What is Culture?

A simplified sociological definition of culture is ‘the whole way of life of a group of people’, which is abbreviated from Ralph Linton’s (1945) more extensive definition of the term:

‘The culture of a society is the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation’.

Culture is usually contrasted to nature, with ‘culture’ referring to ‘all which is symbolic: the learned… aspects of human society’ (Jencks 1993) whereas ‘nature’ refers to everything that exists without human intervention.

According to Raymond Williams (1976) culture is one of the most complicated words in the English language, and in a deep exploration of the concept by Jencks (1993) identified four different ways in which the term culture is used in contemporary society….

Four uses of the word culture

Culture as a State of Mind

Possible usage: ‘She’s a very cultured individual’.

People sometimes describe particular individuals as ‘cultured’ as in ‘she’s a very cultured individual’.

This is an individualistic use of the word, which usually implies that ‘cultured individuals’ have more desirable traits to those who are not cultured.

Often this usage of the term refers to culture as ‘refined taste’ – the cultured individual is someone who has a knowledge of the arts and manners as is able to to distinguish themselves ‘above’ those without such tastes.

However it might also refer to an individual who has a lot of learned experience – someone who has familiarity with a lot of different cultures and has picked up a lot of skills and knowledge which enables them to function at a ‘higher level’ than most people – such as being very skilled technically or speaking many languages fluently.

Culture as Civilisation

This usage implies that some societies are more civilised than others and was a common usage among Westerners during the colonial era.

For example, the evolutionary thinker Herbert Spencer used the term ‘culture’ in this way – seeing Western societies as more ‘cultured’ than those in Africa and Asia; with the term ‘culture’ here being effectively a synonym for ‘civilisation’.

The common conception of the colonies by Europeans was that they were more ‘savage’ than the more civilised countries in Europe and thus inferior.

This of course was an entirely ethnocentric view, based largely on an inability of the colonialists to really ‘see’ the complex cultures which already existed in ‘their’ new territories.

As with the first usage this is an elitist concept.

Culture as a collective body of artistic work

This is a common sense usage of the term which you will often here in the mainstream media.

‘Culture’ in this sense is the arts – it is music, literature and theatre, for example, and is often seen as part of the domain of leisure rather than of work, and something which is done as a performance by ‘artists’ to be enjoyed by audiences.

The BBC Culture website – uses the word ‘culture’ in this way!

Culture as the way of Life of a People

This final usage is the more sociological definition of culture – referring to all of the learned habits, norms and traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next.

In this sense culture is everywhere in the social world and we find it in every social setting and institution – in schools, the workplace, politics, and more informally in leisure spaces, simply outside in the high street, on public transport, it’s everywhere.

It’s fair to say that it might be difficult to pinpoint a set of norms and values that everyone shares at the national level, although the idea of there being a distinct ‘British’ or ‘French’ culture still makes sense to most people.

However you need to be mindful that this is an extremely high level of generalisation which risks drifting into stereotyping!

Sources – Find out More!

Adapted from Haralambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives, edition 8.

Jencks, C (1993) Culture

Williams, R (1976) Developments in the Sociology of Culture

Linton, R (1945) The Cultural Background of Personality

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Marxism in Pictures

A selection of images to represent some of the main Functionalist concepts for A level sociology. Concepts covered include the organic analogy, socialisation, integration, regulation, anomie and more!

This post aims to simplify some Marxist concepts by representing them as pictures and providing some brief definitions…

For more detailed posts on Marxism you might like any of the following:

Feminisms

Capitalism and Class Structure

Society is structured like a pyramid, those with capital at the top

Society’s Structure is made up of institutions

Bourgeoisie and Proletariat

Exploitation

Lies at the heart of the capitalist system according to Marx

Surplus Value

Alienation

Where workers feel detached from their work, not at home in the work place, not in control, thus ‘alienated’

Ideological Control

Institutions such as the media teach the masses to be passive and not criticize the injustices of the capitalist system

Communism

An economic system based on shared ownership of the means of production

Revolution

Necessary to achieve Communism according to Marx

Repressive state apparatus

State institutions which perform ‘obvious’ social control – such as the police and the army

Ideological state apparatus

Institutions of the state which achieve social control through controlling people’s minds – namely schools

Organic Intellectuals

Middle class individuals who will emerge to educate the masses to be more critical of capitalism, according to Gramsci

Commodity Fetishism

Where we value material objects (and money) more than people and social relations

False Needs

The desire for unnecessary products created by advertising. False needs are necessary to keep capitalism going 

Correspondence Principle

Where norms learnt in school prepare children for their future exploitation in work

Neo-colonialism

Where western global institutions make developing countries economically dependent on western countries

The reproduction of class inequality

Where inequalities between classes are carried on across the generations, as wealth and poverty get passed down

The Transnational Capitalist Class

The new global capitalist class – world political leaders, billionaire and heads of large companies etc.

Marxism in pictures final thoughts

Marxism is a pretty complex theory, and this post does ‘simplify to the extreme. For more in depth posts on Marxism, please follow the links on my Theory and Methods page!

Competition …. Win REVISE tokens!

Post a picture in the comments of a picture which you think represents a Marxist concept, along with a short (20-100 words) explanation of why it’s a relevant picture.

Prizes

Prizes will be awarded purely at my own sole discretion.

  • First prize – 50 REVISE
  • Second prize – 30 REVISE
  • Third prize – 15 REVISE
  • First ten entries all receive 2 REVISE each, just for entering!
  • If you submit a hand-drawn original work of art or photo as part of your entry I’ll gift you 10 REVISE!

I’m going to make this a 6 month rolling competition and these prizes are going to be awarded EVERY MONTH – from December 2019 until May 2020.

WTF are ‘REVISE’ tokens?

The REVISE token is ‘ReviseSociology.com’ token. It’s basically a crypto-currency I’ve conjured out of virtual space which you can use on the site.

REVISE tokens can be redeemed for money off my revision resources and revision Webinars, all for sale in my Sellfy shop.

You’ll need a Steem account to receive your REVISE tokens. Steem is a decentralised, censorship resistant cryptocurrency based social media platform. You can sign up here, or drop me an email if you’d like a free account. Once you’ve got an account, I can send you your tokens!

NB signing up is a bit of a mission, but I’m on Steem myself and can thoroughly recommend it. Unfortunately there isn’t a viable way for me to truly integrated this Word Press site and my Steem account, so at this stage this is all separate. Integration will hopefully come in the future.

