Chapter 17
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Chapter 17

Course: SOCIOLOGY 001, Fall 2007

School: University of Iowa

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Chapter 17 Schools perform important functions in society, including training and socializing the young, fostering social cohesion, transmitting culture from generation to generation, and sorting students, presumably by talent, for further training and employment. Schools do a far from perfect job of sorting students by talent. To a degree, they simply funnel poor and minority students into low-ability classes....

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17 Schools Chapter perform important functions in society, including training and socializing the young, fostering social cohesion, transmitting culture from generation to generation, and sorting students, presumably by talent, for further training and employment. Schools do a far from perfect job of sorting students by talent. To a degree, they simply funnel poor and minority students into low-ability classes. Eventually this results in children occupying positions in the occupational structure similar to those occupied by their parents. Standardized tests (IQ, SAT, and ACT) help to sort student by talent and reproduce the existing class structure. Student success in the education system is influenced by students' cognitive ability, the quality of the schools they attend, and the material and emotional support offered by their families, the degree to which they learn elements of high-status culture in school, and the operation of selffulfilling prophecies about which students are likely to succeed and which are not. Mass, compulsory education has its roots in the Protestant Reformation, democratic revolutions, the rise of the modern state, and globalization. These forces have spread mass, compulsory education throughout the world. Educational standards are very low in the bottom third of American schools. Proposed solutions to this problem include local initiatives aimed at improving schools, the use of vouchers that would allow students in inferior schools to attend private schools, redistributing existing resources and increasing education budgets, and substantially improving the social environment of young, disadvantaged children before and outside school. Affirmative Action and Class Privilege Academic researches, admissions officers at elite colleges, and investigative journalists at respected newspapers such as the New York Times have recently detailed the privileges in college admissions. Students routinely receive admission points if they have a parent who graduated from the college to which they are applying. Such students benefit from the so-called legacy factor. A second mechanism that bestows advantages on privileged students involves parents contributing money to the colleges that their children want to attend. This is the "development" factor. Meritocracy: is a stratification system in which equality of opportunity allows people to rise or fall to a position that matches their talent and effort. Macrosociological Processes The Functions of Education Educational Attainment: refers to the number of years of school students complete Educational Achievement: refers to how much students actually learn The view that the American educational system is responsible for sorting student based on talent and effort is a central component of the Functional theory of education. The functional theory also stresses the training role of schools. That is, in schools, most people learn how to read, write, count, calculate, and perform other tasks essential to the workings of a modern industrial society, A third function of the educational system involves socialization of the young. The Effect of Economic Inequality from the Conflict Perspective Conflict theorists argue that, in fact, schools distribute the benefits of education unequally, allocating most of the benefits to children from upper classes and higher-status racial and ethnic groups. School funding is almost always based mainly on local property taxes. In wealthy communities, where property is worth a lot, people can be taxed at a lower rate than in poor communities and still generate more school funding per pupil. Standardized Tests Tracking: involves sorting students into high-ability and low-ability classes based on the results of IQ and other tests. How do IQ and Social Status Influence Academic and Economic Success? The fact that changes in home environment, community environment, and schooling experience produce changes in IQ demonstrates that this argument must be qualified. IQ is partly genetic and partly social in origin. Are SAT and ACT Tests Biased? Coaching discrimination aside, it seems to us that the biggest problem with the SAT and ACT tests is not the tests themselves. The biggest problem lies in the background factors that determine who gets to take the test in the first place and how well prepared different groups of test-takers are. Case Study: Functionalist Versus Conflict Theories of the American Community College Functionalists examine the social composition of the student body in community colleges and find a somewhat disproportionate number of students from lower socioeconomic strata and minority ethnic groups. Conflict theorists deny that the growth of community colleges increases upward mobility and equality in American society. Decreasing the level of inequality in society requires passing laws that change people's entitlements and the rewards they receive for doing different kinds of work, not just increasing educational opportunities. Gender and Education: The Feminist Contribution Microsociological Processes The Stereotype Threat: A Symbolic Interactionist Perspective Personal Anecdote In general, low teacher expectations often encourage low student achievement. Thus, when black and white children begin school, their achievement test scores are similar. However, the longer they stay in school, the more black students fall behind. By the sixth grade, blacks in many school districts are two full grades behind whites in achievement. Stereotype threat: refers to the harmful impact of negative stereotypes on the school performance of disadvantaged groups. Cultural capital Cultural Capital: refers to widely shared, high status cultural signals (attitudes, preferences, formal knowledge, behaviors, goals, and credentials) used for social and cultural exclusion. People may earn cultural capital through socialization in high-status households or they may acquire it in school. Owning cultural capital increases one's chances of success in school and in the paid labor force. In the US, people acquire cultural capital mainly in school, where students can learn and display particular tastes, styles, and understandings that make communication easier with high-status individuals. Historical and Comparative Perspectives The Rise of Mass Schooling The Protestant Reformation Protestants believed that the Bible alone, and not church doctrines, should guide Christians. Accordingly, Protestants needed to be able to read the scriptures for themselves. The rise of Protestantism was thus a spur to popular literacy and the rise of mass education. The Democratic Revolution By the late 18th century, the