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Parentocracy Revisited: Still a Relevant Concept for Understanding Middle Class Educational Advantage?

Abstract

In this paper, we revisit Brown’s (Br J Soc Educ 14: 65–85, 1990) concept of parentocracy which has been informatively applied in educational research in a number of studies in various countries internationally—but almost none in North America. We provide an expanded conceptualization of parentocracy and suggest that it provides a useful encapsulation of a number of similar, and/or complementary, conceptual approaches to understanding middle class educational advantage. Our expanded conceptualization of parentocracy stems from Brown’s (Br J Soc Educ 14: 65–85, 1990) original use, but encompasses both a socio-political ideology that favors parental sovereignty and market solutions in education, as well as a proactive interventionist parenting style premised on fostering child development (and strategically optimizing life opportunities) through structured, progressive skill-enhancing educational and extra-curricular experiences. We offer a discussion of a number of studies that can be seen to exemplify, either expressly or implicitly, these parentocratic tendencies. Finally, using the examples of Schools of Choice policy and French immersion schools in the Canadian province of Manitoba, we explore the implications of parentocratic practices for educational inequality and social reproduction in the 2010s.

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Correspondence to Corinne E. Barrett DeWiele.

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Barrett DeWiele, C.E., Edgerton, J.D. Parentocracy Revisited: Still a Relevant Concept for Understanding Middle Class Educational Advantage?. Interchange 47, 189–210 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10780-015-9261-7

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Keywords

  • Parentocracy
  • Educational inequality
  • Social reproduction
  • Educational policy
  • School choice
  • French immersion
  • Parental capital