It’s just a bit of fun at this stage!

Redeeming REVISE tokens

ATM this process isn’t automated (it would cost me a fortune to pay someone to integrate all of this!) but if you want to purchase something and you’ve got some REVISE, just contact me (on here, on Steem, or via mail), tell me what you want to purchase and I’ll sort out a discount based on how many REVISE you’ve got!

You’ll need a Steem account to send me back the REVISE tokens so I can issue you the discount voucher.

If you would like a FREE INSTANT steem account, drop me a line, I’ve got about 100 free accounts I can give away!

The redeemable value of the revise token is a % off your purchase. So if you have 50 Revise then you get 50% off the purchase price. If you have 10 revise tokens, you get 10% off the purchase price.

This is up to a maximum discount of 100% of the purchase price!

You can also buy (and sell!) REVISE tokens on steem-engine.

Good luck with the competition and all the technicalities and working out the math!

Please post your competition entries in the comments below!

 

Functionalism in Pictures

A selection of images to represent some of the main Functionalist concepts for A level sociology. Concepts covered include the organic analogy, socialisation, integration, regulation, anomie and more!

Pictures are a powerful tool for simplifying key concepts in A-level sociology. In this post I select what I think are some of the most relevant pictures which represent some of the key concepts relevant to the Functionalist perspective on society.

The Organic Analogy/ society as a system

Institutions in society work together, like  organs in a body

Social Structure

Society’s Structure is made up of institutions

Social Facts

Durkheim theorized that social facts were ways of thinking, feeling and acting which were external to the individual and which constrained the individual.

Value Consensus

Society is based on shared values

Social Evolution

Societies gradually become more complex over time.

Mechanical and Organic Solidarity

Functional Fit Theory

The nuclear family emerged to ‘fit’ industrial society

Socialisation

Individuals learn the norms and values of society, within institutions

Stabilisation of Adult Personalities

Traditional gender roles within the nuclear family provide necessary emotional and psychological support for individuals.

Meritocracy

Individuals are rewarded on the basis of effort + ability. Both meritocracy and role allocation are key ideas in the Functionalist perspective on education.

Role Allocation

Where the exam system ‘sifts’ people into appropriate jobs based on their level of achievement

Social Integration

The more connections people have to others and institutions within society, the more integrated they are.

Social Regulation

Social regulation is the extent to which there are clear norms and value (‘rules’) which guide people in life.

Anomie

Anomie is a state of normlessness, brought on by rapid social change or breakdown. Lack of social integration or regulation can both lead to anomie

Functionalism in pictures final thoughts

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of concepts, or definitive definitions, the idea of this post is to ‘simplify to the extreme’. For more in depth posts on Functionalism, please follow the links on my Theory and Methods page!

Competition …. Win REVISE tokens!

Post a picture in the comments of a picture which you think represents a Functionalist concept, along with a short (20-100 words) explanation of why it’s a relevant picture.

Prizes

Prizes will be awarded purely at my own sole discretion.

  • First prize – 50 REVISE
  • Second prize – 30 REVISE
  • Third prize – 15 REVISE
  • First ten entries all receive 2 REVISE each, just for entering!
  • If you submit a hand-drawn original work of art or photo as part of your entry I’ll gift you 10 REVISE!

I’m going to make this a 6 month rolling competition and these prizes are going to be awarded EVERY MONTH – from December 2019 until May 2020.

WTF are ‘REVISE’ tokens?

The REVISE token is ‘ReviseSociology.com’ token. It’s basically a crypto-currency I’ve conjured out of virtual space which you can use on the site.

REVISE tokens can be redeemed for money off my revision resources and revision Webinars, all for sale in my Sellfy shop.

You’ll need a Steem account to receive your REVISE tokens. Steem is a decentralised, censorship resistant cryptocurrency based social media platform. You can sign up here, or drop me an email if you’d like a free account. Once you’ve got an account, I can send you your tokens!

NB signing up is a bit of a mission, but I’m on Steem myself and can thoroughly recommend it. Unfortunately there isn’t a viable way for me to truly integrated this Word Press site and my Steem account, so at this stage this is all separate. Integration will hopefully come in the future.

It’s just a bit of fun at this stage!

Redeeming REVISE tokens

ATM this process isn’t automated (it would cost me a fortune to pay someone to integrate all of this!) but if you want to purchase something and you’ve got some REVISE, just contact me (on here, on Steem, or via mail), tell me what you want to purchase and I’ll sort out a discount based on how many REVISE you’ve got!

You’ll need a Steem account to send me back the REVISE tokens so I can issue you the discount voucher.

If you would like a FREE INSTANT steem account, drop me a line, I’ve got about 100 free accounts I can give away!

The redeemable value of the revise token is a % off your purchase. So if you have 50 Revise then you get 50% off the purchase price. If you have 10 revise tokens, you get 10% off the purchase price.

This is up to a maximum discount of 100% of the purchase price!

You can also buy (and sell!) REVISE tokens on steem-engine.

Good luck with the competition and all the technicalities and working out the math!

Please post your competition entries in the comments below!

Are schools meritocratic?

In this post I apply some sociological concepts to develop arguments for and against the view that schools are meritocratic.

This post is really designed to show students how they can apply concepts to this question from across the sociology of education topic within A-level sociology.

applying sociology concepts education.png

Arguments for the view that education is meritocratic 

Particularistic values

Functionalists argue that at in school students are judged by universalistic values, so it is more meritocratic than at home where children are judged by different particularistic values.

Cultural deprivation

Schools offer children equality of opportunity and so are fair, it’s the inferior values of working-class parents such as immediate gratification that stops them achieving.

School ethos

Nearly all schools today, especially academies have a high ethos of achievement.

Pupil Premium

Introduced under The Coalition government, this encourages schools to accept more students from poor backgrounds, helping to combat selection by mortgage, which is not meritocratic.

Other supporting concepts and evidence

Life-long learning, parity of esteem, expansion of modern apprenticeships, compensatory education.

Arguments and evidence against the view that education is meritocratic 

Correspondence principle

In state school children are taught to obey authority and accept hierarchy rather than to use their talents to achieve.

Cultural capital

Middle class parents have always been more able than working class parents to use their skills to get their kids into the best schools, thus there is not real equality of opportunity

Teacher labelling

Teachers are more likely to negatively label boys, working class and Black Caribbean children as problem students, meaning they are held back through being put in lower bands.