populations of France, US, and other democracies demanded access to centers of learning, which had previously been restricted to the wealthy. The Modern State The modern state also encouraged compulsory mass education. It did so partly because education promoted loyalty and order social in an era when the group of the church was weakening. Globalization In addition, transnational corporations require a more literate and highly educated world population to do business, and transnational organizations such as the UN promote literacy and schooling. Credential Inflation and Professionalization Sociologist Randal Collins developed what he calls credential inflation. Credential Inflation: refers to the fact that it takes ever more certificates and diplomas to qualify for a given job. Professionalization: takes place when members of an occupation insist that people earn certain credentials to enter the occupation. Professionalization ensures standards and keeps professional earnings high. The American Medical Association and the American Bar Association are powerful organizations that regulate and effectively limit entry into their medical and legal professions. American professors have never been in a position to form such powerful organizations. Contested Terrain: Crisis and Reform in US schools School Standards Solutions to the School Crisis Statistics on completion and dropout rates suggest that the crisis of the American school system is strongly related to minority status, which in turn is strongly related to class position. Logical Initiatives Redistributing and Increasing School Budgets Economic Reform and Comprehensive Preschools Sociologist James Coleman: o Began his research convinced that the educational environment of black children was due to the underfunding of their schools. What he found was that differences in the quality of schools--measured by assessments of such factors of school facilities and curriculum--accounted for at most a third of variation in students' academic performance. At least two thirds of the variation in academic performance was due to inequalities imposed on children by their homes, neighborhoods, and peers. We conclude that programs aimed at increasing school budgets and encouraging local schoolreform initiatives need to be augmented by policies that improve the social environment of young, disadvantaged children before and outside of school. Summary 1. What are the arguments for and against affirmative action? 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. a. Advocates of affirmative action say it compensates for historical injustices, encourages ethnic and racial diversity, and creates middle-class leaders in minority groups. Opponents argue that people should not have to compensate for injustices committed up to 300 years ago, that affirmative action ignores individual rights and differences, and that it diminishes the achievements of minority students. What are the manifest and latent functions of schools? a. The manifest functions of schools include the training and socialization of students, the creation of social cohesion, the transmission of culture from generation to generation, and the sorting of students, presumably by merit. Latent functions include the creation of a youth culture, a marriage market, a custodial and surveillance system for children, a means of maintaining wage levels by keeping college students temporarily out of the job market, and occasionally becoming a "school of dissent" that opposes authorities. What are the sources and effects of economic inequality on education? a. Economic inequality creates schools of widely differing quality, communities that are able to support or tend to discourage high-quality education, and families with varying degrees of access to material and emotional resources for the support of children. As a result of economic inequality, children enter school with widely differing levels of preparation and eagerness to learn. These differences increase as students work their way through school. Consequently, although schools do offer some opportunities for upward mobility, they also help to reproduce existing social inequalities. What do standardized tests measure and what are their effects? a. Standardized tests are supposed to measure innate ability (IQ tests) or mathematical and reasoning abilities related to performance in college (the SAT and ACT tests). To some extent they do. Thus, to a degree, they help to sort students by ability and aid in the creation of a meritocracy. However, they also measure students' preparedness to learn and thrive in school, and preparedness is strongly related to background factors such as family's race and class position and the social composition of schools. Therefore, standardized tests also help to reproduce existing social inequalities. How do self-fulfilling prophecies work in the education system? a. Teachers' expectations that certain students will do poorly in school often result in poor student performance. Teachers' expectations that certain students will do well in school often result in good student performance. These expectations reinforce the effects of background factors and, like background factors, help to reproduce existing patterns of inequality. What is the role of cultural capital in academic achievement? a. In the US, cultural capital--elements of high-status culture--tends to be learned at school more than at home. Thus, acquiring cultural capital in schools is a path to upward mobility for low-status students. What factors account for the rise of mass, compulsory education? a. The spread of mass, compulsory education has been encouraged by the Protestant Reformation, democratic revolutions, the modern state, industrialization, and globalization. Today, all countries have systems of mass, compulsory education, although illiteracy is still widespread in poor countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. 8. What is credential inflation and how is it related to professionalization? a. Credential inflation (the need for more certification and diplomas to qualify for a job) has been fueled by the increasing technical requirements of many jobs. It has also been encouraged by the ability of people in certain occupations to exercise control over their occupations (professionalism). Credential inflation is thus a means of excluding people from the professions to maintain high standards and income level. 9. How do American Schools compare with schools in other countries? a. Although cross-national surveys show that American school system is an average to poor performer, the surveys are often misleading because weaker students in some countries do not participate in the surveys. Only the bottom third of American schools have very low standards. 10. What are the major reforms that have been proposed to deal with the crisis of American schools? a. The major school reforms that have been proposed in recent years include local initiatives such as mentoring, giving students in poor schools vouchers that would allow them to attend private schools, redistributing and increasing school budgets, and substantially improving the social environment of young, disadvantaged children before and outside school.

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