Educational Reproduction Essay

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According to reproduction theories, societal institutions perpetuate or reproduce the wider structures of inequality and oppression in society. Social reproduction theorists draw upon the work of Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, and primarily Karl Marx to demonstrate how societal institutions reproduce and maintain the capitalist economic order.
According to these theories, schools play a fundamental role in this process. Social reproduction theories, also known as structural dominance theories, show a link or correspondence between the structure of schooling and the structure of the capitalist economy. There is, according to this approach, a tight fit between schools and the wider social and economic order. Bowles and Gintis present one of the strongest arguments from this perspective in their 1976 book Schooling in Capitalist America. The authors begin by providing a background of progressive educational reforms in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s to improve educational successes of children from working and lower-class backgrounds. Despite these reforms, most of these children continued to be academically unsuccessful, as investments in education led to neither equality of opportunity nor equality of results.
Bowles and Gintis asked the question, “Why have these liberal educational reforms for economic equality failed?” The answer, according to the authors, lies in the economic structures of U.S. society. They argue that there is a correspondence between schools and the dominant social order. Students are integrated into the capitalist economy through a structural correspondence between the school’s social relations and those of production.
This occurs through a number of different processes. First, power and authority are similarly organized on a hierarchical basis in schools and factories. Schools in working-class neighborhoods tend to be more regimented and rule based, and they concentrate on behavior management more than do schools in middle and upper-class neighborhoods, Bowles and Gintis found. This prepares working-class students for their place at the bottom of the social and economic order, as they learn to be properly subordinate within schools and outside in society. As working-class students experience a lack of control over the curriculum, working-class adults face the same situation in their work, the authors suggest. Through this process, students are alienated from their learning, reflecting the alienation that workers in a capitalist society face. Grades and other rewards in school also correspond to the role of wages in factories to motivate workers. Finally, individual competition is encouraged in schools as it is in factories. Children from working-class/poorer families tend to accept this as their fate. Their schooling prepares them to become accustomed to their limited role in society, whereas those at the top become equally accustomed to positions of privilege and domination, the theory concludes.
In a 1985 work, Oakes has shown how school tracking entrenches structural inequality in schools and in effect reproduces the dominant social and economic order. Social reproduction scholars outside of the United States have also shown how schools continue to reproduce structures of inequality, disadvantaging students from working-class families.
Antiracist educators and researchers have also explored the ways that schools reproduce racism in society. Although not drawing explicitly upon the same theories as social reproduction scholars, this work is similar in demonstrating the myth of meritocracy in education for students of minority racial and ethnic backgrounds. Similar arguments have also been made with respect to gender inequalities.
1.Bowles, H., & Gintis, S. (1976). Schooling in capitalist
2.America. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Macleod, J. (1987). Social reproduction in theoretical perspective. In Ain’t no makin’ it: Leveled aspirations in a low-income neighborhood. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Oakes, J. (1985). Keeping track: How schools structure inequality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

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