1988 Education Act

Unfairly benefitted middle class parents through selection by mortgage and the school-parent alliance.

Other criticising concepts and evidence

Banding and streaming, myth of meritocracy, hidden curriculum, ethnocentric curriculum.

Sociology Teaching Resources for Sale

If you’re a sociology teacher and you like this sort of thing, and you want to support my resource development work, then you might like these teaching resources for the sociology of education. They are specifically designed for A-level sociology students and consist of three documents:

Concepts in Quantitative Sociological Research

Concepts are the building blocks of theory, and are the points around which social research is conducted.

Concepts are closely related to the main sociological perspectives, and some of the main concepts developed by different perspectives include:

  • Functionalism – social integration and anomie
  • Marxism – social class and alienation.
  • Feminism – gender and patriarchy
  • Interactionism – labelling and discrimination
  • Postmodernism – identity.

Within sociology, one might even say that there’s a more ‘fundamental’ layer of concepts that lie behind the above – such as ‘society’, ‘culture’ and ‘socialization‘, even ‘sociology’ itself is a concept, as are ‘research’ and ‘knowledge’.

Concepts also include some really ‘obvious’ aspects of social life such as ‘family’, ‘childhood’, ‘religious belief’, ‘educational achievement’ and ‘crime’. Basically, anything that can be said to be ‘socially constructed’ is a concept.

Each concept basically represents a label that researchers give to elements of the social world that strikes them as significant. Bulmer (1984) suggests that concepts are ‘categories for the organisation of ideas and observations’.

Concepts and their measurement in quantitative research 

If a concept is to be employed in quantitative research, a measure will have to be developed for it so it can be quantified.

 

Once they have been converted into measures, concepts can then take the form of independent or dependent variables. In other words, concepts may provide an explanation of a certain aspect of the social world, or they may stand for things we want to explain. A concept such as educational achievement may be used in either capacity – we may explore it as a dependent variable (why some achieve fewer GCSE results than others?) Or: as an independent variable (how do GCSE results affect future earnings?).

Measures also make it easier to compare educational achievement over time and across countries.

As we start to investigate such issues we are likely to formulate theories to help us understand why, for example, educational achievement varies between countries or over time.

This will in turn generate new concepts, as we try to refine our understanding of variations in poverty rates.

Why Measure Concepts?

  1. It allows us to find small differences between individuals – it is usually obvious to spot large differences, for example between the richest 0.1% and the poorest 10%, but smaller once can often only be seen by measuring more precisely – so if we want to see the differences within the poorest 10%, we need precise measurements of income (for example).
  2. Measurement gives us a consistent device, or yardstick for making such distinctions – a measurement device allows us to achieve consistency over time, and thus make historical comparisons, and with other researchers, who can replicate our research using the same measures. This relates to reliability.
  3. Measurement allows for more precise estimates to be made about the correlation between independent and dependent variables.

Indicators in Quantitative Social Research 

Because most concepts are not directly observable in quantitative form (i.e. they do not already appear in society in numerical form),  sociologists need to devise ‘indicators’ to measure most sociological concepts. An indicator is something that stands for a concept and enables (in quantitative research at least) a sociologist to measure that concept.

For example….

  • We might use  ‘Average GCSE score’ as an indicator to measure ‘educational achievement’.
  • We might use the number of social connections an individual has to society to measure ‘social integration’, much like Hirschi did in his ‘bonds of attachment theory‘.
  • We might use the number of barriers women face compared to men in politics and education to measure ‘Patriarchy’ in society.

NB – there is often disagreement within sociology as to the correct indicators to use to measure concepts – before doing research you should be clear about which indicators you are using to measure your concepts, why you are choosing these particular indicators , and be prepared for others to criticize your choice of indicators. 

Direct and Indirect indicators 

Direct indicators are ones which are closely related to the concept being measured. In the example above, it’s probably fair to say that average GCSE score is more directly related to ‘educational achievement’ than ‘bonds of attachment’ are to ‘social integration’, mainly because the later is more abstract.

How sociologists devise indicators:

There are a number of ways indicators can be devised:

  • through a questionnaire
  • through recording behaviour
  • through official statistics
  • through content analysis of documents.

Using multiple-indicator measures

It is often useful to use multiple indicators to measure concepts. The advantages of doing so are three fold:

  • there are often many dimensions to a concept – for example to accurately tap ‘religious belief’ questionnaires often include questions on attitudes and beliefs about ‘God’, ‘the afterlife’, ‘the spirit’, ‘as well as practices – such as church attendance. Generally speaking, the more complex the concept, the more indicators are required to measure it accurately.
  • Some people may not understand some of the questions in a questionnaire, so using multiple questions makes misunderstanding less likely.
  • It enables us to make more nuanced distinctions between respondents.

Measuring the effectiveness of measures in quantitative social research

It is crucial that indicators provide both a valid and reliable measurement of the concepts under investigation.

 

 

International Development – Glossary of Key Concepts

Enrolment Ratio 

The percentage  of children enrolled in school in a country

Globalisation  

The increasing connectedness between societies across the globe.

Gross National Product 

The total economic value of goods and services produced BY a country, both at home and abroad in the course of a year and available for consumption in the market place.

Patriarchy 

A system of male domination and control.

Colonialism 

Where a more powerful country expands into other, less powerful territories and exerts political and economic control over those territories.

Neoliberalism  

An economic theory which believes governments should remove restrictions to free trade (deregulation), privatize public services, and keep taxes low.

Modern World System (according to Wallerstein)

The theory that global capitalism is structured into three zones of production – core, periphery and semi-periphery

Official Development  Aid 

Loans and grants from public or official sources such as national governments or international agencies of development.

Fair Trade 

A certification system which guarantees that products are produced in a way in which workers get a fair price and aren’t exploited.

Non-Governmental Organizations  

Non-political and non-profit organisations. NGOs typically have charity status and raise funds through a combination of voluntary donations from the public.

Industrialisation

Where a country moves from an economy dominated by agricultural output and employment to one dominated by manufacturing.

Urbanisation

Where a population moves from rural to urban areas – the migration of people from the country to towns and cities.

What is Neoliberalism?

Neoliberalism is the idea that less government interference in the free market is the central goal of politics.

Neoliberals believe in a ‘small government’ which limits itself to enhancing the economic freedoms of businesses and entrepreneurs. The state should limit itself to the protection of private property and basic law enforcement.

