Schooling the Poor: A Social Inquiry into the American Educational Experience

By Stanley William Rothstein | Go to book overview
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The need to assure homogeneous and orthodox schoolwork forces educational systems to move toward standardized training for both teachers and their students. Standardized curriculums, pedagogic methods, and tests are used to measure students against one another. The tools of teaching that the educational system uses are not only aids in the performance of pedagogic action but also ways of limiting the goals, perspectives, and content of classroom work. Textbooks, syllabuses, manuals all have the effect of unifying what is taught in different classrooms by different teachers. The need to codify and systematize the pedagogic communication and urban school culture is conditioned by the demands for homogeneity and orthodoxy in increasingly strained, mass societies. All learning in urban educational systems is done within the framework of an essentially apprenticeship system in which the student is socialized out of his/her ignorant condition over a period of many years. This binds the graduates, teachers, and students to the educational system and to the economic and social system.

The institutionalization of modern pedagogic action is characterized by obsessive concern with reproduction. 29 There is an inadequacy of research training and inquiry methods up and down the grade system. There is a programming of the norms of research and the objects of inquiry is that the interests of the status quo are served. Modern educational systems are relatively autonomous institutions, monopolizing the legitimate use of symbolic violence and serving groups or classes whose cultural arbitrariness they reproduce.

Pierre Bourdieu and Jean-Claude Passeron, Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture ( London: Sage Publications, 1977), pp. 31-35.
Stanley W. Rothstein, "Symbolic Violence: The Disappearance of the Individual in Marxist Thought," Interchange: A Quarterly Review of Education 22 ( 1991):28-42.
Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers: Volume 1 ( The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1962), pp. 45-49; Alexandre Kojeve, "Lacan and the Discourse of the Other," in Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis, trans. Anthony Wilden. ( Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), pp. 192-96.
Steven Smith, Reading Althusser: An Essay on Structural Marxism ( Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984), pp. 106-8; Lacan, Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis, pp. 290-91.
Pierre Bourdieu, The Inheritors: French Students and Their Relation to Culture ( Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pp. 1-28.
Herbert Gintis and Samuel Bowles, Schooling in Capitalist America ( New York: Basic Books, 1976), pp. 53-55; Ira Katznelson and Margaret Weir, Schoolingfor All: Class, Race, and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal


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Schooling the Poor: A Social Inquiry into the American Educational Experience


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