Applying material from item C analyse two ways in which the nuclear family might perform ideological functions (10)

A 10 mark ‘analyse with item’ practice question and answer for the AQA’s A-level paper 2: families and households section

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Applying material from item C analyse two ways in which the nuclear family might perform ideological functions (10)

  • Hooks

Item C

Marxist sociologists have long argued that the traditional nuclear family performs ideological functions for capitalism, through for example, socializing children into thinking that hierarchy normal and inevitable.  

However, radical Feminist sociologists argue that the main function of the nuclear family lies in maintaining inequalities between men and women through promoting patriarchal ideology.

 A brief model plan…

Point 1: One ideological function = socialising children into thinking inequality is normal, this is done through ‘age patriarchy’ – children are expected to be obedient to parents.

Development – much like the correspondence principle in education this gets children ready to be obedient to their bosses in work and also to accept inequalities in broader society, class inequalities which exist between bourgeois and proletariat for example.

Further development – According to Marxist Feminists, traditional gender roles further encourage obedience to the rules at work – if man thinks he is ‘the provider’ and women are dependent at home, the male worker is less likely to go on strike because it undermines his provider role.

Further development – According to Marxists the family might also passify children by acting as a unit of consumption – they are taught to ‘find their identity’ in the products they consume, not in thinking and questioning, thus this might contribute to ideological control.

Evaluation – a problem with this specifically performing functions for capitalism is that ‘age patriarchy’ within families typically occurs in pre-capitalist societies.

Point 2: Radical Feminists argue the traditional nuclear family normalises gender inequality

Development – women stay at home look after the kids, men go to work, women are thus financially dependent on men in this situation

Further Development – This can also be reinforced by the way dads tend to police daughters more than sons (differential gender socialisation)

Further development – the privatised nuclear family also allows male violence against women to go unnoticed

Evaluation – HOWEVER, liberal fems and postmodernists would point out that gender norms are changing and the above is all much more likely in the age of the negotiated family and the pure relationship.

A Level Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle

Families Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my A Level  Sociology Families and Households Revision Bundle which contains the following:

  1. 50 pages of revision notes covering all of the sub-topics within families and households
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering perspectives on the family
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers – 3 examples of the 10 mark, ‘outline and explain’ question.
  4.  9 essays/ essay plans spanning all the topics within the families and households topic.
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Sociological perspectives on the relationship between education and work

Functionalism

Main post on the functionalist perspective on education.

Education teaches us specialist skills for work – At school, individuals learn the diverse skills necessary for this to take place. For example, we may all start off learning the same subjects, but later on we specialize when we do GCSEs. This allows for a complex division of labour to take place.

Role Allocation and meritocracy – Education allocates people to the most appropriate job for their talents using examinations and qualifications. This ensures that the most talented are allocated to the occupations that are most important for society. This is seen to be fair because there is equality of opportunity – everyone has a chance of success and it is the most able who succeed through their own efforts – this is known as meritocracy

Marxism 

Main post on the marxist perspective on education.

The reproduction of class inequality and the myth of meritocracy – In school, the middle classes use their material and cultural capital to ensure that their children get into the best schools and the top sets. This means that the wealthier pupils tend to get the best education and then go onto to get middle class jobs. Meanwhile working class children are more likely to get a poorer standard of education and end up in working class jobs. In this way class inequality is reproduced

School teaches the skills future capitalist employers need through the ‘Hidden Curriculum (e.g. pupils Learn to accept authority; they learn to accept hierarchy, and motivation by external rewards)

Paul Willis

Willis described the friendship between the 12 boys (or the lads) he studied as a counter-school culture. Their value system was opposed to that of the school. They looked forward to paid manual work after leaving school and identified all non-school activities (smoking, going out) with this adult world, and valued such activities far more than school work. The lads believed that manual work was proper work, and the type of jobs that hard working pupils would get were all the same and generally pointless.

Feminism

Stereotypical views of teachers and careers advisors as well as peer group pressure means that subject choices are still shaped by traditional gender norms – which limits the kind of jobs boys and girls go onto do in later life.

Even though girls do better at school, they still get paid less than men, so qualifications do not necessarily result in more pay!

