We Must Reinvigorate the Sociology of Education

We Must Reinvigorate the Sociology of Education one thing i know we must reinvigorate the sociology of education by jal mehta and scott davies Go to ASA or read Sociology of Education, and you might Moving forward, sociologists of education must draw on think the only sociologically worthy topic in education is its role more of the tools and theoretical insights that have emerged in in processes of social stratification. Our content analysis of top the field at large. Notions of cultural toolkits, repertoires, fields, journals—Sociology of Education, American Journal of Sociol- institutional logics, linked ecologies, path dependence, frames, ogy, American Sociological Review, and the Annual Review of and boundaries are just a few of the many prominent ideas in Sociology—over the past 50 years shows that the vast majority cultural, organizational, and political sociology that are too rarely of articles focus on status attainment and differential access to connected to schooling. educational opportunities across by class, gender, and race. Much Thus Education in a New Society aims to show what a rarer are pieces on education and culture, organizations, politics, renewed sociology of education might look like. Some sections and comparative studies. present extended empirical results, others offer new theories, Several years ago, we began a series of conversations with some synthesize literature, and a few offer short provocations. colleagues who felt that this focus on stratification had stunted All are intended to show new ways of thinking in the sociology the intellectual potential of our field. Over time, we swapped of education. For instance, Shamus Khan connects writings about ideas with Mitchell Stevens, Steve Brint, Amy Binder, Tim Hallett, education to theorizing about elites, Steve Brint considers the Elizabeth Armstrong, Charles Payne, and Michele Lamont. These relationship between different knowledge-producing entities conversations led to a Radcliffe Institute seminar as well as the inside and outside the university, Tim Hallett takes an inhabited new collection Education in a New Society: Renewing the Sociol- institutionalism perspective on professional education, and Charles ogy of Education. Payne suggests that the educational sociological imagination has In proposing new directions, we do not want to minimize been imprisoned in ways that limits its insight and utility. what has been accomplished. The developments in the field We also suggest that longstanding topics might require some during the 1960s and 1970s were critical in putting sociology of new theorizing. A section of the volume begins to develop some education on the map. In realm of theory, Coleman, Bell, Bourdieu, new perspectives on stratic fi ation, exploring moving beyond a Bowles and Gintis, Meyer, and Collins all published landmarks Black/White paradigm, making the study of stratification more that continue to be taught to this day. With respect to empirical international, and integrating new theorizing about race. A few research, status attainment models professionalized a previously brave contributors remind us that education is a productivity- amateurish field into a powerhouse characterized by large-scale enhancing, as well as an inequality-generating, institution, and data sets and state-of-the-art statistical techniques. While these ask why we have ceded questions about the positive functions developments have been critical in winning the subfield a place of schooling to economists. in the discipline and in policy debates, their dominance has meant Education is one of the most powerful forces in modern life. that there has been little new theorizing since the 1970s, and few It structures individual life chances, develops authoritative knowl- connections to other parts of the discipline. edge, organizes professions, and remains our most popular public In particular, the collective conscience of the field seems institution — critiques notwithstanding. Education is too important to have lost sight of education’s multiple roles in our evolving and too interesting to remain within a set of paradigms forged society. Formal schooling has extended its reach downward to before Ronald Reagan came into office. Education deserves a the pre-school years and upward into lifelong learning. It shapes sociology as varied and robust as the institution itself. where people live, who they marry, how long they live, and even Jal Mehta is on the faculty of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. what they eat. Education is implicated in welfare state debates He studies the role of different forms of knowledge in tacking major social and politi- and elections animated by battles between “educated elites” and cal problems. Scott Davies is in the department of leadership, higher, and adult a “populist backlash.” These topics are explored by journalists, education at the University of Toronto. He studies student achievement, educational political scientists, and historians, but they should also be central organizations, and sociological theories of education. to sociologists. Contexts, Vol. 17, Issue 2, p. 80. ISSN 1536-5042, electronic ISSN 1537-6052. ©2018 American 80 contexts.org Sociological Association. http://contexts.sagepub.com. DOI 10.1177/1536504218776982 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Contexts SAGE

