Educational stratification: What are the best and most prominent readings?
Question: I am writing my PhD thesis on educational stratification. What are the best and most prominent readings that would be recommended (empirically and theoretically)?
It is not possible to write a PhD thesis on educational stratification.
Because before you embark on the project, indeed before you even begin to write the PhD proposal, you must have identified which type of educational stratification you are referring to and intend to study.
Simply put, are you examining social class; gender; ethnicity/race; sexuality/trans; nationality; geopolitics; ableism?
Stratification is a big term encompassing a host of variables any one or combination of which might operate as a form of opportunity/disadvantage within any single intersectional identity.
I doubt you have been allowed to go forward with a PhD study without having first identified your precise research aims and objectives and these would address which type of stratification you intended to research. It is not possible to undertake any research which lacks such a focus because it would be just too vast, complicated, and unmanageable. You’d never complete it.
Let me give you fuller examples:
You want to research social class and educational stratification? Okay, then you are likely drawing on a (neo)marxist or structuralist range of theories which might be as diverse as Bourdieu (cultural capital), Gramsci (hegemony), Weber (bureaucracy), Gouldner (anti-functionalism) and Althusser (ideology). Within such theories power tends to be seen as juridico-discursive (Foucault) and structurally given rather than dispersed and subjectively interpreted.
You want to research gender/sex and educational stratification? Okay, then you are drawing on feminist theories and these range from liberal to radical, socialist to poststructuralist, postmodern to marxist. Each theory is substantively different and draws on different understandings of, say, power and identity. If you are researching men and educational stratification then you will have to refer to the large group of theories on men and masculinities, covering concepts such as hegemonic masculinity and a patriarchal dividend.
You want to research Black identities and educational stratification? Okay, but the first question is what type of Black identities - are they situated for example, in say, North America or South America; South Asia or the UK? As for theoretical positions, you could go for post-colonial theory, critical race theory, or utilise any of the (neo)marxist and feminist theories referred to above.
You want to research LGBTQ+ experiences of educational stratification? Then first you need to identify which identity within the acronym ‘LGBTQ+’ you are researching - there is no automatic and inevitable correspondence between them all even if they all get lumped together for the convenience of common social discourse. As for theoretical positions, you have a range at your disposal - intersectionality, queer theory, feminist poststructuralism, gay masculinities theory.
You want to research geopolitics and the stratifications operating within place, nationhood, globalisation? Again, a vast area but you are bound to touch on multiculturalism, diaspora, retreat to nationhood, competition between the urban and the rural, and the reality that everything is relational, fluid and contradictory. That may well take you into Lyotard and postmodernism.
And then there is the other variable not mentioned in your question which is which sphere of education are you researching?
pre-school; primary; secondary; further; higher?
They are all different, having different factors, histories, and forces applied to them by parents, governments, businesses, communities, societies, and the students themselves.
I have researched, for example, gender stratification within English further education management and used a mix of poststructuralism, masculinities theory, and the concept of performativity (see Stephen Ball’s work, and my book titled; ‘Managing Professional Identity’ Routledge, 2002). But this PhD study was highly specific and not intended to address similar situations which might be occurring in schools and universities, though clearly there are overlaps.
Since 2017, Dr Stephen Whitehead has answered over 10,500 Quora questions, mostly on relationships, education, sociology, life and living, and philosophy. To date, his answers have received approximately 3.2 million views increasing at the rate 60,000 views a month. He has nearly 1,000 followers.
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