Week 6 Lecture Notes – Starting Points Ch. 12

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Lecture 6: Schools and Education

Guest Lecture by ___ ____.

Four Sociological Perspectives on Education
-functionalism: social order and stability
-critical theory: social inequality
-feminism: gender inequality
-symbolic interactionism: social meaning and personality development

Hypothetical situation:
You lost marks because you didn’t follow the correct citation format. YOU COMPLAIN. Then you get the following response:
1.Responsible employee
If you don’t follow guidelines, you get fired.
2.Value of university degree
If students can’t even follow simple guidelines, what would that make our university? Do you think this is a joke? Do you think the university is a joke? Do you think I’m a joke?
3.Leadership skills
Small portion of your grade is based on your ability to follow instructions. If leaders don’t follow laws, what would become of our country?

-Society is a complex system with different parts that work together to promote social stability.
-Behaviour is governed by stable patterns of relationsh
-Focus on social norms, values, customs, and traditions
-Main question: how can major institutions create consensus on core social values and, thus, promote social stability?

Talcott Parsons
-Modern functionalist. American. From Harvard.
-Strong social values and norms act as the very concrete that holds our society together.
-The school system must train people to become functioning adults.
-Children enter a school system and cease to be an individual. They are a part of social groups.
1.Socialization: students learn social norms and values
2.Selection: individuals allocated different positions based on personal merit

Students must internalize norms and values.
Positive sanctions: encourage desirable behaviour
Negative sanctions: discourage undesirable behaviour
5% deduction = minor negative sanction.

Positive sanctions are usually more prevalent when children are younger. e.g. stickers/pizza parties/etc.
Most sanctions you come across in the university are negative sanctions. e.g. 5% deduction for not following instructions.
It’s kinda difficult to acclimatize to this!
Most serious negative sanction: probation, failing, etc.

A functionalist would argue that this is a good thing. A university is the last stop before society. We need to prepare you for society! Tough love approach.

Socialization & Hypothetical Situation
Superficial lesson: follow instructions
Hidden fundamental value: respect authority
Authority -> socialization -> responsible employee/university degree/leadership skills.

For Parsons it’s paramount that people learn to respect authorities. Responsible employees respect authorities. Reputation of university associated with its students’ ability to respect authorities. Democratic leaders are accountable to the people, so no one is above the system. So even leaders need to work within the system.

Merit: an earned and justifiable claim to:
a) Minor Positive Sanctions (e.g. respect or praise)
b) Major Positive Sanctions (e.g. high salary or university degree)
Ideally, judgement of merit should be neutral and everyone should be given an equal opportunity to succeed.

Meritocracy -> socialization -> responsible employee/university degree/leadership skills.

If a person can’t follow rules, he doesn’t have enough merit. If the university does not have a rigourous selection process, then good degrees are not dealt on basis of merit. Students who don’t follow instructions don’t have enough merit to become a leader.

Minor negative sanction: 5% deduction
Minor positive sanction: none
Major sanctions: job/degree value/possibility for leadership position

The only thing the professor told you is the minor negative sanction. He didn’t tell you about the major sanctions! But they are implied.

Hidden curriculum
“Lessons that are not normally considered part of the academic curriculum that schools unintentionally or secondarily provide for students.” – Tepperman 2011: 336

Values promoted: authority and meritocracy
Value outcomes
Responsible employee -> obedient workforce
Value of university degree -> credentialism
Leadership skills -> social hierarchy

Alternative rationale:
If you want to gain more control over your own life, you have to learn how to work within a larger group of people. What would happen to a group if everyone followed their own rules? A groups will disintegrate if its members are not reliable, trust worthy, or, in shot, socially responsible.


Educate — from its latin root — means to “lead out of…”
Like Moses!

Education: the ideal — people expect “education” to:
-provide them with a wide range of skills to prepare them for an uncertain future
-in this way, help them surmount social obstacles and disadvantages

“In an unequal society like ours, many people in the society — especially the ones in the middle and at the bottom — embrace education as a means to overcome social disadvantages.” – Teppy

-The process works by awarding credentials to deserving candidates
-The advantaged few gain valuable credentials: tickets of entry into top occupational groups
-These powerful groups limit entry (M.D.’s) and demand high payment for their services
The best credential is (ideally) handed out to the best people

Why the high demand for credentials?
“The beauty of credentials is that, not only are they a ticket, but they are also based on seemingly fair basis of selection.” – Teppy
i.e. NOT inheritance.
“The beauty of going to medical school is that you get a lot of money without holding a gun to another person’s head.” -Teppy

Credentials have two sides. They get you what you want AND you look good.

For the last 50 years, college grades have been creeping upward.
-Since 1960, grades in North American universities have tended to rise due to grade inflation.
-This has not been limited to any particular kind of colleges, public or private.

