Our achievement ideology is based on the idea that the U.S. is full of opportunity and anyone can accomplish success in our society if they work hard enough. Many grow up thinking education is the ladder that will allow for this social mobility and all you have to do is be willing to work hard enough to earn it. But what about children who grow up thinking differently? Why do some strive for high paying careers while others refuse school and are seemingly ok with staying working class? MacLeod challenges the notion that America is the land of opportunity with research he conducted while in college. He uses the research of several reproduction theorists to show that schools not only are not great equalizers, as most think, but actually reinforce social inequality.
Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, both Marxists, believe the American education system builds off of and reinforces the structure of class relations in the U.S. by training the wealthy to take up space at the top of the economy while conditioning the poor to accept their status. Their "correspondence principle" draws the comparison between the social relations of production and personal interaction in schools. They argue that strong structural similarities can be seen in following: The organization of power and authority in the school and in the workplace The student's lack of control of curriculum and the worker's lack of control of the content of his or her job The role of grades and other rewards in school and the role of wages in the workplace as extrinsic motivational systems Competition among students and the specialization of academic subjects and competition among workers and the fragmented nature of jobs. They argue this theory with how schools vary in instruction based on their location. Schools serving low-income working class neighborhoods are emphasize rules and behavioral control (similar to what we have discussed in the Gilbert book about social mobility and class structure) while schools serving suburban neighborhoods favor more student participation and less direct supervision. By reinforcing social norms, schools socialize students to occupy the same position in class structure as their parents. Pierre Bourdieu believed that cultural capital was passed down from generation to generation. His four main points are: Each social class has distinct cultural capital
Schools systemically valorize upper-class cultural capital while depreciating lower class capital The job market reinforces the superior academic credentials earned mainly by the upper classes Schools legitimize the process by converting social hierarchies to academic ones Basil Bernstein uses language patterns to link micro and macro sociological issues. Bernstein argues that one's class will determine a distinct form of speech through family socialization. This results in working class children being surrounded by a restricted code of linguistics while middle class children use more elaborate codes. Bernstein's linguistic codes refer to the underlying regulative principles that govern the selection and combination of different syntactic and lexical constructions that are derived from social relations and roles within families. Shirley Brice Heath also focuses on linguistic patterns but uses race to explain her theory that black working class children are not socialized at home to use the language patterns used in school which hurts them academically. White working class children fare better as they develop many of the cognitive and linguistic skills required in school. Paul Willis's research determined that students' background, location, local job market and educational attainment influence their job choice. Henry Giroux developed a resistance theory that suggests working class subordination is not a reaction to the logic of capitalist rationality but that cultural patterns draw on elements of working class culture in a creative way.
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