Analyse two reasons why the media portray minority ethnic groups negatively. [10 marks]

Read Item M below and answer the question that follows.

AQA 10 mark question item.PNG

Applying material from Item M, analyse two reasons why the media often portray minority ethnic groups negatively. [10 marks]

Commentary on the question

A non-standard question about representations, focusing on ‘why’ rather than on ‘how’ one group is represented. There are two clear hooks in the item – the first about power and the second just about difference, suggesting that candidates make two points – one from a broadly hegemonic perspective, the other focussing on the public/ pluralism.  Remember that you can pick up marks for evaluating in this type of 10 mark ‘with item’ question.

Before reading the answer you might like to review the material on ethnicity and representation, and some of the theories of ownership and control such as Pluralism, Instrumental Marxism and Hegemonic Marxism, all of which can be applied to this question.

Answer

The first reason why minority groups are represented negatively is because they have different values/ beliefs and practices from ‘mainstream’ society and are perceived by the wider public as not being fully integrated into the ‘British way of life’. The public at large is thus prejudiced against ethnic minorities, and anything which seems to threaten British identity.

By focusing on negative representations of minorities – Islamic terrorists, benefit claiming immigrants, Romanian beggars, for example, newspapers such as The Sun and the Daily Mail can sell more newspapers and make more profit – it is easier to do this by perpetuating stereotypes compared to running stories which challenge such negative representations.

It is relatively easy for papers to find stories about ethnic minorities which have many news values because some ethnic minorities do engage in activities which are ‘shocking’, and it’s maybe understandable why newspapers may choose not to publish stories in which minority groups are just ‘being British’ – because there’s nothing ‘newsworthy’ about such stories.

This theory fits in with the pluralist view – newspapers aren’t deliberately prejudiced against ethnic minorities, they just run stories which reflect public bias to increase profits.

Hegemonic Marxists would argue that ethnic minority groups are represented negatively because they are underrepresented in positions of power – both in society/ government and within the media itself.

According to Stuart Hall, ethnic minorities have been used as scapegoats for society’s larger economic problems – knife crime by black youths in London in the late 1970s was turned into a moral panic by negative reporting in the press, even though the rate of that crime was declining.

In a similar way gang crime today is largely constructed in the media as a black problem, rather than a multi-ethnic phenomenon.

A further reason why such negative representations are so common could be the lack of black voices among media professionals, meaning the white majority just go along with the racial victimization of young black youth by the government and police.

However, such negative representations may be changing in the age of New Media, which gives more power to ethnic minorities to challenge stereotypes and power inequalities in society more directly.

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Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate sociological explanations of the role of education in transmitting ideas and values.

How to top mark band in a 30 mark education essay, A-level sociology, AQA.

Below is an example of a 30 mark essay question which achieved 28/30.

It’s an interesting example of a question which looks like its asking you to evaluate a specific aspect of the Functionalist perspective on education. However, if you look more closely at the item, you’ll need to do this by drawing on Feminism and Postmodernism to evaluate!

The example is taken from the 2017 Education with Theory and Methods Paper (paper and mark schemes available from the AQA 0website) and the specific question is as follows:

The Question with Item 

A-level-sociology-30-mark-question-item

Mark Scheme (Top Band Only)

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Student Response (paraphrased by KT)

Item B states that education plays a role in socialisation. Feminists argue that education reinforces hegemonic masculinity. However, other sociologists such as Functionalists argue that education transmits shared values and post-modernists for example argue that education is diverse and transmits a range of values.

Feminists suggest that education transmits patriarchal ideology. Radical Feminists would say that male teachers/ pupils behave in ways that reinforce hegemonic masculinity. For example, male teachers tell boys off for ‘behaving like girls’ and they also ‘rescue’ female teachers when they are disciplining students. Radical feminists say that this makes females feel inferior to males and therefor means that the role of education is to reinforce the idea that males are the dominant gender. However, a specific evaluation is that the male teachers may rescue female teachers because they are in a more authoritative position. Additionally, post-modernists would disagree with feminists and argue that education is no longer based on inequality, but based on diversity.

