Sociology - Unit 2

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Middle class students are more sucessful because their parents possess more capital or cultural knowledge.

  • Economic capital: The wealth that middle class families own.

  • Cultural capital: The attitudes, values, skills, knowledge of the middle class

-> Which leads to more Educational capital and children getting qualifications, which allow them to get middle-class jobs and more economic capital etc...from generation to generation.

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Argues that teachers label middle class pupils as ‘ideal pupils’ and prefer to teach them rather than working class pupils.

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Schools use elaborated code which gives the middle class an advantage.

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External or home background factors (cultural + ma

  • Different classes socialise their children differently e.g. some working class parents fail to pass on appropriate norms, values, attitudes, knowledge, skills - which are seen as essential for educational success which is known as cultural deprivation theory.

  • Cultural deprivation theorists split the problems into 3 sections: Lack of intellectual stimulation, The restricted speech code, Working class subculture (Immediate gratification, fatalism and low value on education.)

  • Poor housing - Overcrowding or cold and damp rooms mean students don’t have the correct environment to do homework. Also frequent moving causes a lack of stability as a child will have to keep changing schools.

  • Poor diet - Can lead to illness, absences from school and a lack of concentration in class due to hunger.

  • Low income - Lack of education materials, lack of right uniform/clothes which can lead to bullying and not being able to afford university fees.

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  • For example black pupils are often seen as disruptive and Asian are seen as passive. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, which directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy.

  • Wright (1992) - Teachers assumed Chinese pupils would have poor grasp of English, mispronounced names and saw them as a problem they could ignore.

  • Connolly (1998) - Found that primary school teachers saw Asian pupils as passive and conformist. Both teachers and pupils saw Asian boys as more ‘feminine’, vulnerable and less able to protect themselves.

  • Gillborn and Youdell (2000) - Teachers had ‘racialized expectations’ of black pupils and expected them to have more behavioural problems. Which made them more likely to punish them for acting out and the students felt they underestimated their ability and picked on them. This lead to:

- Higher levels of exclusions of black boys

- Black pupils being placed in lower sets or streams

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Pupil Subculture

  • Sewell (1998) - Black boys adopt a range of responses to teacher’s labelling of them as rebellious and anti-school.

- Conformists - Largest group

- Innovators - 2nd largest, pro education but anti-school

- Retreatists - Tiny minority, detached from school and subcultures

- Rebels - Small but highly visible group, stereotype of ‘black macho lad’

Mac and Ghaill’s (1992) - Study of black and Asian ‘A’ level students at Sixth form college found that they did not necessarily accept teachers’ negative labels.

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Institutionalized Racism

  • Ethnocentric refers to an attitude or policy that prioritises the culture of one particular ethnic group while disregarding or down grading others.

-Troyna and Williams note that it gives priority to white culture and the English Language

Setting and Streaming: The CRE (Commision of Racial Equality, 1992) - Study of ‘Jayleigh’ school found that Asian pupils were consistently placed in lower sets than their ability warranted and were less likely to be entered for GCSE exams.

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Cultural Deprivation


Claims that the underachievement of some ethnic groups is caused by inadequate socialis

ation in the home.  

  • Intellectual and language skills: Children from low-income black families lack intellectual stimulation - so they fail to develop reasoning and problem-solving skills. Some claim that children who do not speak English at home may be held back educationally.

  • Attitudes, values and family structure:

- Fatalism and immediate gratification results in a lack of motivation to succeed.

- The lack of a male role model is prevalent in the homes of African-Caribbean boys which can cause them to turn to an anti-school subculture. The new right thinker Murray (1984) argues that the high rate of lone parenthood and lack of positive male role models leads to the under-achievement of some minority pupils.

Lupton (2004) - Teachers reported poorer levels of behaviour and discipline in the white working-class school, which they linked to lower levels of parental support and the parent’s negative attitudes towards education.

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Boys Underachievement

  • Literacy: Parents spend less time reading to sons, as it is seen as a feminine activity (referred to as Girl’s ‘bedroom culture’). So boys spend time outside doing physical things with their fathers instead, as it is seen as more ‘fitting’.

  • Decline of traditional ‘male jobs’: Has lead to a male ‘identity crisis’ with a loss of motivation and self-esteem. Many boys now believe they have little prospect of getting jobs and so cease to try and get qualifications.

  • Feminisation of schooling: Sewell (2006) argues that boys fall behind because education has become ‘feminised’. Schools no longer nurture ‘masculine traits’, e.g. competitiveness and leadership.

  • Lack of male role models at home

‘Laddish subcultures’: Peer pressure on boys to demonstrate their masculinity by being anti-school.

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  • Emphasizes the importance of school
  • Durkheim argues education prevents anonmity
  • They argue education teaches them secondary socialization
  • Is said to teach the value of achieved status rather than ascribed meaning everyone has the ability to achieve
  • Teaches children universalistic standards (a set of rules that apply to a whole group rather than an individual)
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  • Argue education acts as an ideological tool which manipluates people to think in certain ways to legitimise (justify) exploitation by the ruling class
  • School is a mock-up of the work place, with the teacher acting as the Bourgiose whilst the pupil becomes the proletariat
  • This is strengthened through the hidden curriculum which transmits values such as obedience and having respect for authority
  • Bowles and Gintis argue that education serves to reproduce directly the capitalist relations of production (the hierarchy of workers from the boss down) with the appropriate skills and attitudes
  • They believe meritocracy is a myth. 
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  • Feminists (similar to marxist views) argues education acts as a ideological tool
  • Feminists also argues that education legitimised inequalities which gives the illusion that patriarchy is reasonable 
  • However feminists fail to take into account recent success' by girls and that boys are now seen as the underachievers.
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