Neoliberalism is most closely associated with Thomas Hayek and Milton Friedman, and the policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Milton Friedman.png

Neoliberals advocate three main policies to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society: privatization, deregulation and low taxation.

Some examples of Neoliberal Policies include:

  • Lowering taxes on income, especially high income earners. When Thatcher came to power in 1997 she reduced income tax on the very highest earners from 83% to 60%.
  • Lowering Corporation tax – The government reduced the main corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to just 21% in 2014.
  • Privatising public services – Privatisation began under the Thatcher government of 1979 and continues today (2017). Britain’s rail, energy and water industries all used to be run by the state, but now they are run by private companies. Education and Health services are also being ‘privatised by stealth’, as more and more aspects of these services are contracted out to and run by private sector companies.
  • Reducing the number of rules and regulations which constrain businesses: This involves national and local governments monitoring private businesses less: by reducing the number of ‘health and safety standards’ businesses need to conform to and doing fewer health and safety and environmental health inspections for example.

deregulation UK.jpg
The ‘Red Tape Challenge’ offers some good examples of deregulation…

Further Background on Neoliberal Thought 

Neoliberalism emerged in the 1950s as a reaction against ‘Keynesianism’ – the idea that nation states should play a significant role in managing free market capitalism through high taxation in order to provide public services such as unemployment benefit, free health care and education (‘the welfare state’).

Keynsianism itself was a development of the earlier doctrine of ‘Liberalism’ which believed that individual freedom was the central goal of politics. Obviously the question of what kind of society allows for the most or best freedom is open to debate, but by the 1950s a consensus had emerged that ‘liberty’ was best guaranteed if the state provided a high degree of regulation of the economy and investment in social welfare.

Neoliberals such as Friedman believed that this ‘Keynesian’ model of organising the economy was inefficient, one of the reasons being that it restricts the freedoms of successful economic actors to reinvest their money as they see fit, because the state takes it away from them through taxes and gives it to the less successful, which in turn can create a perverse situation in which society punishes success and rewards laziness.

Evaluations of Neoliberalism

Arguments for neoliberalism

  • What right does the state have to tax money earnt through individual effort, innovation and risk?
  • Neoliberals argue that the private sector run services more efficiently than the state sector.
  • The argument for deregulation is that red-tape stifles business.

There are many critical voices of neoliberalism, mainly from the left and from within the green movement. Some of the main criticisms can be summarised as follows:

  • Cutting taxes on the rich has resulted in greater inequality and a lower standard of public services, especially for the poor.
  • Privatisation of public services has resulted in a massive transfer of wealth from the majority to the rich –
  • Deregulation has made society less safe and stable – critics blame deregulation of the finance sector for the 2007 financial crash and the deregulation of health and safety legislation as being linked to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Critical Points

It can be difficult to evaluate the impact of neoliberalism because the term is so broad, and there is actually quite a lot of disagreement over what it actually means.

Even if we just focus on the policy aspect of neoliberalism – and try to evaluate the impact of lowering taxation, privatisation and deregulation, you would almost certainly need to break these down and look evaluate the impact of each aspect separately, and maybe even subdivide each aspect further to evaluate properly.

Selected Sources used to write this post…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

http://www.fsmitha.com/h2/ch37-thatcher.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/short-history-of-privatisation

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/mar/29/short-history-of-privatisation

http://www.slobodaiprosperitet.tv/en/node/847

https://fee.org/articles/what-is-neoliberalism-anyway/

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20150326105407/https://www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/themehome/rtc-results-2/

Sentence Sorts for Teaching A-Level Sociology – How Useful Are They?

Matching exercises or ‘sentence sorts’ simply involve students matching the concept/ sociologist/ perspective/ method to a definition/ statement.

Simple example:

Decide whether the sentences are below are Functionalist or Marxist – simply write ‘F’ or ‘M’ next to the sentence.

1.            Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.

2.            The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.

3.            The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society.  The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.

4.            Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.

 The easiest way to format these is simply as above – a title, brief instruction, and anywhere from 10 (or less if you like) to 20 (more is probably too many) statements/ definitions. You might like to use a grid (as in example 2 over page) for paper versions as it provides a more obvious space for students to write into. For more difficult topics, provide a jumbled list of concepts at the bottom.

Obviously if you’re designing your own, do the answer version first, then just delete the single or short-phrase answers. Numbering the definitions/ statements makes feedback easier!

Topics matching exercises work well especially for

  • After Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism, or all the perspectives for any of the topics within A-level sociology.
  • For material deprivation/ cultural deprivation and social/ cultural capital in class and education.
  • For the main changes with different waves of education policy
  • For strengths and limitations of any research method – one of the best I’ve seen is a range of sentences which are either strengths or limitations for either lab or field experiments.
  • Any sub-topic that’s very conceptual – such as childhood within the family.

Different ways of administering sentence sorts

  • Personally I still like the one-side of paper method – simply needs about 12 definitions/ statements and students just write in the concept/ method or whatever next to it.
  • These days of course, you can always put sentence sorts online – Quizlet, or Socrative work very well for this.
  • A way of adding in ‘stretch’ to this is to add in a third column in which you ask students to ‘give an example’ or ‘the opposite’ or to provide supporting evidence, or even criticise the concept/
  • NB The ‘gap fill exercise’ – don’t be fooled by a gap-fill paragraph exercise, it’s basically just a matching exercise/ sentence sort in disguise.

Three examples of Sentence Sorts for A-level sociology

The examples below show three typical applications of this method…. perspectives, ‘match the stat’ (which is quite good to introduce a new topic) and concepts. Unforunately they don’t format very well on a blog, but they’re just to give you an idea – they’ve all been designed to fit on one side of A4 paper. 

Example 1: Sociological perspectives on the role of education

Sort the following statements into either Marxism, Functionalism or Feminism, simply write in F/M or Fem….

