Sociology of Education

Topics: Sociology, Social class, Pierre Bourdieu Pages: 9 (2822 words) Published: April 5, 2014

(Thomas, 2009)

This essay will discuss sociology within the confines of education and examine the role educational institutions play in the development of a society. The above illustration will act as a visual stimulus for this purpose, setting a sociological context through which this assignment will be conducted. Theories of habitus, social capital and social reproduction with regard to education will be examined. Central to the theory of social reproduction are a number of key characteristics. This essay will apply the following: First, current educational systems reinforce inequality; second, schools are built upon models of class values; and finally, the educational system is modelled on the concerns of the dominant ruling classes.

The first section of this assignment will establish a theoretical basis for the essay. It will introduce the work of Pierre Bourdieu, identifying him as a key theorist in the field of sociology in education. Relevant areas of Bourdieu's research will be examined, most notably his theories of capital. Drawing from ranging academic sources this section will expand upon the topic with a view to apply the theory in the following section.

In line with theory outlined in section one, the second section will analyse the formerly introduced visual stimulus. In doing so, the following questions will be answered: Does the image reinforce the theories of Bourdieu? If so, what elements of the image suggest that social inequality is in fact reproduced in educational institutions? Based on this analysis, general conclusions will be drawn leading to the subsequent section; personal reflections of the author. Section three will incorporate personal reflections. A number of aspects of the earlier outlined theories will be highlighted and compared to the personal experiences of the author. In addition, this section will conclude the assignment with the identification of a number of key ways its completion has informed my understanding of sociology within teaching and learning.

Section One
Theory Explicated
The first section of this paper is concerned with one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century, Pierre Bourdieu. His observations of how the upper classes retain a dominant roll in society and the link between educational institutions and the reproduction of social classes are significant. These perspectives play an important role in his studies and will be discussed here. A focus will be placed on his theories of habitus, social capital and social reproduction. The views of various academic writers will be employed to support or challenge his theories. Bourdieu's theory of habitus refers to the formation of an individuals ideology or disposition as a result of social environment. Billig states that, 'ideology comprises the habits of behaviour and belief which combine to make any social world appear to those who inhabit it, as the natural world' (Billig 1995, p.37–38). Therefore, subconscious behaviour, values and attitudes will pre-exist, independent of the socialisation of the individual taking place in fields such as institutions of education. Moreover, habitus refers to the instinctive actions or predisposed thought processes of an individual in relation to their social class. Webb (et al.) confirm this theory in Understanding Bourdieu:

Habitus is the set of durable dispositions that people carry within them that shapes their attitudes, behaviours and responses to given situations.(2002, p. 114) Further support of this theory is provided by Perez-Felkner in her studies on socialisation of children and adolescents. She states that individuals

develop through the process of accommodation to their environmental contexts, specifically concentric rings of influence, from family to neighbourhoods and schools to cultural forces in society.(1977, cited Perez-Felkner, 2013, p. 3)

Habitus can relate to the amount and type of 'capital' an individual may yield. Bourdieu recognised...

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Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L., (1992). An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of
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Perez-Felkner, L. (2013). Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence. Handbook of Social
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Siisiäinen, M., (2000). Two Concepts of Social Capital: Bourdieu vs. Putnam., ed. Paper presented
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Thomas, D., (2009). Etonians wearing their tailcoat and stiff collar uniform, photograph viewed 31
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