We Must Reinvigorate the Sociology of Education

Contexts , Volume 17 (2): 1 – May 1, 2018
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Abstract

one thing i know we must reinvigorate the sociology of education by jal mehta and scott davies Go to ASA or read Sociology of Education, and you might Moving forward, sociologists of education must draw on think the only sociologically worthy topic in education is its role more of the tools and theoretical insights that have emerged in in processes of social stratification. Our content analysis of top the field at large. Notions of cultural toolkits, repertoires, fields, journals—Sociology of Education, American Journal of Sociol- institutional logics, linked ecologies, path dependence, frames, ogy, American Sociological Review, and the Annual Review of and boundaries are just a few of the many prominent ideas in Sociology—over the past 50 years shows that the vast majority cultural, organizational, and political sociology that are too rarely of articles focus on status attainment and differential access to connected to schooling. educational opportunities across by class, gender, and race. Much Thus Education in a New Society aims to show what a rarer are pieces on education and culture, organizations, politics, renewed sociology of education might look like. Some sections and comparative studies. present extended empirical results, others offer new theories, Several years ago, we began a series of conversations with some synthesize literature, and a few offer short provocations. colleagues who felt that this focus on stratification had stunted All are intended to show new ways of thinking in the sociology the intellectual potential of our field. Over time, we swapped of education. For instance, Shamus Khan connects writings about ideas with Mitchell Stevens, Steve Brint, Amy Binder, Tim Hallett, education to theorizing about elites, Steve Brint considers the Elizabeth Armstrong, Charles Payne, and Michele Lamont. These relationship between different knowledge-producing entities conversations led to a Radcliffe Institute seminar as well as the inside and outside the university, Tim Hallett takes an inhabited new collection Education in a New Society: Renewing the Sociol- institutionalism perspective on professional education, and Charles ogy of Education. Payne suggests that the educational sociological imagination has In proposing new directions, we do not want to minimize been imprisoned in ways that limits its insight and utility. what has been accomplished. The developments in the field We also suggest that longstanding topics might require some during the 1960s and 1970s were critical in putting sociology of new theorizing. A section of the volume begins to develop some education on the map. In realm of theory, Coleman, Bell, Bourdieu, new perspectives on stratic fi ation, exploring moving beyond a Bowles and Gintis, Meyer, and Collins all published landmarks Black/White paradigm, making the study of stratification more that continue to be taught to this day. With respect to empirical international, and integrating new theorizing about race. A few research, status attainment models professionalized a previously brave contributors remind us that education is a productivity- amateurish field into a powerhouse characterized by large-scale enhancing, as well as an inequality-generating, institution, and data sets and state-of-the-art statistical techniques. While these ask why we have ceded questions about the positive functions developments have been critical in winning the subfield a place of schooling to economists. in the discipline and in policy debates, their dominance has meant Education is one of the most powerful forces in modern life. that there has been little new theorizing since the 1970s, and few It structures individual life chances, develops authoritative knowl- connections to other parts of the discipline. edge, organizes professions, and remains our most popular public In particular, the collective conscience of the field seems institution — critiques notwithstanding. Education is too important to have lost sight of education’s multiple roles in our evolving and too interesting to remain within a set of paradigms forged society. Formal schooling has extended its reach downward to before Ronald Reagan came into office. Education deserves a the pre-school years and upward into lifelong learning. It shapes sociology as varied and robust as the institution itself. where people live, who they marry, how long they live, and even Jal Mehta is on the faculty of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education. what they eat. Education is implicated in welfare state debates He studies the role of different forms of knowledge in tacking major social and politi- and elections animated by battles between “educated elites” and cal problems. Scott Davies is in the department of leadership, higher, and adult a “populist backlash.” These topics are explored by journalists, education at the University of Toronto. He studies student achievement, educational political scientists, and historians, but they should also be central organizations, and sociological theories of education. to sociologists. Contexts, Vol. 17, Issue 2, p. 80. ISSN 1536-5042, electronic ISSN 1537-6052. ©2018 American 80 contexts.org Sociological Association. http://contexts.sagepub.com. DOI 10.1177/1536504218776982

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Published: May 1, 2018

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