Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage

By Stephen J. Ball | Go to book overview

3

Class and policy

To try to advance merit and retract class advantages as a basis of selection in a system that remains highly selective is likely to rankle too many entrenched interests. Those who lose privileges could be expected to fight to retain them …

(Raftery and Hout 1993:60).

The middle class is a social class that has become a historical actor …

(Eder 1993:164).

The purpose of this chapter is to explore the relationships between social class and education policy. I intend to argue a case for two related propositions; first, that currently, in developed societies around the world, education policies are primarily aimed at satisfying the concerns and interests of the middle class. In effect, policy thinking is classed in particular ways and particular policies present the middle class with strategic advantages in education. Second, I will argue that the middle class is active in various ways in influencing and effecting education policies in their own interests. This takes place at various levels from national to local, and institutional. I shall explore and exemplify the workings of middle-class interest at each level. Embedded in these propositions are a number of different conceptualizations of policy - I see these as complementary rather than as competing. They overlay one another and reinforce patterns of social advantage. They are: (a) a pluralist view which focuses on the direct actions of parents in contesting or effecting policy directly by expressing and advancing their preferences; (b) a view of policy as non-decision-making, 'in which decisions are prevented from being taken on potential issues over which there is an observable conflict of (subjective) interests' (Lukes 1974:20). One prime example here is the English DfES' steadfast exclusion of issues of poverty and social class from debates concerning educational achievement and 'failing schools' and the substitution of School Effectiveness/School Improvement policies which give primary emphasis to institutional factors to explain performance differences (see Thrupp and Ball 2002). I suggest that this can be seen as representing and legitimating a more general re-working of the meaning of and priorities related to educational need which facilitate the movement of resources from those with social

-25-

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Class Strategies and the Education Market: The Middle Classes and Social Advantage
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Class and Strategy 14
  • 3 - Class and Policy 25
  • 4 - Social Class as Social Closure 53
  • 5 - Social Capital, Social Class and Choice 79
  • 6 - Values and Principles 111
  • 7 - Risk, Uncertainty and Fear 148
  • 8 - Class Practices and Inequality 167
  • Appendix I 181
  • Appendix II 188
  • Notes 189
  • Bibliography 194
  • Index 211
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