other criteria. – Also called ability grouping, this method seeks to group students together based on perceived ability. – This can end up stigmatizing students as ‘underachievers’ or ‘slow learners.’ – Social categories like race, class, ethnicity, or gender can also impact tracking. – Tracking often causes disadvantaged students to end up in lower tracks. – correspondence principle = schools promote values according to social class and thus reinforce social class divisions. • detracking = deliberately placing students in classes of mixed ability in order to improve student performance.
  • 11. Theories: Social-Conflict • The hidden curriculum = cultural values and attitudes implied in the routines and rules of schools. • credentialism = the increasing necessity of possessing academic qualifications in order to secure careers and class position/status.  Describes the periodic increase in the lowest level of education needed to enter a field: a high school diploma was sufficient in the 1970s, a bachelors degree was required by the mid-1980s, and now the same career wants a masters degree.  Degree requirements are raised for jobs based on new technological requirements OR simply because the market is flooded with the previous minimum requirements (supply and demand = when the # of those with the degree is high, the value of the degree decreases).
  • 12. Theories: Symbolic Interactionist • Symbolic interactionist perspectives on education focus on classroom communication patterns and educational practices. • Labeling theory and the idea of “self-fulfilling prophecy” theorize that if students are treated in certain ways (reflecting what is expected of them) then they will tend to fulfill those expectations. • This effect has been seen with IQ tests, where students end up fulfilling what an IQ test supposedly indicates about their intelligence and ability. • teacher-expectation effect = teacher expectations have a significant determinative impact on student performance. • Symbolic Interactionism demonstrates beliefs about inferiority and superiority are built into existing systems of inequality.
  • 13. Theories: Rational/Utilitarian • Researchers are faced with a paradox on the topic of education: education is the current predictor of social position and the overall level of education has risen – and YET, the gap between rich and poor has actually widened! • Social Exchange theorists explain this in terms of seeing education as a market: as the level of education has risen, the relative value of education has decreased [NOTE the overlap here with Social-Conflict and the concept of credentialism previously discussed]. • Educational Inflation:  1920s = a high school diploma could “purchase” a decent job.  1960s = so many high school graduates are in the market that a HS diploma can only “purchase” a working class job.  21st century = so many people now have college degrees that higher degrees have become the desired “cultural capital” for the market.
  • 14. Competition for Public Schools • Parents in the U.S. now have alternative school choices. • Public charter schools, while facing issues like high turnover rates, have offered minority families an alternative by offering college prep programs and addressing the academic gap between many minorities and the majority. • School choice includes the use of school vouchers which expand parental options. • Other choices include: private schools (often religious), gifted schools, and home schooling. • Pro: School choice creates a market for schooling so parents and students can shop for the best value. • Con: Such programs erode national commitment to public education, especially in urban schools.
  • 15. Home Schooling • Over 1.5 million children are homeschooled. • This has proved to be a good alternative for ADHD students. • Typically, homeschooled children score higher on standardized tests.  This may be due to a smaller instructor-to-student ratio. • Some theorists believe that the lack of social involvement that characterizes some homeschooling can be a problem, as well as parental incompetence. • Homeschooling is allowed in all 50 states. • Pro: Better results. • Con: Removes some of the most affluent and articulate parents out of the system.
  • 16. Colleges & Universities • Community Colleges: – Community college systems are growing throughout the U.S. – Currently, these systems educate about 50% of the nation’s undergraduates. – However, both state and local governments have decreased funding for these systems. • Universities: – College tuition is continually increasing, and student debt is likewise increasing. – Some racial groups continue to be underrepresented, and experience prejudice. • backstage racism = discrimination taking place on campuses in whites-only spaces (e.g., parties) where minorities are not present – mocking, racist language, etc.
  • 17. College Student Subcultures • Every student is exposed to differing student subcultures and attempts to fit in somewhere. • Merton’s Types of College Students:  collegiate – focuses on fun and socializing.  academic – values learning and knowledge.  vocational – education as means to an end (i.e., a career).  nonconformist = hostile to college environment and usually involved in other relevant issues.
  • 18. Problems: Elementary & Secondary • Unequal Funding of Public Schools: • Because local sources figure prominently in school funding, schools in newer suburbs have an advantage over schools in poor areas. • School Dropouts: • Over 3 million in recent years. • Males, some racial minorities, and those residing in the Southern and Western U.S. are disproportionately affected. • Although declining in recent years, rates may be as much as double the numbers reported by the government. • Racial Segregation: • Many school districts, especially in the southern U.S. remain racially segregated or have experienced resegregation as previous integration laws have been struck down.
  • 19. Problems: School Safety & Violence • School officials at all levels are focusing on ways to improve safety. • Violent incidents are reported each year by nearly 75% of all public schools: – Physical attack or fights – Vandalism – Theft/larceny – Possession of a weapon – Illegal drugs • Many believe schools need to teach discipline because it is not addressed within home setting. – Zero-tolerance policies have been set up in many areas. • There is a debate concerning whether new “carry on campus” gun laws will help or make situations worse on college campuses.
  • 20. Problems: Student Passivity • The U.S. educational system encourages passivity. – Rigid uniformity – Numerical ratings – Rigid expectations – Specialization – Little individual responsibility • College: The Silent Classroom – Passivity is common among college students. – Most students think classroom passivity is their own fault (Karp & Yoels). – Students often find little value in classroom discussion. – Teaching strategies can enhance the classroom environment.
  • 21. Problems: Academic Standards • The quality of schooling is a major issue today. – General marginal performance in basic skills: reading, science, writing, logic, and mathematics. – We have functional illiteracy for one in three U.S. children. • A Nation at Risk report recommendations: – Completion of several years of English, mathematics, social studies, general science, and computer science by all students. – No promotions without achievement of standards. – Improved teacher training and compensation. – Concordance with public expectations and public willingness to compensate for quality teaching.
  • 22. Problems: Grade Inflation • Substantial grade inflation has become a problem in recent decades. – Grade inflation is related to teacher concern about student morale and self-esteem. – It is also influenced by competitive pressure to get into college and graduate school. • Many college students today feel entitled to a decent grade in our capitalist system (as if they are paying for a grade itself rather than an educational opportunity).
  • 23. Students with Disabilities • Half of children with disabilities are in special facilities, while the remaining attend public schools. • Mainstreaming: – Seeks to integrate students with disabilities or special needs into the overall educational program. – Works best for physically impaired students who can keep up academically. • Educators have long debated the best way to teach children with disabilities.