  1. Girls may follow the same curriculum as boys, may sit side by side with boys in classes taught by the same teachers and yet emerge from school with the implicit understanding that the world is a man’s world, in which women take second place.
  2. Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.
  3. The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.
  4. The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society. The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.
  5. Classroom interaction reflects the sexist attitudes and male dominance of the wider society.
  6. By transmitting and reinforcing the culture of society to new generations, education helps to ensure the continuity of rules and values.
  7. Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.
  8. The classroom is a ‘mini-society’ which provides a training ground for the wider society and eases the transition from childhood to adulthood.
  9. Education has an important role of society reproduction, meaning that it is involved in the reproduction of new generations of workers appropriately schooled to accept their roles in capitalist society.
  10. Schools help to abridge the gap from the ascribed status of the family to the achieved status of society as a whole.
  11. Schools promote the shared value of achievement – at school young people are rewarded for academic achievement with good exam results. This, in turn, socialises young people for their adult roles.
  12. The education system is the main agency for ideological control. People accept their situation in life because at school they have learn that capitalism is just and reasonable.
  13. The hidden curriculum, including the social relations in the classroom and the attitudes and expectations of teachers, prepare girls for male domination and control.
  14. Schools prepare pupils for their roles in the workforce. Most are trained as workers and are taught to accept future exploitation and are provided with an education and qualifications to match their future work roles.
  15. The hidden curriculum produces a fragmentation of knowledge so that ordinary workers do not become educated and overthrow the ruling class.
  16. Schools reinforce gender inequality in wider society.

 

Example 2: Key facts and stats about families and households in Modern Britain

Match the stat to the question. All of these issues come up at some point over the next eight weeks of the course. 

  1. What percentage of marriages end in divorce?  42%
  2. How many children do the average family have? 92
  3. How much does it cost to raise a child to the age of 18? £230,000
  4. What is the average age which women have their first child? 30
  5. When did rape in marriage become illegal? 1991
  6. On average, how much more money a year does it cost to live a year if you are a single person living alone? £250,000
  7. What percentage of households with children in are single parent households? 25%
  8. What proportion of relationships consists of same-sex couples? 152 000
  9. What percentage of men have been victims of domestic violence? 13%

OBVIOUSLY I’ve given the answers here, the numbers would be at the bottom, I’ve also been lazy and missed out sources.

Example 3: Key Concepts in the sociology of the family

Concept Definition
Birth Rate The number of babies born per thousand per year.

 

Civil Partnership

 

The legally or formally recognised union of a man and a woman (or in some countries two people of the same sex) in a committed relationship.
Co-habitation Two people living together in the same household in an emotionally intimate, committed relationship without being officially married.

 

Death Rate The number of deaths per thousand members of a population per year.
Emotion Work Thinking about the emotional well-being of other members of the family and acting in ways which will be of emotional benefit to others. For example, hugging and reassuring children when they have nightmares, organizing Christmas and birthday parties so that everyone feels included and has a good time.
Individualisation The process where individuals have more freedom to make life-choices and shape their identities because of a weakening of traditional social structures, norms and values. For example, secularization means people have more choice over whether they should get married or simply cohabit.
Instrumental Role The provider or breadwinner role which involves going out to work and earning money for the family – the traditional male role within the family.

 

Matrifocal Household A family structure in which mothers are the heads of household and fathers have less power and control in family life and the allocation of resources.

 

Net Migration

 

The difference between the numbers of people immigrating to and emigrating from a country.
Nuclear Family A man and a woman and their dependent children, either their own or adopted.

 

Patriarchy A society where men hold the power and women are excluded, disadvantaged or oppressed.  An example of a patriarchal society is one which women are not allowed to vote, but men are.
Primary Socialisation The first stages of learning the norms and values of a society; learning basic skills and norms, such as language, and basic manners.

 

Serial Monogamy Where an individual has a string of committed relationships, one after the other.

 

Social Construction of Childhood The idea that the norms and values and social roles associated with childhood are influenced by society, rather than being determined by the biological age of a child.
Toxic Childhood Where social changes, especially the invention of new technologies, does increasing amounts of harm to children. For example, the internet and mobile phones results in screen saturation with increases anxiety and reduces attention spans.

NB – If you print this off, the grid format is much easier on the eye than the non-grid version. 

 

How useful are sentence sorts in teaching and learning sociology?

Open question.. please do lemme know what you think!

 

A Level Sociology Key Terms – Families and Households

A selected list of definitions for some important key concepts in AS Level and A Level Sociology – families and households.

Beanpole Family

A family with a long, thin structure. For example, there might be 4 generations alive, but each generation hasn’t had many children so there are relatively few uncles, aunts and cousins.

This is a 21st century example of an extended family, but its members are more likely to live apart than in the past.

Blended family

A type of reconstituted or step family where parents with children from previously existing relationship form new relationships come together as one new, blended family.

Birth Rate 

The number of babies born per thousand of the population per year.

Cereal Packet Family

A critical term for the traditional nuclear family consisting of heterosexual parents and two children which was presented as the norm on cereal packets (and in the media more generally) in the 1950s.

Civil Partnership

The legally or formally recognised union of a man and a woman (or in some countries two people of the same sex) in a committed relationship.

Cohabitation  

Two people living together in the same household in an emotionally intimate, committed relationship without being officially married.

Commercialisation of Housework 

Where new technologies lead to new products which people can buy which reduces the amount of domestic labour people have to do at home – e.g. hoovers, washing machines, microwaves and microwave meals reduce the amount of time spend cleaning, washing and cooking.

Death Rate 

The number of deaths per thousand members of a population per year.

Divorce

The formal and legal end to a marriage.

Dual Burden 

When someone does both paid work and a significant amount of the domestic labour, such as housework at home. According to radical feminists, it is mainly women who suffer this.

Economic Factors 

Refers to things to do with money – for example how wealth a society is and the amount of wealth and income an individual or family has.

Emotion Work 

Thinking about the emotional well-being of other members of the family and acting in ways which will be of emotional benefit to others. For example, hugging and reassuring children when they have nightmares, organising Christmas and birthday parties so that everyone feels included and has a good time.

Extended family  

Family beyond the traditional nuclear family, incorporating aunts, uncles, and grandparents. In the traditional extended family, members live in the same household, in more modern extended families

Family as a Unit of Consumption

A Marxist idea that the primary function of the family in capitalist societies is to consume products to keep capitalism going. Two main ways this is done is through spending on the children, especially at Christmas, and through spending on house and household purchases and improvements.

Functional Fit Theory

The main type of family changes as the structure of society changes so that the former better fits with the later. See Parsons’ Functionalist theory of the family for more details.

Gender Norms 

The ‘expected’ patterns of behaviour associated with masculinity and femininity – for example, femininity = caring, masculinity = competitive.

Gender Roles 

The social positions and occupations we associate with men and women – for example we tend to associate the caring role with women, and the ‘provider role’ with men.

Globalisation (simple definition)

The increasing interconnectedness of societies across the globe.

Ideological Functions 

Refers to the ways in which the ideas spread through institutions work top maintain the power of dominant groups in society.

