Advertisement

Education and Social Class: Highlighting How the Educational System Perpetuates Social Inequality

  • Jean-Claude CroizetEmail author
  • Frédérique Autin
  • Sébastien Goudeau
  • Medhi Marot
  • Mathias Millet
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter considers the idea that the educational system participates in the (re)production of social inequality. After outlining and discussing the sociological hypothesis that institutions play a role in the perpetuation of inequalities, we present social psychological research that highlights how educational settings engage students in a way that reproduces inequality in academic outcomes. We argue that education actively participates in the reproduction of inequality through a mainly symbolic process. This process involves soft coercion and relies on the implementation of a system of essentialist categories that shapes the construal of students’ academic reality. Specifically, academic achievement is understood to reveal students’ individual merit, thereby reaffirming the advantages and disadvantages related to family backgrounds that are at play in the classroom. We document this process by summarizing the results of observations and interviews conducted in preschools as well as experiments carried out in primary and secondary education. This research unveils some of the dynamics through which education, as an institution, creates the conditions for the construction, reproduction, and legitimation of the stratification of society.

Keywords

Institutions Education Social class Socioeconomic status Essentialism Social comparison Merit Academic achievement Domination System justification 

References

  1. Adams, G., Biernat, M., Branscombe, N. R., Crandall, C. S., & Wrightsman, L. S. (2008). Beyond prejudice: Toward a sociocultural psychology of racism and oppression. In G. Adams, M. Biernat, N. R. Branscombe, C. S. Crandall, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Commemorating Brown: The social psychology of racism and discrimination (pp. 215–246). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, G., Edkins, V., Lacka, D., Pickett, K., & Cheryan, S. (2008). Teaching about racism: Pernicious implications of the standard portrayal. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 30(4), 349–361.  https://doi.org/10.1080/01973530802502309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander, M. (2010). The new Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  4. Autin, F., & Butera, F. (2016). Editorial: Institutional determinants of social inequalities. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 215–212.  https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.02027CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Autin, F., & Croizet, J.-C. (2012). Improving working memory efficiency by reframing meta-cognitive interpretation of task difficulty. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141, 610–618.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Autin, F., & Croizet, J.-C. (2019). Boosting children’s working memory and fluid intelligence: An intervention dissociating self-worth from performance. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  7. Biddle, B. J. (2001). Poverty, ethnicity, and achievement in American schools. In B. J. Biddle (Ed.), Social class, poverty, and education: Policy and practice (pp. 1–29). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Bisseret, N. (1974). Les inégaux ou la sélection universitaire [Unequals or college selection]. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.Google Scholar
  9. Blackledge, A. (2001). The wrong sort of capital? Bangladeshi women and their children’s schooling in Birmingham, U.K. International Journal of Bilingualism, 5, 345–369.  https://doi.org/10.1177/13670069010050030501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, P. (1979). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J. C. (1977). Reproduction in education, society and culture. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America: Education reform and the contradictions of economic life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Carson, J. (2007). The measure of merit: Talents, intelligence, and inequality in the French and American republics, 1750–1940. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Carter, P. L. (2003). “Black” cultural capital, status positioning, and schooling conflicts for low-income African American youth. Social Problems, 50, 136–155.  https://doi.org/10.1525/sp.2003.50.1.136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cimpian, A., & Erickson, L. C. (2012). The effect of generic statements on children’s causal attributions: Questions of mechanism. Developmental Psychology, 48, 159–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Croizet, J. C., & Millet, M. (2012). Social class and test performance: From stereotype threat to symbolic violence and vice versa. In M. Inzlicht & T. Schmader (Eds.), Stereotype threat: Theory, process and application (pp. 188–201). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Croizet, J.-C., Goudeau, S., Marot, M., & Millet, M. (2017). How do educational contexts contribute to the social class achievement gap: Documenting symbolic violence from a social psychological point of view. Current Opinion in Psychology, 18, 105–110.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.08.025CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Darnon, C., Wiederkehr, V., Dompnier, B., & Martinot, D. (2018). “Where there is a will, there is a way”: Belief in School Meritocracy and the social-class achievement gap. British Journal of Social Psychology, 57, 250–262.  https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12214CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Davis, K., & Moore, W. E. (1945). Some principles of stratification. American Sociological Review, 10, 242–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dimaggio, P. (2012). Sociological perspectives on face-to-face enactment of class distinctions. In S. T. Fiske & H. R. Markus (Eds.), Facing social class: Social psychology of social class (pp. 15–38). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  21. Domina, T., Penner, A., & Penner, E. (2017). Categorical inequality: Schools as sorting machines. Annual Review of Sociology, 43(1), 311–330.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-060116-053354CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  22. Dornbusch, S. M., Glasgow, K. L., & Lin, I. C. (1996). The social structure of schooling. Annual Review of Psychology, 47(1), 401–429.  https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.47.1.401CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Douglas, M. (1986). How institutions think. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Goudeau, S., & Croizet, J.-C. (2017). Hidden advantages and disadvantages of social class: How classroom settings reproduce social inequality by staging unfair comparison. Psychological Science, 28(2), 162–170.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797616676600CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Heyman, G. D. (2008). Talking about success: Implications for achievement motivation. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29, 361–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jackman, M. R. (1994). The velvet glove: Paternalism and conflict in gender, class, and race relations. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Jackman, M. J. (2001). License to kill: Violence and legitimacy in expropriative intergroup relations. In J. T. Jost and B. Major (ed.), The psychology of legitimacy: emerging perspectives on ideology, justice, and intergroup relations (pp.437–467). Cambridge University Press..Google Scholar