Functionalists suggest that education transmits shared values. Durkheim argues that the role of education is to create social solidarity and value consensus. He argues that education achieves this via assemblies, teaching a common history (giving a sense of national identity and bring people together) and teaching core values such as respect which bring social order. Parsons agrees and argues that education is the focal socialising agency and ‘Parsons bridge implies that education takes people from particularistic values of the family/ home to universalistic values of the work place. The New right agree with functionalists that the role of education is to transmit shared values. However, Marxists disagree with functionalists and argue that the socialisation aspect of the role of education is not to create value consensus but that education is uses as an ideological state apparatus, to transmit ruling class ideology.

Marxists suggest that the role of education is to ‘brainwash’ the working class. Althusser argues that education is an ideological state apparatus that transmits ruling class ideology in order to legitimse the inequality caused by the capitalist class. Bowles and Gintis argue that there is a ‘hidden curriculum’ that socialises the working class into obedient workers in order to benefit capitalism. For example, they are taught that being punished for minor issues is acceptable and the importance of punctuality and that they have to obey the people above them in the social hierarchy – e.g. teachers then boss. However, a specific problem of the hidden curriculum is that a study by Willis showed that students can see through the role of education and reject the hidden curriculum.

Bowles and Gintis also argued that there is a correspondence principle where school mirrors work. Similarities such as extrinsic satisfaction (only doing something for rewards, not because you enjoy it eg school to get GCSEs, work to get money) socialise working class pupils to not expect a rewarding job when they leave school and this benefits the capitalist class. As a result, Marxists argue that the role of education is to transmit ruling class ideology and benefit the bourgeoisie. However, functionalists and new right disagree and argue that values are shared to create a value consensus. They argue that marxism is wrong for basing it on conflict when it is really consensus.

Functionasts such as Parsons suggest that education is meritocratic. This means that pupils are taught that they need to work hard if they want to achieve. He argues that the education system is based on this which suggests people only fail if they do not try hard enough. However, Marxists such as Bordieu argue that education promotes middle class values which means working class students fail because their values are not wanted by the school – not because of meritocracy. Ball argued that meritocracy is a myth. However, new right agree and argue that it is down to the individual to work hard and achieve.

Perhaps the main strength of explaining the role of education in transmitting ideas/ values is the functionalist view that education is used to create shared values, because it can be applied to real life education because schools do have assemblies and promote core values. Perhaps the main weakness is the postmodern view because although education is more diverse, each school still has an ETHOS that has been developed by middle class individuals.

Post modernists argue that marxists, feminists and functionalists are out of date. Liberal feminists would argue that the role of education is no longer to reinforce hegemonic masculinity but that inequality/ patriarchy is improving.

Examiner Commentary 

Mark 28/30

Conceptually detailed and located within a broad theoretical framework. Sophisticated analysis and applied clearly to the question. Explicit evaluation throughout.

Did not score maximum as at times evaluation was not fully developed, e.g. postmodernism.

KT’s commentary

An obvious strength of this answer, in addition to the above is it’s clear use of the item!

They also use phrases, such as ‘a specific evaluation’ of this is….

This also shows you that you need good depth of knowledge of the basics of functionalism and Marxism, but you also need to evaluate them with specific comments and P/M to top mark band.

Source:

A-level
SOCIOLOGY
Feedback on the Examinations
Student responses and commentaries: Paper 1 7192/1 Education with Theory and Methods
Published: Autumn 2017

Research Methods Practice Questions for A-level sociology

AQA A-level sociology Papers 1 and 3 will both contain an ‘outline and explain’ 10 mark (no item) question on sociological theories, and/ or methods.

One possible format for this question is what I like to think of as the ‘pure research methods’ format (‘classic’ might be a better word than ‘pure’) in which students are asked to outline and explain two theoretical, practical or ethical advantages or problems of using one of the main research methods.

For example (taken from the AQA’s June 2017 Education with Theory and Methods paper): ‘Outline and explain two problems of using documents in social research’

There are actually 36 possible variations of such ‘pure’ or ‘classic’ research methods questions, as outlined in the flow chart below.

