22 SES 01 A, (In)Equalities in Acess
Many sociologists revealed the persistence of scholastic inequalities between different classes in last years, particularly regarding access to higher education across european countries (i.e. Duru-Bellat, Kieffer, Reimer, 2008; Bukodi, Goldthorpe, 2013).
According to the international literature, european educational landscape shows lower participation by students from working class is accounted for by a combination of different factors: they cannot afford an investment in long terms, also because their expected benefits are lesser than those expected by middle class students (Boudon, 1973; Goldthorpe, 2000); low parental educational capital reduces value attributed by students to education and also scholastic performance (Bernstein, 1975; Bourdieu, 1979; de Graaf, 2007; Weis, 2010); the asymmetric distribution of information, among different social classes, about schooling and the labour market, misguides lower class members in their scholastic choices (Willis, 1977; Lareau, Weininger, 2008).
Thus, working-class students continue to be under represented in university for many reasons, but this phenomenon won’t be completely understood, until the ambivalence of school – as such symbolic mediations (Ricoeur, 1986a) – is examined.
In this paper we analyse the class-mediated changes in school-student relationships in the context of a discussion concerning social reproduction.
Therefore, we aim to:
- understand the extent to which working class students are disadvantaged with regard to university access;
- examine the role schools can play in assisting students redress the above situation by enhancing their chances of access to university.
Starting from a critical hermeneutic perspective (Habermas, 1981; Ricoeur, 1986a, 1986b), we propose a theoretical framework which integrates the Bourdieusian concept of ‘disposition’ (Bourdieu, 1984) with the foucauldian concept of ‘device’ (Foucault, 1975).
This theoretical framework helps to study the relationship between social class dispositions and some scholastic devices. Bourdieu posited that persons’ interaction and behavior are influenced by habitus, that is a system of conditioning socially-mediated dispositions (Bourdieu, 1984). Habitus is not fixed or permanent because individuals can change their disposition interacting with the norms, the representations and the rules stemming from the social ‘field’ in which they act.
Whereas ‘device’ is a concept that Foucault used for explaining the continual change of institutions, it, in reality, constitutes a heterogeneous network of discourses, (specialized) knowledge, architectural forms, laws, moral propositions, material resources. This network guides and controls (and shapes) subjects, but it is also something that can offer them new spaces for freedom.
We therefore think that scholastic choices stem from the “dialectic relationship” (Gouldner, 1979; Habermas, 1981) between individuals’ social dispositions and devices as present in scholastic institutions. In this framework, ‘scholastic field’ (Bourdieu, 1984) can be examined as place where social actors (individuals and collective forces) cooperate or fight to build or renew these very same institutions, but these institutions, in turn, influence and help ‘construct’the actors’ identity and conduct (Berger, Luckmann, 1966). In this context, “symbolic praxis” (Ricoeur, 1986b) operates through “those networks” that Foucault names devices (dispositifs).
In this paper we attempt to analyse two ‘devices’ of the Italian educational field so as to explore the school’s limits and possibilities for encouraging working-class students to go on to university.
We selected two devices operating in the Italian educational field: stratification in three upper-school tracks and scholastic socialization at this same level of the educational system.
In our theoretical framework, the school is conceptualized as an institution that legitimizes the social order but that also has the potential for lower-class student’s emancipation and social mobility. The school produces both integration and misrepresentation (Ricoeur, 1986b). In this way, school reproduces social inequalities, but allows also its transformation, if subaltern classes believe wholly and fully in this institution.
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