Education & Equality of Opportunity

Chapter 3

Equal Opportunity and Equality of Outcome

If citizens in a society believe that they enjoy equal opportunity how does this belief stabilize the social system?

How do public schools contribute to this idea?

What is Cultural Capital?

According to Bradley Levinson, cultural capital “refers to a kind of symbolic credit which one acquires through learning to embody and enact signs of social standing. This credit consists of a series of competencies and character traits, such as ‘taste’ and ‘intelligence.’”

Have you known students who exhibit high levels of cultural capital? How might this give some students advantages over others in schools?

The Common School Model of Schooling

According to Horace Mann, common schools were expected to be the "great equalizers" of society. Equal schools were expected to provide equal opportunities by providing standardized curricula, assessments, teacher training, and overall similar learning environments for all children.

Despite Mann's best intentions, can you think of any weaknesses in this model?

The Sorting Machine Model of Schooling

In this model of schooling, students are classified and placed in ability groups and tracks based in part on intelligence testing. Unequal tracks are intended to prepare students for the workplace based on their perceived abilities and IQ test scores.

Can you identify potential problems with this model of schooling?

The High-Stakes Testing Model of Schooling

In this model of schooling, intelligence tests are replaced with multiple and continuous standardized achievement exams and students are tracked accordingly. Achievement exams determine grade promotion, graduation, college admissions, and professional and employment credentials.

Can you identify potential problems with this model of schooling?

In addition to any weaknesses you may find in any of the three models, does cultural capital play a role?

Social Reproduction and Schooling

According to Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, schooling in America tends to reinforce social stratification and contributes to inter-generational immobility. In other words, schooling has little effect in increasing a working class child's potential mobility upon graduation. What are your thoughts?

Cultural Hegemony and Schooling

Cultural hegemony is a concept coined by Antonio Gramsci in the early twentieth century.
Hegemony literally means domination. Cultural hegemony refers to a form of cultural and ideological domination, which is not forcefully imposed, but institutionally learned via institutions in society: education, religion, mass communications, the family, and so forth.

Similar to social reproduction, one might say that this process results in cultural reproduction. Certain cultural practices, ideas, behaviors, morals, and artifacts are normalized and become "common sense."

What do you think of the concept of cultural hegemony? Was Antonio Gramsci correct? Are there flaws or limitations in this theory.