Outline and Explain 10 mark research methods questions

Students may be asked to give two advantages or problems of any of the above methods, or more specific methods (field experiments for example), or they may be asked to give two advantages of using overt compared to covert participant observation, or asked to simply give two ethical problems which you may encounter when doing research more generally.

Then of course, students may be asked to relate methods to theories, or just asked about a pure ‘theoretical’/ perspectives question.

While there is no guarantee that this particular format of question will actually come up on either paper 1 or 3, it’s still good practice for students to work through a number of such questions as revision practice.

Evaluate Sociological Perspectives on Vocational Education (30)

Evaluations in italics!

VocationalSkills
Vocational Education refers to teaching people the specific knowledge and skills to prepare them for a particular career. Vocational Education can either be on the job training – such as with apprenticeships, or courses focused on a particular career in a college (typically 16-19).

The New Right introduced Vocational Educational in the 1980s. At the time they argued that Britain needed job-related training in order to combat high levels of unemployment at that time, and in order to prepare young people for a range of new jobs emerging with new technologies, and to make them more competitive in a globalising economy.

Two vocational policies the New Right introduced were National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and the Youth Training Scheme (YTS). The former involved building a portfolio of evidence to prove you had the specific skills necessary for a job, and the later involved on the job training, in which trainees received a small wage, funded by the government.

At first glance, the expansion of Vocational Education in the 1980s seems to support the Functionalist view of education – as it seems be about getting people ready for work and performing the function of ‘role allocation’ more effectively, however, there were a number of criticisms of early Vocationalism

Two criticisms of these policies were that NVQs were seen by many as an inferior qualification to the more academic ‘A’ level subjects, and much on the job training was of a low quality because it wasn’t very well regulated – some trainees were basically just glorified tea boys (according to research by Marxist sociologist Dan Finn in the 1980s.)

New Labour expanded Vocational Education, seeing it as a way to provide individuals with the training needed to be competitive in a globalised Post-Fordist, high skilled/ high waged economy.

The main plank of Labour’s Vocational Policy was The New Deal for young people which Provided some kind of guaranteed training for any 18-24 year old who had been unemployed for more than 6 months. This was set up in 1998 and initially cost £3.5 billion. Employers were offered a government subsidy to take on people under 25 who had been unemployed for more than 6 months. By March 2003 almost 1 million people had started the New Deal, and 40% of them had moved on to full-time unsubsidised jobs.

A second central aspect of New Labour’s Vocational Policy was the introduction of The Modern Apprenticeships scheme in 2002.There are many different levels of Apprenticeships in a huge range of industries, and they typically involve on the job training in sectors ranging from tourism to engineering. Those undertaking them are paid a small wage, which varies with age, while undertaking training.

Some of the early modern apprenticships were criticised for being exploitative – some companies simply hired workers to a 6 week training course and then sacked them and rehired more trainees as a means of getting cheap labour. However, overall, apprenticeships have been a huge success and there are now hundreds of thousands of people who do them in any one year.

A third strand of New Labour’s Vocational Policy was The Introduction of Vocational A levels –Today, the most commonly recognised type of Vocational A level is the BTEC – Which Edexcel defines as being ‘designed as specialist work-related qualifications and are available in a range of sectors like business, engineering and ICT. A number of BTECs are recognised as Technical Certificates and form part of the Apprenticeship Framework.’

While the purpose of this was to try and eradicate the traditional vocational-academic divide it was mostly working class children went down the vocational route, while middle class children did A levels, which many middle class parents regard as the only ‘proper qualifications’, and from a broadly Marxist analysis Vocational Education simply reinforces the class divide.

In conclusion, the fact that Vocational Education has gradually been extended over the years suggests that successive governments see it as playing an important role in our society, especially in getting children ready for work and providing them with the type of skills our economy needs. It is also clear that a number of children simply are not suited to a purely academic education, so in an increasingly diverse society, it is likely to have a continued role to play. However, we also need to recognise that there are problems with it, such as with unscrupulous employers using on the job training as a means of getting cheap labour, so steps need to be taken to ensure it is effectively regulated.