Individualisation 

The process where individuals have more freedom to make life-choices and shape their identities because of a weakening of traditional social structures, norms and values. For example, secularization means people have more choice over whether they should get married or simply cohabit.

Instrumental Role 

The provider or breadwinner role which involves going out to work and earning money for the family – the traditional male role within the family.

Matrifocal Household 

A family structure in which mothers are the heads of household and fathers have less power and control in family life and the allocation of resources.

Migration 

Moving from one country or area to another.

Multigenerational household

Where at least three generations live together in one household, such as grandparents, parents and children.

Negotiated Families 

Vary according to the wishes and expectations of their members, who decided what is best for them by discussion. Negotiated families are more equal than traditional nuclear families, but more unstable. This is the typical type of family in postmodern society.

Net Migration

The difference between the numbers of people immigrating to and emigrating from a country.

Nuclear Family

A father and mother with their dependent children, either their own or adopted, living together in one household.

Patriarchy  

A society where men hold the power and women are excluded, disadvantaged or oppressed.  An example of a patriarchal society is one which women are not allowed to vote, but men are.

Personal Life Perspective 

A sociological perspective which believes we should understand family life from the perspective of the individuals who make up the family, focusing on the diverse ways in which different individuals within the family define and perceive their own experiences of family life.

Polygamy

Where one husband legally has many wives. The opposite is Polyandry, where one woman has many husbands.

Postmodernism 

The view that social changes (such as globalisation and more consumerism) since the 1950s have resulted in a world in which individuals have much more choice and freedom than is suggested by Modernists social theories such as Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism.

Primary Socialisation 

The first stages of learning the norms and values of a society which is primarily done within the family with parents as the main agents of socialisation. This is where children learn the basic skills and norms, such as language, and basic manners.

Promiscuous Horde

Engels’ ideas of a tribal group structure which is found in ‘primitive societies’ in which all members share property and sleep together, such that no one knows who the fathers of the children are. It is lack of private property which ’causes’ the promiscuity: there is nothing to pass down to the next generation and so it is not necessary to know who the biological farther of a specific child is.

Pure Relationship

Where couples enter an intimate relationship purely for their own mutual benefit, rather than doing so because they feel they should be in a relationship to fit in with social or religious norms or societal or parental pressure.

Reconstituted families

A reconstituted family is where one parent with a child from a previous relationship starts a new relationship with another partner who may or may not have children themselves and thus a new family is formed. Also known as a step family.

Serial Monogamy 

Where an individual has a string of committed relationships, one after the other.

Social Construction of Childhood 

The idea that the norms and values and social roles associated with childhood are influenced by society, rather than being determined by the biological age of a child.

Stable satisfaction of the s*x drive

One of the four essential functions of the nuclear family according to Murdock who believed that the nuclear family provided a long term monogamous relationship in which s*xual desires could be met without recourse to frustration and promiscuity.

Stabilisation of Adult Personalities

Where the nuclear family provides a structure in which both adult partners gain emotional and psychological support from one another.

Symmetrical Family

A family in which  the roles of husbands and wives, although not identical are more similar. There are three elements:
– Both men and women do paid work.
– Men and women both do housework.
– Couples spend their leisure time together rather than separately

Total Fertility Rate 

The average number of babies a woman will have during her fertile years (15-44).

Toxic Childhood 

Where social changes, especially the invention of new technologies, does increasing amounts of harm to children. For example, the internet and mobile phones results in screen saturation with increases anxiety and reduces attention spans.

Triple Shift

Builds on the idea of the dual burden: women in families have three types of work: paid work, housework and emotion work.

Warm Bath Theory

The Functionalist idea that within the nuclear family the wife takes on the role of the carer, providing support as a homemaker and carer while the man goes out to work. The role of the wife is to ‘run him a warm bath’ when he gets home to help him destress after a hard day of earning income for the family.

Sociology Concepts: Education

definitions of the key concepts for the A-level sociology of education module (AQA focus)

Definitions and examples of the most important key concepts for the A level sociology 7192 (1) exam, including the definition of labelling, the correspondence principal, meritocracy, privatization, and lots more.

All of the concepts below are most relevant to the education module within A-level sociology (AQA focus) but many have wider application.

sociology concepts education (1)

Initially I include only the ‘most important’ sociology words. More to follow later, as with all tings in life, this is work in progress.

A-C Economy    

Where schools focus a disproportionate amount of their resources on making sure ‘middling’ students get 5 A*-Cs, rather than helping to boost more able students or getting less able students passes below the 5- A*C threshold.

Achieved status

Where individuals gain their social position in society through their own efforts, rather than that position being based on their ascribed characteristics such as their ‘race’ or their class background.

Ascribed status

Where an individual’s position in society is pre-determined by their birth or social characteristics. An example of this is the royal inheritance in the United Kingdom: only a son of Queen Lizzie II can become King when she dies.

Banding/ Streaming

Grouping students by ability. Students are put into the same group across all subjects (unlike setting, which is where students might be placed in different ability groups in different subject.

Canalisation

Where choices of subjects become gradually more limited as children progress through school.

Compensatory Education

Educational policies which provide additional money or resources for students facing cultural or material deprivation. The idea is that the extra money/resources helps overcome disadvantage and boost results.

Comprehensive School

One type of school for all students. Non-selective schools where all students have an equal opportunity within the same school.

Comprehensivisation

The establishment of comprehensive schools in the 1960s which replaced the selective tripartite system.

Core Values

The fundamental ideas about how we should act in society which, according to Functionalists are taught to children in schools as part of secondary socialisation in industrial societies.

Core values might include such things as a belief in meritocracy, trust in government and authorities, punctuality and politeness. They are the kind of values which are necessary to keep society functioning at a national level according to Functionalist theory.

The function of and even the existence of ‘core values’ is questioned by Marxists and Postmodernists.

Correspondence principle

The Marxist idea that the norms and values pupils learn in school prepare them for their future exploitation at work.

For example, schools teach pupils to be ‘motivated by external rewards’ – they learn to put up with boring lessons in order to achieve higher grades, thus focussing on the end result of learning rather than the ‘joy of learning’ itself’. This corresponds (relates) to putting up with the dull routine of working life in a factory day to day, while focussing on the pay packet at the end of the month.

Related concepts: ideological state apparatus, Marxism, socialisation, hidden curriculum.

Counter school culture

A group within a school which has norms and values in direct opposition to the mainstream culture of the school. E.G. a group of students who see value in messing around and ‘having a laugh’ or disrupting lessons rather than working hard and studying. Status will be rewarded within the counter school culture on the basis of how deviant they are, how far they go against school rules.