  28. Jost, J. T., & Kay, A. C. (2010). Social justice: History, theory and research. In S. T. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed., pp. 1122–1165). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  29. Jury, M., Smeding, A., & Darnon, C. (2015). First-generation students’ underperformance at university: The impact of the function of selection. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 731.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.120.1.3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Keller, J. (2005). In genes we trust: The biological component of psychological essentialism and its relationship to mechanisms of motivated social cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(4), 686–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kelley, H. H. (1967). Attribution theory in social psychology. In D. Levine (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation (Vol. 15, pp. 192–238). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kuppens, T., Spears, R., Manstead, A. S. R., Spruyt, B., & Easterbrook, M. J. (2018). Educationism and the irony of meritocracy: Negative attitudes of higher educated people towards the less educated. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 429–447.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2017.11.001CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kusserow, A. S. (2004). American individualism: Child rearing and social class in three neighborhoods. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Labov, W. (1970). The logic of non-standard English. Champaign, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.Google Scholar
  35. Lahire, B. (2000). Culture écrite et inégalités scolaire [Written culture and academic inequality]. Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon.Google Scholar
  36. Lahire, B., Millet, M., & Pardell, E. (1996). Les manières d’étudier, enquête 1994. Paris: Documentation Française.Google Scholar
  37. Lamont, M., & Lareau, A. (1988). Cultural capital: Allusions, gaps and glissandos in recent theoretical developments. Sociological Theory, 6, 153–168.  https://doi.org/10.2307/202113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lareau, A. (2003). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lareau, A., & Weininger, E. B. (2003). Cultural capital in educational research: A critical assessment. Theory and Society, 32(5–6), 567–606.  https://doi.org/10.1023/B:RYSO.0000004951.04408.b0CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Medin, D. L., & Ortony, A. (1989). Psychological essentialism. In S. Vosniadou & A. Ortony (Eds.), Similarity and analogical reasoning (pp. 179–195). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. MEN-DEPP. (2016). Repères et références statistiques. Enseignements, formation, recherche. Direction de l’Evaluation de la Prospective et de la Performance, Ministère de l’Education Nationale.Google Scholar
  42. MEN-DEPP. (2018). Repères et références statistiques. Enseignements, formation, recherche. Direction de l’Evaluation de la Prospective et de la Performance, Ministère de l’Education Nationale.Google Scholar
  43. Millet, M., & Croizet, J. C. (2016). L’école des incapables? La maternelle, un apprentissage de la domination. [Schooling of the unables? Pre-K education, the experience of domination]. Paris: La Dispute.Google Scholar
  44. Millet, M., & Thin, D. (2003). Ruptures scolaires. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.Google Scholar
  45. Noiriel, G. (2018). Une histoire populaire de la France: de la guerre de Cent Ans à nos jours [A people’s history of France]. Marseille: Agone.Google Scholar
  46. Piketty, T. (2014). Capital in the Twenty-first century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rangel, U., & Keller, J. (2011). Essentialism goes social: Belief in social determinism as a component of psychological essentialism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100(6), 1056–1078.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Reiman, J., & Leigthon, P. (2012). The rich get richer and the poor get prison: Ideology, class and criminal justice. New York: Pearson.Google Scholar
  49. Rogers, T., & Feller, A. (2016). Discouraged by peer excellence. Psychological Science, 27(3), 365–374.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615623770CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Rothbart, M., & Taylor, M. (1992). Category labels and social reality: Do we view social categories as natural kinds? In G. R. S. Semin & K. Fiedler (Eds.), Language, interaction and social cognition (pp. 11–36). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  51. Smeding, A., Darnon, C., Souchal, C., Toczek-Capelle, M. C., & Butera, F. (2013). Reducing the socio-economic status achievement gap at university by promoting mastery-oriented assessment. PLoS One, 8(8), e71678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Spire, A. (2012). Faibles et puissants face à l’impôt [Weak or powerful toward taxes]. Paris: Raisons d’Agir.Google Scholar
  53. Stephens, N. M., Fryberg, S. A., Markus, H. R., Johnson, C., & Covarrubias, R. (2012). Unseen disadvantage: How American universities’ focus on independence undermines the academic performance of first-generation college students. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 1178–1197.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027143CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Stephens, N. M., Markus, H. R., & Phillips, L. T. (2014). Social class culture cycles: How three gateway contexts shape selves and fuel inequality. Annual Review of Psychology, 65:611–634.Google Scholar
  55. Tilly, C. (1999). Durable inequality. Berkeley, CA: University Calif. Press.Google Scholar
  56. Weber, M. (1914/1978). Economy and society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  57. Wiederkehr, V., Darnon, C., Chazal, S., Guimond, S., & Martinot, D. (2015). From social class to self-efficacy: Internalization of low social status pupils’ school performance. Social Psychology of Education, 18(4), 769–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wiederkehr, V., Bonnot, V., Krauth-Gruber, S., & Darnon, C. (2015). Belief in school meritocracy as a system-justifying tool for low status students. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1053.Google Scholar
  59. Young, M. (1958). The rise of the meritocracy. London, England: Thames & Hudson..Google Scholar
  60. Zelditch Jr., M. (2001). Theories of legitimacy. In J. Jost & B. Major (Eds.), The psychology of legitimacy: Emerging perspectives on ideology, justice, and intergroup relations (pp. 33–53). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Zinn, H. (1980). A people’s history of the United State. New York, NY: Harper & Row.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Claude Croizet
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frédérique Autin
    • 2
  • Sébastien Goudeau
    • 3
  • Medhi Marot
    • 1
  • Mathias Millet
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Psychologie Sociale et Cognitive and CNRSUniversité Clermont-AuvergneClermont-FerrandFrance
  2. 2.Université de Poitiers CNRSPoitiersFrance
  3. 3.Université Paris-DescartesParisFrance
  4. 4.Université de Tours CNRSToursFrance

Personalised recommendations