Understanding Education. A Sociological Perspective

By Zahorska, Marta | Polish Sociological Review, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Understanding Education. A Sociological Perspective


Zahorska, Marta, Polish Sociological Review


Sharon Gewirtz, Alan Cribb, Understanding Education. A Sociological Perspective, Cambridge: Polity Press UK; Maiden: Polity Press, USA, 2009, pp. 240.

Keywords: education, sociology of education, educational knowledge.

According to the authors of Understanding Education,

the sociology of education has made a very important contribution to the understanding of social and educational values and how they are produced, allocated and experienced. In other words, sociology has both descriptive/explanatory and normative agenda (emphasis by MZ). (p. vi)

This excerpt contains the authors' credo around which they structured their book and its contents. Their intention was to introduce readers into the sociology of education but also to present this subdiscipline from the perspective of values. Thus, the volume does not only offer an overview of essential concepts and problems in the sociology of education but also imposes authors' vision of what this branch of sociology should stand for. The key theme in the sociology of education centres around development and balancing of educational inequalities. Therefore, it is forced to take a normative stance and to determine what is good, just or desirable. Oftentimes, it is not obvious what such an unambiguous stance should be as discussions reveal dilemmas around divergent values professed by people from various cultures and social groups, and different hierarchies of values. By analysing educational problems sociologists of education become involved into debates on practical and political solutions. Therefore, "Sociology of education [...] is a subject full of controversy and contestation [...]" (p. 21). Sociologists constantly have to ask about the nature of knowledge they have, their goals and social consequences. The sociology of education should be, to a very large extent, a reflexive discipline.

Already in the first chapter Gewirtz and Cribb present various controversies and dilemmas faced by scholars researching education processes. They use some examples to show the conflict between official knowledge transmitted in recognised institutions and individuals' interests and values. This chapter also uses the pattern around which the remaining sections of the book are structured. When presenting theories and directions in the sociology of education, the authors use examples from relevant studies. This is an excellent didactic approach: various theoretical issues are presented to readers through specific research questions operationalising those issues. By showing real-life situations and research dilemmas the book becomes interesting rather than fatiguing, which is often the case with many other handbook publica- tions.

The book consists of two parts. Part I offers a general introduction into the sociology of education, presenting its key theorists and major concepts. Part II analyses four key themes: social reproduction, dilemmas associated with constructing curricula, identity processes and factors determining teachers' positions. The eighth chapter at the end elaborates on, and summarises, the authors' key idea: sociology of education as a reflexive discipline.

Part I, which presents key strands and scholars of this branch of sociology, con- sists of two chapters. The first one outlines classic theories whereas the second one talks about modern concepts. Each consists of a brief description followed by a sum- mary of a seminal work which the authors consider representative for a particular line of inquiry. The first chapter focuses on two classic theories. It begins with struc- tural functionalism and, as an example, summarises a paper by Talcott Parsons "The School Class as a Social System" (1959). This is followed by a description of symbolic interactionism and a summary of Howard S. Becker's "The teacher in the authority system of the public school" (1953). These sample papers are used by the authors to explain essential differences between the two theories, stressing the dominant role of structure (Parsons) and the role of the actor (teacher) in creating or contesting the schooling system (Becker). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Understanding Education. A Sociological Perspective
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.