The New Right

Main post on the new right and education

The mid 1970s was a time of rising unemployment in Britain, particularly among the young.  It was argued that the education system was not producing a skilled enough workforce and that the needs of the economy were not being met. From the mid 1970s both the Conservative and Labour governments agreed that education should be more focussed on improving the state of the economy by providing training courses for young people in different areas of work.

This emphasis on meeting the needs of industry became known as ‘New Vocationalism’ which first took off in the 1980s.

Applying Sociological Perspectives to the Decline of Marriage – Revision Notes

Summary revision notes (in diagram form) on sociological perspectives applied to the decline of marriage in society, written to help students revise for the families and households section of the AQA’s A-level sociology paper 2: topics in sociology.

You will probably need to click to enlarge/ save the picture below!

sociological perspectives decline marriage.png

Other sources you might find useful:

Sociological Perspectives on Veganuary

Launched in the United Kingdom in January 2014, Veganuary is a global campaign that encourages people to try eating a vegan diet for the month of January.

Veganuary is dedicated to changing public attitudes, while providing all the information and practical support required to make the transition to veganism as easy and enjoyable as possible.

It is a growing movement, with over 50 000 people committed for January 2018 (1) compared to just over 20 000 in 2016 (2). The report of the impact of 2016 Veganuary (see 1 below) argues that the month long campaign has a positive impact on helping people maintain their veganism and helping some transition from vegetarianism. meat-eating to full-blown veganism.

Comments/ sociological relevance

My optimistic, and vegan-sympathetic self wants to ask ‘Are we seeing an ‘anticipation of the morality of the future’? (following Durkheim’s stance on deviance and social change) – might veganism be the new norm in 50 years?

Or, following postmodernism,  is this just a case which illustrates a new forms of ‘incredibly weak solidarity’ orchestrated through social media. Is this is just yet another faddish lifestyle culture?

From a research methods perspective, you might also want to have a look at that report on the ‘impacts’ of Veganuary… the survey asked people about their diets in the first week of February, in order to measure the impact of going vegan in the previous months… hmmm, can anyone see any problems there???? As always, answers welcome in the comments below!

 

Sources

(1) Veganuary 2016: Participant Research and Impact

(2) The Week, 6 January 2018

 

A Sociological Analysis of Cruise Ships

Venice is a city of 55.000 inhabitants, which is swamped on some days by more than 40, 000 cruise ship passengers, and many of the residents aren’t impressed at their transient visitors, as many of these ships dwarf the architectural marvels of the ancient city, and spew toxic fumes in their wake.

And Venice is far from the only place affected in this way – the Orkney Islands play host to over a quarter of a million visitors a year, with a population of just over 25 000.

The Cruise ship industry has grown rapidly since the 1960s as prices have come down – Americans and the Chinese are the most avid cruisers, but 2 million Brits are also predicted to go cruising in 2018.

The largest ship is Harmony of the Seas – it is a quarter of a mile long, weighs 227,000 tonnes and carries up to 6780 guests with a crew of 21, 000, and there are scores of ships sailing the oceans which have a capacity of over 3000 passengers.

What can we make of cruise ships sociologically?

As with many current trends Zygmunt Bauman seems to be the best sociologist to go to in order to make sense of their growing popularity:

Bauman argues that what distinguishes social class today is relative mobility – the global super rich have jets and suites in many parts of the world and can afford to be instantly globally mobile. At the other end of the scale are the global poor – who are ‘doomed to be local’ in Bauman’s words, and are effectively stuck in the barrios with no way out.

So where do cruise ships fit in? Basically I see them as somewhere in the middle of this – they allow the relatively well-off in the West as well as in developing countries like China to get a taste of this mobility, so maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much that cruises are a ‘good holiday’* but they allow us to tap into that unconscious desire to join the ultra-rich super-mobile global elite?

*Given that the objective truth about cruises is that, technically speaking, they’re just a bit shit, why people ‘choose’ to go on them needs some deeper level of explanation. 

