28 SES 04, Studying Educational Choices
This paper will present a theoretical perspective for the study of educational choices and interpretations based on its application to the study of two different objects: parental choice of schools and students’ choices of higher education institutions. This theoretical perspective combines conceptual tools from critical and pragmatic sociology. Adopting a critical approach, parents’ and students’ value judgments on educational institutions are viewed as influenced by dispositions generated by prior socialization experiences in family and work contexts differentiated by their location in the class structure (Kohn, 1959; Bernstein, 1977; Bourdieu, 1988; van Zanten, 2013a). However, following a pragmatic approach, these judgments are also examined through the lenses of the different orders of worth (Boltanski and Thevenot, 2006) that all parents or students, irrespective of their class position, take into consideration when making choices. These value judgments are also viewed as strongly influenced by parents’ embeddedness in local networks (Granovetter, 1985).
Concepts from critical and pragmatic sociology are also brought together in the analysis of parents’ estimations of the quality of educational institutions. From a pragmatic perspective, and building on the work of Karpik (2010) on singular goods and of Cochoy (2002) and Callon et al. (2007) on socio-technical market devices, cognitive judgments are viewed as a process of qualitative commensuration of the qualities of institutions and children’s qualities or personal qualities (Espeland and Stevens, 1998; van Zanten, 2013b). However, from a critical perspective, parents’ and students’ assessments are also conceived as influenced by socially structured dispositions and perspectives that lead them to make choices that are subjective, partial and based on intuitive appraisals of the “right fit” between schools and children (Bourdieu, 1998; Ball, 2003; Reay et al., 2005).
References Ball, Stephen, 2003. Class Strategies and the Education Market. London: Routledge Falmer. Bernstein, Basil, 1977. Class, Codes and Control. Vol. 3. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Boltanski, Luc and Laurent Thévenot, 2006. On Justification. Economies of Worth. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Bourdieu, Pierre, 1988. Practical Reason. On the Theory of Action. Cambridge: Polity Press. Callon, Michel, Yuval Millo, and Fabian Muniesa (eds.) 2007. Market Devices. Oxford: Blackwell. Cochoy, Franck, 2002. Une sociologie du packaging ou l’âne de Buridan face au marché. Paris: Presses universitaires de France. Espeland, Wendy and Mitchell Stevens, 1998. Commensuration as a Social Process. Annual Review of Sociology 24, 312-343. Granovetter, Mark, 1985. Economic Action and Social Structure: The problem of Embededdness. American Journal of Sociology 91(3), 481-510. Karpik, Lucien, 2010. Valuing the Unique. The Economics of Singularities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Kohn, Melvin, 1959. Social Class and Parental Values. American Journal of Sociology 64(4), 33è-351. Reay, Diane, Myriam David, and Stephen Ball, 2005. Degrees of Choice. Social Class, Race and Gender in Higher Education, London: Trentham Books. van Zanten Agnès, 2009. Choisir son école. Stratégies familiales et mediations locales, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. van Zanten Agnès, 2013a. La competition entre fractions des classes moyennes supérieures et la mobilisation des capitaux autour des choix scolaires. In Ph. Coulangeon, J. Duval (eds.) Trente ans après La Distinction, Paris: La Découverte, 278-289. van Zanten A. 2013b. “A good match: Appraising worth and estimating quality in school choice” in J. Beckert, C. Musselin (eds.), Constructing Quality. The Classification of Goods in the Economy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2013, 77-99.
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