Cultural capital

The skills, knowledge and attitudes associated with the dominant culture, possessed by the middle classes, which give middle class parents and children an advantage in life.

Cultural capital is a Marxist concept used to explain why middle-class pupils achieve more than working class pupils do. As part of the dominant culture, middle class pupils have an automatic advantage over working class pupils because they share the culture of the school. Their language is like that of teachers (also middle-class) and their values correspond more closely to those of the school. This ‘cultural capital’ enables middle class families to pass on their superior position to their children and in so doing, reproduce class inequalities.

Related concepts: skilled and disconnected choosers, habitus, social capital.

Cultural deprivation

Where some groups, such as the lower social classes have inferior norms, values, skills and knowledge which hold them back in life.

Cultural deprivation can have a negative effect on the education of working class children: poor language skills can mean the students struggle to understand what they are taught, and the fact that working class parents do not value education means that their children are less likely to stay on at school post-16.

Related concepts: material deprivation, immediate and deferred gratification, restricted and elaborated speech codes.

Cycle of Deprivation

Where one aspect of material disadvantage has a knock on effect and leads to other types of disadvantage, such that poverty is reinforced and carries on, often across generations. For example, being poor, means a poor diet , means more sickness, means more time of work, means more poverty.

Deferred Gratification

Where one delays immediate reward and instead works hard now in order to receive a greater reward in the future.

Deterministic

Self-fulfilling prophecy theory is often criticised as being deterministic, because it assumes that a particular input (labelling) always has the same affect (the subject accepts their label), without taking into account the fact that individuals respond in different ways based on their different subjective views of the situation in which the labelling takes place.

Disconnected Choosers

Working class parents who simply send their children to local schools rather than researching different schools and then making their choice. The opposite of ‘skilled choosers’

Division of Labour

Where production is broken down into a number of  small, specialized tasks to improve efficiency.  For example, instead of one person constructing a whole car, each individual specializes in adding different bits.

Education Action Zones

A New Labour Education policy which promoted links between clusters of schools (typically around 20) in deprived areas and local businesses and parents, with the intention of getting business to provide extra funds to those schools. This policy was introduced in the late 1990s, but after running for five years it had largely failed to generate any additional funds and so was axed.

Educational triage 

Where schools sort students into three groups: those who will pass without help, those could pass with help, and those who probably won’t pass even if they do get help. Schools then focus most of their resources on helping the middle of these groups, while leaving the former alone and effectively ‘writing off’ the later.

Elaborated Speech Code

Language consisting of a wide vocabulary, complex sentences and which is context-free, so able to express abstract ideas. Used by the middle class and the opposite of restricted speech code.

Equality of opportunity (within education)

Where everyone has an equal chance to get into the best schools and universities and achieve good qualifications, and everyone competes for the best results on a level playing field, without being discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, disability or social class.

Ethnocentric Curriculum

Ethnocentric means seeing or judging things in a biased way. An ethnocentric curriculum is one which treats middle class European white culture as superior – having Christian assemblies or teaching history from a European rather than an Indian or African perspective are examples of this.

Ethos

The culture of a school – including its expected norms of behaviour, core values and especially the aspirations for its students.

Exclusions

Where pupils are either suspended for a set period or permanently expelled from school, typically for breaking school rules.

Exogenous Privatisation (of education)

Where schools, or school services, are taken over by private businesses such as academy chains, rather than being run directly by the state.

A related concept here is ‘endogenous privatisation’, where schools are made compete like businesses while still being run by the state. This was the idea behind marketization.

Related concepts: neoliberalism, the new right, marketization.

Faith school

A school with formal ties to a particular faith. Many have different admissions (selection) criteria to regular state schools and select a proportion of their students on the basis of their faith.

Fatalism

According to Bernstein this is an attitude held by working class children and parents. It is the belief that they will inevitably end up in working class jobs, and so prevents them from aspiring to do any better.

Free Schools

Schools set up and run by groups of parents, charities or businesses and run directly by them. They are funded directly by the government and not by Local Education Authorities.

Gender domains

The activities that boys and girls see as typically the territory of their gender. E.g. playing football for boys and playing with dolls for girls.

Globalisation

The increasing interconnectedness of people and societies across the world.

Grammar School

A selective school catering to students who pass their 11+. Offers an academic education catered to high achieving students. Part of the ethos of grammar schools is that students should aspire to go to university.

Hidden Curriculum

The Hidden Curriculum refers to the norms and values not taught directly as part of the official curriculum, but passed on informally in schools.

Whereas the official curriculum is made up of subjects, subject content, formal lessons etc. the hidden curriculum is composed of teacher attitudes and expectations, and the general ethos of school which includes such things as attitudes to punctuality, attendance, dress codes and future career aspirations.

Related concepts: Feminists argue that the hidden curriculum works against girls.  Marxists believe it works against working-class pupils.

Ideal Pupil

The idea of the perfect pupil which teachers have in their heads. Such pupils are smart, have good manners, obey school rules and work hard. According to Howard Becker they are typically middle class.

Ideological state apparatus

This is main function of education in a capitalist society according to Marxists. Education works to transmit an ideological justification of capitalism, presenting the unequal capitalist system as normal and inevitable.

Schools do this directly by ‘agenda setting’ – not teaching subjects which criticise capitalism such as sociology (at least until much later on in life), and they do it indirectly by mirroring the inequality found in wider society (teacher-pupil relations, banding and streaming),  thus getting students used to the idea that inequality is normal.

Related concepts: passive subservience, Marxism, socialisation, hidden curriculum, power, inequality.

Immediate Gratification   

Wanting instant reward, right now. The opposite of deferred gratification

Independent (Private) Schools    

Schools which are not state-funded and are paid for by parents. They do not have to follow the national curriculum, but most choose to do so.

Institutional Racism

Discrimination which is built into the everyday workings of institutions such as schools.

Labelling*

‘Labelling’ is where someone judges a person based on the superficial ‘surface’ characteristics such as their apparent social class, sex, and ethnicity.

In the case of education, the main ‘labeller’ is the teacher, the main ‘labelled’ the pupil. Howard Becker has shown that teachers have an ‘ideal type’ of a pupil. The ‘ideal’ pupil is courteous, hard working and academically able. Middle-class pupils are far more likely to fit this model than are working class students, and thus middle class students get a positive label working class students a negative label.