Evaluate the Functionalist View of the Role of Education in Society (30) #LONG VERSION

An A-level sociology essay written for the AQA’s 7192 (1) specification, exam paper 1. This is the long, ‘overkill’ version of the essay, written using the PEAC system (Point – Explain – Analyse – Criticise)

An obvious starting point before reading this essay would be to read my post on the Functionalist Perspective on Education.

NB – At time of posting, it’s half an essay, more to follow!

Introduction

Functionalism is a somewhat dated structural theory popular in 19th century France (Durkheim) and mid-20th century America (Parsons). Functionalist theorists adopted a ‘top-down’ approach to analysing the role which institutions, such as schools play in relation to other institutions, such as work, and generally believe that schools form an important part of a society’s structure. Functionalism is also a consensus theory: functionalists generally emphasise the positive functions which schools perform for individuals and society, arguing that schools tend to promote social harmony and social order, which they see as a good thing.

Below I will analyse and evaluate four specific ‘functions’ or roles which schools perform according to Functionalist theory, ultimately arguing that it obscures more than it enlightens our understanding of the role of education in society.

POINT 1: According to Emile Durkheim (1890s), the founder of modern Functionalism, the first role of education was to create a sense of social solidarity which in turn promoted value consensus.

EXPLANATION: Social Solidarity is where the individual members of society feel themselves to be a part of a single ‘body’ or community and work together towards shared goals. According to Durkhiem schools achieved social solidarity through children learning subjects such as history and English which gave them a shared sense of national identity, which in turn promoted value consensus, or agreement on shared values at the societal level.

Analysis: Durkheim thought schools were one of the few institutions which could promote solidarity at a national level – he may have a point. It is difficult to imagine any other institution which governments could use to socialise individuals in to a sense of national identity.

Evaluation: To evaluate this point, there do seem to be examples of where schools attempt to promote a sense of social solidarity. Writing in the 1950s, Talcott Parsons pointed to how, in American schools, children pledge allegiance to the flag; while today British schools and colleges are obliged to promote ‘British Values’ (woohoo!)

However, it is debatable whether schools are successful in instilling a genuine sense of social solidarity into most, let alone all students. A minority of students are excluded from schools, and around 5% are persistent absentees – if students are not in mainstream education, then schools cannot promote a sense of belonging; while for those students who are at school, many are there ‘in body, but not necessarily in spirit. Finally there is the fact there is such a huge diversity of schools (faith schools, private schools, home education) that surely education is too fragmented and divided for it to promote true solidarity at the national level – to the extent that postmodernists suggested there is no such thing as a unified culture anymore.

POINT 2: A second function of education, again according to Durkhiem, is that schools teach individuals the specialist skills for work, which is crucial in a complex, modern industrial economy. (Schools thus have an important economic function).

Durkhiem argued that school was an efficient way of teaching individuals these diverse skills while at the same time teaching them to co-operate with each-other – schools thus instilled a sense of organic solidarity, or solidarity based on difference and interdependency, with school being one of the only institutions which could do both of these functions simultaneously within the context of a national economy.

The idea that schools have an economic function certainly seems to be true – basic literacy and numeracy are certainly important for any job today, and ever since the New Right, Vocational education has expanded, right up to the present day in the form of Modern Apprenticeships, and today. There is also a relationship between government expenditure on education and economic growth – more developed countries tend to have stronger economies.

However, it is debatable whether schools prepare children adequately for work – for example, there is a shortage of STEM graduates, and many doctors come to Britain from abroad, so maybe the education system today focuses on the wrong subjects, not the subjects the economy actually needs to grow effectively? There is also a Postmodern critique from Ken Robinson that suggests that ‘schools kill creativity’ – a system obsessed with standardised testing hardly prepares people to go into the creative industries or become entrepreneurs, both of which are growth areas in the current UK economy.

More to follow…!

Short version of this essay

  • Point – Simply state something Functionalists say about education
  • Explain – Explain what is meant by the ‘Function’ of education mentioned previously
  • Expand – this could mean giving examples, evidence, or explaining in more depth
  • Criticise – criticise with evidence against or limitations

(P1) Secondary Socialisation and Value consensus       

  • The teaching of norms and values after the family – leading to agreement around these norms and values
  • Formal Curriculum – Shared history/ Shared language/ Shared religion
  • Team sports – working together shared aim
  • Ethnocentric Curriculum
  • Sub cultures
  • More school types – more diversity, surely = less value consensus?