Are people getting smarter? No. This represents pressure on institutions to give people higher grades.

Unequal access to the best credentials
-Students from better off families are more likely to attend university.
(Persisted for 35 years!)
-Therefore, class position continues to pass down from one generation to the next.

“For some reason, class tends to reproduce itself, not only in the inheritance of money, but also in the inheritance of credentials.” -Teppy

“Let me put it this way. The top half at U of T are exactly as smart as the students in Princeton. There is no difference in the quality of students or the quality in education. But there is a difference in the outcome.” -Teppy

Partly this social selection works by streaming poorer students AWAY FROM university.
-The effect of streaming is to reproduce inequality by giving less affluent students fewer credentials and opportunities.
-Like high tuition fees, this perpetuates class position from one generation to the next.

“A Great Training Robbery”? (Ivar Berg)
-On the other hand, many graduates are underemployed, given their educational attainments
-or overeducated, given the kinds of jobs available
-how much education do people really need?
-are we giving the right number of people the right kinds of educations

Why take university grads? University grads spent 4 years for additional socialization.
But how much education does one REALLY need? What makes a university degree different than a community college degree?

Women were particular beneficiaries of this expansion.
-In 2011, the post-secondary education attained by women aged 25-44 was twice as high as that of women aged 65+
-contributed to gender equalization

On the other hand, other groups continued to lag behind.
e.g. Inuit people.

Why educational expansion?
-A century ago, schools only provided basic skills and knowledge, discipline, and social training for work.
-Young people worked after high school.
-Today education leads to upward mobility.

More education = more secure employment
-since 1992, the unemployment rates of people with a college degree have remained lower than for anyone else.
“The data are absolutely unambiguous.” -Teppy

People on average make more money with more education.
Men with a university degree have the highest earnings.

Other factors affecting educational expansion
-The baby boom: parents wanted more opportunities for their children
-The need for public expenditure on research and development: economy demanded more research scientists, more patents and copyrights
-Expansion was particularly marked in the sciences and technology: Western government in a space race with USSR demanded more mathematical and scientific literacy

One institutional response: the rise of research universities
-Top North American universities aim to train researchers and produce research findings
-Undergraduate teaching is a (minor) aspect of this process
-student satisfaction and student employment are minor concerns
-This is reflected in the way University of Toronto measures its success, in its own eyes
-will look at an annual report shortly

The “Academic Revolution” by Jencks and Riesman
-Bureaucratization of American societies means:
-Graduate schools have rise to dominance with narrowly specialized curricula, heavy research agenda, and all-PhD faculty
-Working like a funnel, the top graduate schools receive the best graduates of the best undergraduate colleges

The U of T is Canada’s leading research university
-Canada has seen a process of educational reform similar to that described by Jencks and Riesman
-Partly thanks to the role of John Porter in promoting higher education

Performance Indicators for Governance — Governing Council
-Number of Canada Research Chairs

In Canada – especially Ontario – provincial funding has fallen behind
-In the last 25 years, the funding of higher education has decreased

A second problem facing educators: the non-academic (youth) subculture
-In North America, the youth subculture is anti-academic and anti-intellectual
-To verify this, check out TV channels, movies, and websites aimed at young demographic

The adolescent society
-James S. Coleman: “plight of education”
-Looked at the STUPIDITY of American adolescents

1.Students jude and reward appearance and a few other qualities (e.g. athletic ability) according to a widely shared student code
2.Nerds are ostracized because they uphold grading standards others are unable or unwilling to meet

The educational paradox:
-formal education is ever more important in shaping people’s life chances
-at the same time, teens are getting stupider!

Coleman’s sample
was impeccable

Teens hate school.
Even students from better-off families.

In a way, students behave like alienated workers.
They develop a collective response to demands by people in authority.

Crestwood Heights by Seeley
Undertaken in Forest Hill, an affluent community in Toronto
Very posh
The goal was to study “the culture of child under pressure for conformity”
Seeley was concerned about children’s mental health:

They are under so much pressure to perform.
What are the consequences for kids and parents?

Parents were upper class
professional or managerial
well off, very successful: typically a self-made man.

They viewed the kid as a problem to be solved.
How do they make their kids a shining success?

Careers are the priority
They teach their kids to be “perfect”.
Their kids need to be competitive and successful.

School is the central institution where you can train a perfect child.

Training for “bureaucratic crawl”:
Values shift from stress on individual achievement to stress on co-operation, other-direction, and a submergence of the individual in the group.

Tension for teachers, parents, and teachers.
Anxiety continues:
-North American middle-class parents and immigrant parents continue to drum into their children strong needs for achievement
-Develop anxiety about obtaining good grades, pleasing the teacher, and getting ahead
-How much anxiety is enough? How much anxiety is too much?


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