Transforming understandings of the relationship between social class and schooling

Year: 2016

Author: Windle, Joel, Rowe, Emma, Kenway, Jane, Jamal Al-Deen, Taghreed, Perry, Laura

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this paper, we explore traditional class theory as juxtaposed with contemporary class theory, to examine how class is transformed or muted within schooling markets. Traditional class theory draws on certain variables, including house ownership, means of production and occupation, to argue for distinct stratification or tiers of class, and a sense of groupness, particularly for how this relates to collectivism and political action. Historical metrics of class continue to imbue current analysis, although in contemporary times and in the context of post-neoliberalism, traditional class theory is challenged by transnational migration, a loss of class voting and the decline of traditional class groupings (Pakulski and Waters, 1996). In this paper we consider contemporary modes of collectivism within the local schooling market, as underscored by theories of class. We explore residential segregation within public high school catchment areas, in a specific middle-class urban area. Our study seeks to capture the ‘popular, rejected and balanced’ school choices (Seppánen, 2003) for middle-class choosers. We utilize geo-coding to generate socio-demographic characteristics as related to each public high school catchment area, including levels of income, country of birth and religion affiliation. Our data suggests distinct residential segregation between catchment areas for each public school within our dataset, particularly for the schools deemed to be popular and rejected, that may pose risks for broader equity concerns. We argue that, in contrast to market theory, even more affluent and active choosers are not equipped with information on the programmatic quality of their different school options, but instead may be relying on socio-demographic characteristics of schools—through surrogate information about the urban spaces that the schools occupy—in order to choose peer groups, if not programs, for their children. The public school has traditionally been understood as outside of the market, and more so as a class disabler, rather than a class enabler. We ask whether the consumption of local schooling has the potential to transform contemporary modalities of class, or more so, plays a role in reproducing structural inequalities. ReferencesPakulski J and Waters M. (1996) The Death of Class, London, California & New Delhi: Sage Seppánen P. (2003) Patterns of ‘public‐school markets’ in the Finnish comprehensive school from a comparative perspective. Journal of Education Policy 18: 513-531.