(P2) Teaching skills for work – economic function          

  • Diverse subjects,
  • Punctuality
  • Vocationalism and apprenticeships have expanded
  • Are apprenticeships useful?
  • Tea servers

(P3) Bridge between home and school  

  • School prepares us for the world outside the family – it acts like a society in miniature
  • Particularistic/ Universalistic Standards
  • Doesn’t apply to everyone – Home schooling

R(P4) Role Allocation  

  • Different qualifications sift people into appropriate jobs
  • Does this through exams – sifting and sorting
  • Meritocracy (since 1944)
  • Marxism – not meritocratic – myth of meritocracy,
  • Private schools
  • Feminism – gender stereotyping and subject choice

Evaluate using other perspectives –

  • Marxism – Agrees with Functionalists that school socialises us into shared values, but these values are the values benefit the ruling class (we get taught that inequality is natural and inevitable, we believe in the myth of meritocracy and so end up passively accepting society as it is.
  • Feminism – Functionalism ignores the gender divide in school
  • Interactionism – Argues Functionalism is too deterministic – it sees individuals as passive, but there is a lot more evidence that pupils are active and aren’t just moulded by the school system

Conclusion – You must point out that this perspective is too optimistic and overgeneralises!

 

 

Related posts 

For more essays, please see my main post on exam advice, short answer questions and essays.

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!

 

The Illusion of the Equality of Opportunity

Marxist sociologists Bowles and Gintis argue that capitalist societies are not meritocratic. Against Functionalists, they argue that it is not the amount of ability and effort an individual puts into their education that determines how well they do, but rather their class background.

The simple reality is that being born into a middle class family means that middle class children benefit from material and cultural capital which give them an advantage in both school, and in the job application process, which gives them an unfair advantage compared to working class children.

However, the education system disguises this fact by spreading the ‘myth of meritocracy‘ – the idea that it is solely the ability and effort of the individual which determines the qualifications and the job they get, rather than their class background, and thus individuals end up blaming themselves for their failures rather than inequality of opportunity in the education system.

Intelligence, Educational Attainment and Meritocracy

Bowles and Gintis base their argument on an analysis of the relationship between intelligence (measured by IQ), educational attainment and occupational reward. They argue that IQ accounts for only a small part of educational attainment.

Bowles Gintis Myth Meritocracy

They examined a sample of individuals with a wide range of IQs and within this sample, they found a wide variation of educational attainment within that sample and concluded that there was hardly any relationship between the two variables.

Bowles and Gintis found a direct relationship between class background and educational achievement – the higher and individual’s class background, the higher their level of educational achievement.

So how do we explain the fact that individuals with higher IQs tend to have higher qualifications? they explain this as a by-product of length of stay in education – the longer an individual stays in education, they more their IQ develops. However, it is still family background which mainly determines educational attainment.

Bowles and Gintis also apply a similar analysis to the relationship between occupational reward and IQ – again, in their sample of average IQ individuals, there was a wide variety of incomes, which suggested there was no significant relationship between IQ and income.

As with educational success, what explains high income is family background – the combination of an individual’s class, gender and ethnicity are much better predictors of someone’s income rather than their IQ – educational qualifications are of much more value to the white, middle class male, than to the black, working class female.

Bowles and Gintis conclude that ‘education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure’. The education system effectively disguises the fact that economic success runs in the family, and that privilege breeds privilege. Bowles and Gintis thus reject the functionalist view that education is a meritocracy.

Related Posts 

The other major contribution Bowles and Gintis made to the sociology of education was their work on the hidden curriculum and the correspondence principle.

This is a summary post of the Marxist perspective on education which includes a briefer version of what’s in this post, and the one in the link above.

Paul Willis’ ‘Learning to Labour’ is often used to criticize the determinism found in Bowles and Gintis.

Sources used to write this post 

Haralmabos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives

 

Sociological Perspectives on the London Riots

The London Riots of August 2011 are a good way of introducing ‘perspectives’ on crime and deviance, as well as the strengths and limitations of studying crime using different methods.

