New York University                                                                                                      Prof. Caroline Hodges Persell
Dept. of Sociology, GSAS                                                                                               Spring 2000


Course Description

     Education is a fascinating social institution.  Moreover, in industrial and post-industrial societies, education is closely linked with stratification based on occupation.  In newly-industrializing societies, education is related to development in curious ways.  Thus, education represents a critical nexus in society.  As a result, education is often a friction point for structural and cultural changes and the focus of value conflicts in a society.

     This course will address a series of questions, including the following:  1)  What does the contemporary sociology of education entail?  2)  What major theoretical ideas are being applied to the sociological study  of education?  3)  What major features of education are being examined?  4)  What's missing from the sociology of education as it is currently being practiced?

     We will consider macro-historical and cross-national studies of education, the relationship between education and social stratification (whether based on class, gender, or ethnicity), organizational analyses of education, studies of ideology and curriculum, classroom processes, and sociological approaches to such contemporary issues as school choice, privatization, affirmative action, and technology and education.

     The course will be conducted as a writing-intensive discussion/seminar.  In addition to the core readings, the course entails oral and written commentaries on those readings, and a final paper.  This paper may take the form of a "state of the specialty" essay that critically reviews the issues and literature on a particular topic in terms of what is and is not known, and offers an agenda for future research in the area; or a proposal for research, including a critical  review of the relevant literature; or a report of your original research.  Participants will be expected to offer their ideas regularly in class discussions, and to present a summary of their final paper in the last week or two of class.

Syllabus and Readings

Revised 2/14/00

1/18     First Class: Introduction to the Subject and the Course


1/25             Read Jerome Karabel and A.H. Halsey, eds., Power and Ideology in Education, New York: Oxford University Press, 1977, pp. 1-77, Introduction, "Educational Research: A Review and an Interpretation." [Lounge]

Commentator: ______________________

1/25             Read Charles E. Bidwell and Noah E. Friedkin, "The Sociology of Education" Pp. 449-471 in Neil J. Smelser (ed.) Handbook of Sociology, Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1988. [Lounge, 6th flr. libe ref.]

Commentator: ______________________.

1/25             Read Steven Brint. 1998. Schooling and Societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, chs. 1-5. [BS]


1/25             Read the introduction to Richard Arum and Irenee Beattie. 2000. The Structure of Schooling: Readings in the   Sociology of Education. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield. [BS]

1/25             Read Willard Waller, "The School and the Community," in Richard Arum and Irenee Beattie Reader.


2/1           Preliminary statement of your paper topic idea is due.

2/1             Read Max Weber, "The Chinese Literati." Pp. 416-444 in H.H. Gerth and C. Wright
Mills (Eds.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, New York: Oxford University Press, 1958. [LR:H33.W36, Lounge]

                  Read Randall Collins, "Functional and Conflict Theories of Educational Strat- ification," in Arum and Beattie Reader. (Also pp. 118-136 in Karabel and Halsey.)

Commentator: ___________________________.

2/1             Read Alan Sadovnik, "Theories in the Sociology of Education." Forthcoming in Jeanne Ballantine and Joan Spade (Eds.), Schools and Society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. [Lounge]

Commentator: ____________________.

2/1             Read Samuel Bowels and Herbert Gintis, "Beyond the Educational Frontier: The Great American Dream Freeze," and Emile Durkheim, "The First Element of Morality: The Spirit of Discipline," in Arum and Beattie Reader.


Status Attainment and Social Mobility

2/8             Read Steven Brint. 1998. Schooling and Societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, chs. 6-7. [BS]

Commentator: ______________________________

2/8             Read Pitirim Sorokin, "Social and Cultural Mobility," Ralph H. Turner, "Sponsored and Contest Mobility and the School System," and Peter M. Blau and Otis D. Duncan, "The Process of Stratification" all in Arum and Beattie Reader.


Human and Social Capital

2/8             Read Theodore W. Schultz, "Investment in Human Capital," and James Coleman and Thomas Hoffer, "Schools, Families, and Communities" both in Arum and Beattie Reader.

                  Read Alejandro Portes, "Social Capital: Its Origins and Applications in Modern Sociology," Annual Review in Sociology 24: 1-24. Available at:

Commentator: ___________________________.

Supplemental Reading:

George Farkas, Robert P. Grobe, Daniel Sheehan, and Yuan Shuan. 1990. "Cultural Resources and School Success: Gender, Ethnicity, and Poverty Groups within an Urban School District." American Sociological Review 55:127-142. In Jstor:

Class and Education

2/15             Read Hans-Peter Blossfeld and Yossi Shavit, "Persisting Barriers: Changes in Educational Opportunities in Thirteen Countries." Pp. 1-23 in Yossi Shavit and Hans-Peter Blossfeld (Eds.), Persistent Inequality: Changing Educational Attainment in Thirteen Countries. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 1993. (Also in Arum and Beattie Reader.)
                    Read Richard Arum and Michael Hout, "The Early Returns: The Transition from School to Work in the United States," in Arum and Beattie Reader

Commentator: ___________________________.

2/15             Read Hiroshi Ishida, Walter Muller, and John M. Ridge, "Class Origin, Class Destination, and Education: A Cross-National Study of Ten Industrial Nations," American Journal of Sociology 101(1) (July 1995): 145-93. [Lounge]

Commentator: ___________________________.

2/22             Read Pierre Bourdieu, "Cultural Reproduction and Social Reproduction;" Paul Willis, "Elements of a Culture;" Jay MacLeod, "Teenagers in Clarendon Heights: The Hallway Hangars and the Brothers;" and Annette Lareau, "Social Class Differences in Family-School Relationships: The Importance of Cultural Capital" all in Arum and Beattie Reader.

