ERG SES D 12, Families and Education
The presentation will focus on the theoretical framework, methodology and expected outcomes of an ongoing research about friendship in socially diverse schools. The study considers the evidence that strongly suggests the possible academic and social benefits of social heterogeneity in education (e.g. Garcés & Jayakumar, 2014; Hurtado, 2005; Gurin et al., 2002; Duru Bellat & Van Zanten, 2002; Thrupp, 1995). The evidence, mainly from Europe and the United States, also maintains that the emergence of these benefits is not automatic and so depends on the way in which said heterogeneity is used by both the institution and the children that attend it and their parents (e.g. Wilson, 2011). This presentation explores family discourses about school mix as a means to understand the ways social diversity is faced, being the question: What do parents and pupils consider to be the social and academic benefits and challenges of being in a school with a socially diverse population? The main aim is to explore parents’ and students’ opinions, preferences and strategies related to social diversity in the school.
The importance that families give to peer group when choosing school has been documented by several studies (e.g. Gewirtz et al., 1995) with particular regard to middle-class school choice strategies (e.g. Ball, 2003). In general, these studies predominantly support the hypothesis of mixophobia (or homophilia) rather than mixophilia (Bauman, 2003), which means that parents tend to choose schools where their populations have similar background than theirs, for example in socioeconomic or ethnic terms (e.g. Flores & Carrasco, 2013; Van Zanten, 2003). There are several risks identified by the families as barriers to social mix such as the fear of losing manners and values, of being ‘derailed’ from the ‘good track’, of being physically and/or psychologically damaged by ‘dangerous others’, of being hinder by lower achievement students and of not fitting in (e.g. Carrasco et al., 2015; Boterman, 2013).
Notwithstanding, a series of publications reveals the role of mixophilia within the discourses of certain families (e.g. Vincent et al., 2015; Neal et al., 2013), showing that some families value school mix as a way to immerse their children in the experience of difference and promote the development of multicultural capital (Reay et al., 2011), which is the ability to engage with different people. In a dilemmatic and not exempt from tensions process, families choosing mixed schools adopt strategies to minimise the risks and guarantee the ‘right’ mix (Ball, 2003) regarding -for instance- the proportion and kinds of socioeconomic and ethnic groups (e.g. Vowden, 2012; Boterman, 2013). However, some studies have shown that in spite of being in a mixed school, mixing and friendship amongst parents and amongst students from different backgrounds are unusual in that they tend to define differential associations, ignoring each other (e.g. Hollingworth & Mansaray, 2012) or establishing antagonistic relationships (e.g. Butler & Robson, 2003). What seems to remain insufficiently analysed by the current research are the elements that are shaping those differential associations. My study seeks to understand which aspects of the schools and families practices are perceived as constraining -or fostering- interactions between students of different social classes and ethnic groups.
Ball, S. (2003) Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Bauman, Z. (2003) Liquid Love. Cambridge Boterman, W. (2013) Dealing with Diversity: Middle-class family households and the issue of ‘Black’ and ‘White’ Schools in Amsterdam, Urban Studies, 50, 6: 1130-1147 Butler, T. and Robson, G. (2003) London Calling: The middle Classes and the Remaking of Inner London. Oxford: Berg. Carrasco, A., Falabella, A. and Mendoza, M. (2015) School choice in Chile as a sociocultural practice. An ethnographic inquiry. Sense Publishers: Rotterdam / Boston / Taipei. Duru-Bellat, M. and Van Zanten, A. (2002) Sociologié de l´école. Paris: Ed. ArmandColin. Flores, C. & Carrasco, A. (2013) (Des)igualdad de oportunidades para elegir escuela: Preferencias, libertad de elección y segregación escolar. Espacio Publico, Chile. Garcés, L. and Jayakumar, U. (2014) Dynamic Diversity: Toward a Contextual Understanding of Critical Mass. Educational Researcher, 43 (3), 115 –124. Gewirtz, S., Ball, S. and Bowe, R. (1995) Markets, Choice and Equity in Education. Buckingham: Open University Press. Gurin, P., Dey, E., Hurtado, S. and Gurin, G. (2002) Diversity and Higher Education: Theory and Impact on Educational Outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72 (3), 330-367. Hollingworth S. and Mansaray, A. (2012) Conviviality under the Cosmopolitan Canopy? Social mixing and friendships in an urban secondary school, Sociological Research Online, 17,3 Hurtado, S. (2005). The next generation of diversity and intergroup relations research. Journal of Social Issues, 61 (3), 595-610. Neal, S. and Vincent, C. (2013). Multiculture, middle class competencies and friendship practices in super-diverse geographies. Social & Cultural Geography, 14 (8), 909-929. Reay, D., Crozier, G. & James, D. (2011). White Middle-Class Identities and Urban Schooling. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Thrupp, M. (1995). The School Mix Effect: The History of an Enduring Problem in Educational Research. Policy and Practice. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 16 (2), 183-203. Van Zanten, A. (2003) Middle-Class Parents and Social Mix in French Urban Schools: Reproduction and Transformation of Class Relations in Education. International Studies in Sociology of Education 13, no. 2: 107-23. Vincent, C., Neal, S. Iqbal, H. (2015) Transitioning schools: school friendship, diversity and the middle classes. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research, Budapest. Vowden, K. (2012) Safety in numbers? Middle-class parents and social mix in London primary schools, Journal of Education Policy 27, 6:731-745 Wilson, H. (2012). Multi-ethnic schooling and the future of multiculturalism in the UK. Workshop proceedings: Debating Multiculturalism London: Dialogue Society
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