The 2011 London Riots – Background/ Context

Between 6 and 10 August 2011, several London boroughs and other cities and towns across England suffered widespread rioting, looting and arson.

london riots

The first night of rioting took place on 7 August 2011 after a peaceful protest in Tottenham, following the death of Mark Duggan, a local man from the area, who was shot dead by police on 4 August 2011. Police failed to notify Duggan’s family of his death and no senior police officer was available to meet the protest, creating anger at perceived disrespect. The protesting crowd outside the police station set light to two police cars, and the pictures of this circulated on social media attracted other people to the area – what started as a relatively peaceful protest quickly descended into a riot involving mass looting.

The following days saw similar scenes in other parts of London with the worst violence taking place in , Brixton, Chingford, Peckham, Enfield, Croydon, Ealing and East Ham. The city centre in Oxford Circus was also attacked. From 8 until 10 August, other cities in England including Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool, along with several towns, saw what was described by the media as ‘copycat violence’.

The riots were characterised by rampant looting and arson attacks of unprecedented levels. As a result, David Cameron returned early from his holiday in Italy and other government leaders also ended their holidays to attend to the matter. All police leave was cancelled and Parliament was recalled on 11 August to debate the situation.

There were a total 3,443 crimes across London linked to the disorder, including 5 deaths and at least 16 others injured as a direct result of related violent acts. An estimated £200 million worth of property damage was incurred, and local economic activity was significantly compromised.

The riots have generated significant on-going debate among political, social and academic figures about the causes and context in which they happened.

Biased Media Reporting on the London Riots

This Daily Mail article on the London riots by Melanie Phillips on is a superb example of  a New Right take on the ’causes’ of the event…extracts below…..

‘ The violent anarchy that has taken hold of British cities is the all-too-predictable outcome of a three-decade liberal experiment which tore up virtually every basic social value. What is so notable and distressing is that this mayhem has been carried out in the main by teenagers and children, some as young as eight. These youths feel absolutely entitled to go ‘on the rob’ and steal whatever they want.’

‘What has been fuelling all this is not poverty… what we have been experiencing is a complete breakdown of civilized behavior among children and young people… We are not merely up against feral children, but feral parents… either they are too drunk or drugged or otherwise out of it to care, or else they are helping themselves to the proceeds, too.’

‘As David Cameron observed yesterday, there are clearly pockets of society that are not just broken, but sick. Most of these children come from lone-mother households. And the single most crucial factor behind all this mayhem is the willed removal of the most important thing that socialises children and turns them from feral savages into civilised citizens: a father who is a fully committed member of the family unit. The result is fatherless boys who are consumed by an existential rage and desperate emotional need, and who take out the damage done to them by lashing out from infancy at everyone around them. Such children inhabit what is effectively a different world from the rest of society. It’s a world without any boundaries or rules. A world of emotional and physical chaos.’

‘This breaking of the family was encouraged by the Welfare State… Welfare dependency further created the entitlement culture that the looters so egregiously display. It taught them that the world owed them a living. It taught them that their actions had no consequences.’

Actual evidence on the ’causes’ of the London Riots’

Melanie Philips no doubt enjoys writing for the right wing daily mail, and her readers no doubt enjoy the sense of righteous moral indignation they feel when reading her articles (they are all in pretty much the same vein!). Unfortunately for them, but more unfortunately the impoverished teenage children of the single parents she lambasts, this is an extremely narrow analysis of the causes of the Riots. Moreover, Philip’s analysis is not supported by the rigorous quantitative and qualitative research carried out by the London School of Economics in the year since the riots. This is not to say that irresponsible parenting and the breakdown of social control didn’t have something to do with the riots – but there are a lot of other factors that need to be considered as well.

The findings below are based on the research findings taken from Reading the Riots Researchers spoke to 270 rioters: 185 people in London, 30 in Birmingham, 29 in Manchester, 16 in Liverpool, seven in Salford and three in Nottingham. Thirteen were in prison.

reading london riots

Who were the Rioters?