Related concepts: Interactionism, self-fulfilling prophecy, ideal pupil.

*American misspelling: ‘labeling’

League Tables

Published documents which show the GCSE and A level results of all schools in England and Wales. Schools are effectively ranked against each other and thus are easy to compare.

Legitimation of class inequality

A Marxist term – where schools justify inequality through teaching the myth of meritocracy. Schools teach working class pupils that it is their fault if they fail their exams and end up in working class jobs, rather than the fault of the unequal and unfair system which is biased towards the middle class.

Marketization

Making schools compete for pupils, like businesses compete for clients or consumers.

This was the basic principle behind the 1988 education act: the government introduced open enrollment (parental choice), formula funding and league tables to introduce endogenous privatisation.

Related concepts: New Right, neoliberalism, privatisation, league tables, 1988 education act.

Material deprivation

Where someone cannot afford or lacks access to basic, material resources such as food and heating.

Material deprivation can have a negative effect on educational achievement because students may not have access to computers and the Internet at home and poor diet and housing conditions may lead to health problems which can result in time off school.

Related concepts: social class, cultural deprivation, differential educational achievement.

Meritocracy

The idea that what an individual achieves is based on a combination of their ability and effort.

In education this is where the qualifications one achieves is based on a combination of their intelligence and the amount of effort they put in during their time in school.

Marxists argue that meritocracy is a myth because in reality an individual’s educational achievement is more a reflection of their class background, a result of their material and cultural capital, rather than their ability or effort. However, the working classes believe the myth of meritocracy and thus blame their own failure on themselves rather than the unequal opportunities in the system.

Related concepts: achieved status, ascribed status, Marxism, Functionalism, equality of opportunity.

Motivation by external rewards

Being motivated by the end result, not the act itself. In education this means being motivated by exam results rather than the ‘joy of learning’.

Multicultural education

Any education that raises awareness of the different cultures, traditions and religions in a society, typically aimed at promoting acceptance of (or at least tolerance of diversity).

Myth of meritocracy      

Part of Marxist Theory – the idea that schools are not meritocratic but teach students that they are so as to legitimate inequality (see the legitimation of class inequality).

National Curriculum

Set subjects (and the content within those subjects) laid down by the government that all state funded schools must teach.

OFSTED

The government body which inspects schools and publishes reports, grading schools from ‘outstanding’ to ‘in need of improvement’. Has the power the put schools into special measures and change the management and staffing of failing schools.

Parentocracy

Literally ‘the rule of the parents’. It is where parents have a choice over which school to send their children to.

Parity of Esteem

Where schools teach different subjects and have a different ethos but have equal status.

Particularistic values    

The specific standards by which parents judge their children.

Passive subservience

Accepting authority and doing what you are told without questioning it.

Patriarchal Ideology

Norms and values which make patriarchy seem natural. E.g. the idea that women should be the primary child carers because they give birth to children.

Patriarchy

A system of male domination, or one in which men have advantage over women.

Polarization

Moving further apart. In education, marketisation is said to have caused this: the best schools improved and the worst schools got worse.

Postmodernisation

The changes associated with the move to a postmodern society, including globalization, more consumerism, more individual choice and diversity.

Privatisation (exogenous)  

Where schools, or school services, are taken over by private businesses such as academy chains, rather than being run directly by the state.

Privatisation (endogenous)  

Where schools are made to compete like businesses while still being run by the state. This was the idea behind marketization.

Reproduction of inequality

Where inequality is carried on from one generation to the next.

Restricted Speech Code

Language consisting of limited vocabulary, simple sentences, and which is context specific. According to Bernstein, this is what the working class speak. It is the opposite of the elaborated speech code.

Role allocation

Where pupils are sifted and sorted into appropriate jobs based on their abilities, reflected in the qualifications they achieve.

Society requires the most able to be in the most important and demanding jobs. Education makes sure this happens-  only the most able and hardest working can rise to top and get the three A grades in science required to go on to do a medical degree and become a doctor for example.

Related Concepts: achieved status, Functionalism, division of labour, meritocracy.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

This is where someone acts according to their label and the label becomes true in reality.

In education a pupil who is repeatedly told that they are unlikely to achieve may consequently give up their efforts which in turn will reduce the likelihood of gaining a qualification. The teachers’ label has thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Related concepts: interactionism, labelling, deterministic.

Social Solidarity

Where individuals work together in pursuit of a shared goal.

Social Solidarity is most commonly used in politics where the public might show ‘solidarity’ with striking rail workers who’s goals is achieving the social justice of getting appropriate wages for their labour.

But the concept can also be applied to education – social solidarity is achieved through working together in team sports, or shared creative events such as artistic productions or even whole class educational projects.

Working together is one of the main ways we achieve a sense of belonging to wider society in Functionalist theory and education is probably the first time children will get to feel this sense of connection to the wider society beyond their family.

Subculture and Counter School Culture

A subculture consists of a group of people who share norms and values which are different to mainstream values.

An important type of subculture is the counter-school culture – identified by Paul Willis (1977). A counter school culture has norms and values which are in direct opposition to the mainstream culture of the school. Thus the lads who made up the counter-school culture valued messing around and ‘having a laugh’ and got status for doing so, and did not value working hard to achieve good grades.

Related concepts: pro-school subculture; myth of meritocracy, white working class underachievement; the young entrepreneurs (Mac An Ghaill), active-passive, Marxism.  

Vocationalism

Work related education or training.

Vocationalism refers to any training or education which is specifically targeted to a particular type of job or sector.

It is usually contrasted to academic education which is more subject based and purely academic (subjects such as history, english literature or sociology are ‘academic’) and involve primarily reading, thinking, debating and writing essays.

Vocational education by contrast will be more focussed on teaching the specific technical skills and knowledge that individuals will require for work in a specific field of employment such as construction, the media or hairdressing.

Examples of Vocational Education include many BTEC qualifications and Apprenticeships.

Some courses may be a mixture of both Vocational and Academic.

Signposting and Related Posts

This post was written to help A-level sociology students revise for the education aspect of their SCLY1 7192/1 exam.

For further posts on revising for that exam paper, you might like this post which is specifically about techniques for answering the AQA A-Level Sociology Paper 1.

For more general advice on revising for sociology exams, please see links from my ‘exams essays and short answer questions‘ page.

For more in-depth posts on education topics please see my sociology of education page.

Please click here to return to the homepage – ReviseSociology.com

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