  • They ranged in age from 13 to 57
  • A third said they had never been found guilty in court or cautioned
  • The overwhelming majority said gangs played little or no part in what happened.
  • About three-quarters were aged 24 or under, only a small minority, people over 40.
  • Around 80% of interviewees were male, although anecdotal evidence from observers of the riots, suggest the proportion was nearer 90%
  • They came from a wide range of ethnic groups but A slightly larger proportion were from an ethnic minority (50% black, 5% Asian) or of mixed race (18%); this also varied by area: the ethnic makeup of interviewees in Salford and Manchester overwhelmingly white.
  • The general attainment levels were lower than those of the population as a whole: of the adults, a third had no qualification higher than GCSE , one-fifth of the rioters claimed to have no educational qualifications at all, one in 20 said they had a degree.
  • Most had prior experience with the Criminal Justice System – only 32% said they had never been found guilty in a court or been cautioned.

What were the main causes of the riots?

Based on the above interviews, the rioters themselves stated the following five main causes (percentages reporting this as a factor in brackets)

  • Poverty (86%)
  • Policing (85%)
  • Government Policy (80%)
  • Unemployment (79%)
  • The shooting of Mark Duggan (75%)

Of course, if you conducted the research again using a broader sample and different methods, then you might get different results. But based on this evidence, there does not appear to be any support for the New Right’s perspective on what caused the riots…

Sociological (/Criminological) Perspectives on the London Riots

Asking about the ‘causes’ of crime is only one aspect among many in the crime and deviance course. Some of the perspectives on crime look at crime much more broadly.

 Functionalism – argues that society needs crime. Rather than looking at crime as a purely negative phenomenon, crime also has positive social functions. The riots, for example, lead to a temporary suspension of inter-gang violence, and, as a media event, it gave the rest of us something unite against, thus increasing unity in society more generally.

Bonds of Attachment Theory (Functionalism) – The cause of deviance is the breakdown or weakening of informal agencies of social control such as the family and community. Criminal activity occurs when the individual’s attachment to society is weakened. This theory would blame poor parenting as the main cause of the riots.

Consensus Subcultural Theory – argues crime is a collective response to the above situation of frustration – If you can’t gain status by getting a job, you seek status by some other means within a subculture (possibly a gang) and riots can offer you an opportunity to gain status by ‘going further than the next person’.

Traditional Marxism – Argues that crime is a response to a Capitalist system that breeds materialism, greed and selfishness. They also point out that many members of the Elite classes are criminals themselves, but it is generally only the powerless that get punished for their criminal acts, while elites tend to avoid punishment. The rioters were largely teenage youths living in poor areas and many got disproportionate punishments for their involvement in the riots, while politicians engaging in criminal acts often get away without punishment.

Interactionists – See criminal behaviour as a response to labelling by agents of social control – mainly the police. Focussing on the riots – Interactionists would argue that police racism over the last 3 decades has led to black youths being disproportionately targeted by stop and search – and it was this history of negative attention from the police that sparked the riots.

Right Realists – Argue that the riots were caused because of a basic breakdown of both informal and formal social control – weak communities and too few police on the streets, and society not being tough enough on crime. Rioters had too much freedom and felt like they could get away with their crimes.

Left-Realism – Argues there are two main causes of crime – Marginalisation and Relative Deprivation – largely borne out by the Guardian research above.

Post-modernism – Argues that the riots are a response to a postmodern society characterised by consumerism, an obsession with self-identity and a quest for excitement. For many the riots were a ‘scene’ where they could ‘play a game’ – engaging in vandalism and challenging the police provide both status and excitement – much more than any nightclub could offer.

flawed consumers

 Explore the ’causes’ of the London riots in more depth…

They’re all pretty left wing, so redressing the balance of the right-biased mainstream media…

  1. The Moral decay is as bad at the top of our society as it is at the bottom by Peter Oborne –
  2.  and Zygmunt Bauman – The London Riots – Consumerism coming home to roost as the World’s leading critical sociologist – he’s got to get in somewhere near the top..
  3. ‘ Look whose ruling now’ – London Rioters speak out
  4. David Harvey – Feral Capitalism is to blame!
  5. Another post focussing on consumerism – Let them yearn for Tatt
  6. A nice Balanced view from the JRF – What do we actually know about the riot areas and rioters?
  7. Guardian article – the rioters – young, poor and unemployed
  8. Some Observations on the Riots by Mark Metcalf – a view from someone familiar with the area
  9. It wasn’t just youths involved in the riots
  10. The Guardian data maps – a nice visual resource!

4 and 6 Mark Outline Questions on Education for the A Level Sociology Paper 1 Exam

Possible questions for the A Level Sociology Education (71912) PAPER 1 exam – the two short answer questions in this paper will ask you to outline two reasons/ ways/ criticisms. You will have one 4 mark question and one 6 mark question in this format (outline 2 and 3 ways/ reasons/ criticisms respectively).

The five examples below are all taken from the Perspectives part of the education topic, but draw on other parts of the module, as you should do.

NB these are my (over qualified) educated guesses about why might come up, and the answers are my best guesses as what will qualify as full markers).

Also the questions may be more obscure, or much nastier – remember, there is a theory that the people who write these exam papers have a burning hatred of teenagers and haven’t seen daylight since 1984.

If you like this sort of thing, why not buy my ‘short answer practice questions and answers for A Level sociology‘ – it’s as much fun as it sounds, actually more because I’ve colour coded the skills. It includes examples of 4,6 and 10 mark questions in the education bit of the A level paper 1 exam.

Anyway, enough wittering – some exemplar questions and answers:

Outline two ways in which education might prepare students for work (4)

 Two developed examples, should get 4/4

  • Teaching specific skills for specific jobs – a complex economy requires lots of people doing different jobs, requiring different skills – school starts off with some people specialising in sciences, other in humanities – later, education splits into more vocational courses and degree courses to offer more specialisation.
  • Motivation by external rewards – at school, pupils learn to put up with boring lessons in order to reap the rewards of exam results at the end, this prepares them to put up with dull work in reward for pay at the end of the month in later life.

Possible additional identifiers (1 mark for each, you’ll need to add in the plus 1s)

  • Teaching soft skills such as team work
  • Role allocation (if developed appropriately)
  • Teaching to accept hierarchy/ authority as normal
  • Exams being competitive

Outline two ways in which the education system might perform ideological functions (4)

Two developed examples, should get 4/4

  • Passive subservience of authority/ hierarchy – in school students learn they should accept the authority of teachers, later at work they have to accept the authority of managers – this makes them passive and obedient, thus easily controlled, according to Marxists
  • Teachers ignoring sexual abuse of female students – according to Radical Feminist analysis this reinforces patriarchal control as it means girls are more likely to grow up learning to say nothing about male violence against women in later life.

 Possible additional identifiers (1 Mark each, add in the plus 1s)

  • Motivation by external rewards
  • Fragmentation of subjects
  • Reinforcing of gender domains in subject choice

Outline two reasons why schools today might fail to create value consensus among pupils (4)

 Possible identifiers (you’ll need to add in the plus 1s)

  • The ethnocentric curriculum
  • The growth of home schooling
  • The existence of private schools
  • Marketisation

Outline two criticisms of the Marxist view of education (4)

 Possible identifiers (you’ll need to add in the plus 1s)

  • There are many critical subjects taught at university that criticise elites
  • It is deterministic – not every child passively accepts authority
  • Some students from poor backgrounds do ‘beat the odds’ and go on to achieve highly

 

Marking Practice…

Outline two positive functions which the education system may perform (4)

Mark the 2 examples below (1 mark per point +1 for development of that point). Feel free to comment below, and I’ll respond with my marks/ comments if enough people do. If you can’t wait, you’ll find the marks and comments here

Candidate X

The first positive function is, according to Emile Durkheim, schools might create value consensus among pupils.

The second positive function is that schools teach pupils the same subjects through the national curriculum, thus making them think the same.

Candidate Y

Role Allocation – where pupils are sorted into appropriate jobs based on their qualifications. The idea here is that different pupils have different levels of ability, and the more able/ harder working get higher qualifications, proving they are more suited to the more demanding, professional jobs.

Social solidarity – making people feel as if they are working together towards a shared goal.