                    Read Hugh Mehan, "Understanding Inequality in Schools: The Contribution of Interpretive Studies," Sociology of Education 65 (January 1992): 1-20. [Lounge, Jstor:]

Commentator: ______________________________

Supplemental Reading:

Annette Lareau, Home Advantage, New York: Falmer, 1989. [LC225.3.L37]
Sunhwa Lee and Mary C. Brinton, "Elite Education and Social Capital: The Case of South Korea," Sociology of Education 69 (July 1996):177-192. [Lounge]

Esther Ho Sui-Chu and J. Douglas Willms, "Effects of Parental Involvement on Eighth-Grade Achievement," Sociology of Education 69 (April 1996):126-141. [Lounge]

Race and Education:

2/29             Read Gary Orfield, "The Growth of Segregation: African Americans, Latinos, and Unequal Education;" Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu, "Black Students' School Success: Coping with the Burden of 'Acting White;'"Amy Stuart Wells and Robert Crain, "Consumers of Urban Education;" and Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips, "America's Next Achievement Test: Closing the Black-WhiteTest Score Gap" all in Arum and Beattie Reader.

                    Read William Julius Wilson. 1998. "The Role of the Environment in the Black-White Test Score Gap." Ch. 15, pp. 501-10 in Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips (Eds.), The Black-White Test Score Gap. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press. [Lounge].

                    Read Robert D. Mare, "Changes in Educational Attainment and School Enrollment." Pp. 155-213 in Reynolds Farley (ed.). 1995. The State of the Union, Vol. I. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. [Lounge]

                    Read James W. Ainsworth-Darnell and Douglas B. Downey. 1998. "Assessing the Oppositional Cultural Explanation for Racial/Ethnic Differences in School Peformance," American Sociological Review 63:536-553.

Commentator: _____________________________

3/7                 Read Claude S. Fischer et al. 1996. Inequality by Design. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. [BS]

                      Read "Reaching the Top: A Report of the National Task Force on Minority High Achievement." The College Board, 1999. [Lounge]


3/7                 Read Alejandro Portes and Dag MacLeod, "Educational Progress of Children of Immigrants: The Roles of Class, Ethnicity, and School Context," Sociology of Education 69 (October 1996):255-275. [Lounge]

                      Read Sarah Susannah Willie, "Performing Blackness: What African Americans Can Teach Sociology about Race." [Lounge]


Supplemental Reading:

Grace Kao, Marta Tienda, and Barbara Schneider. 1996. "Racial and Ethnic Variation in Academic Performance." Pp. 263-297 in Research in Sociology of Education and Socialization, Vol. 11. Greenwich, Conn., JAI Press.

Stacey J. Lee. 1994. "Behind the Model-Minority Stereotype: Voices of High- and Low-Achieving Asian American Students," Anthropology & Education Quarterly 25: 413-429.

Suarez-Orozco, Marcelo M. 1987. "'Becoming Somebody': Central American Immigrants in U.S. Inner-City Schools." Anthropology & Education Quarterly 18: 287-99.

Claude M. Steele and Joshua Aronson. 1998. "Stereotype Threat and the Test Performance of Academically Successful African Americans," Ch. 11, pp. 401-27, in Christopher Jencks and Meredith Phillips (Eds.), The Black-White Test Score Gap. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Goto, Stanford T. 1997. "Nerds, Normal People and Homeboys: Accomodation and Resistance among Chinese American Students." Anthropology & Education Quarterly 28: 70-84.

Erickson, Frederick. 1987. "Transformation and School Success: The Politics and Culture of Educational Achievement." Anthropology & Education Quarterly 18: 335-56.

Feagin, Joe R., Hernan Vera, and Nikitah Imani. 1996. The Agony of Education: Black Students at White Colleges and Universities. New York: Routledge.

Ogbu, John U. 1994. "Racial Stratification and Education in the United States: Why Inequality Persists." Teachers College Record 96(2): 264-98.

Bowen, William G. and Derek Bok. 1998. The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Gender and Education:

3/21             Read David P. Baker and Deborah Perkins Jones, "Creating Gender Equality: Cross-national Gender Stratification and Mathematical Performance," Sociology of Education 66 (April 1993): 91-103. Jerry Jacobs, "Gender and Academic Specialties: Trends among Recipients of College Degrees in the 1980s," Sociology of Education 68 (April 1995):81-98. Valerie E. Lee, Helen M. Marks, and Tina Byrd, "Sexism in Single-Sex and Coeducational Independent Secondary School Classrooms," Sociology of Education 67 (April 1994):92-120. Caroline Hodges Persell, Carrie James, Trivina Kang, and Karrie Snyder, "Gender and Education in Global Perspective." Pp. 407-440 in Janet S. Chafetz (ed.), Handbook on Gender Sociology. New York: Plenum. 1999.

                   Read David Tyack and Elisabeth Hansot, "The Rising Tide of Coeducation in High School;" Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, "Why Does Jane Read and Write So Well? The Anomaly of Women's Achievement;" Barrie Thorne, "Boys and Girls Together But Mostly Apart;" and Michael Apple, "Teaching and "Women's Work" all in Arum and Beattie Reader.



3/28             Read John Meyer, "Education as an Institution," American Journal of Sociology 83 (July 1977):55-77. Jstor: and Lounge. John W. Meyer and David P. Baker, "Forming American Educational Policy with International Data: Lessons from the Sociology of Education," Sociology of Education, Extra Issue, 1996: 123-130. [Lounge]

                    Read John W. Meyer, W. Richard Scott, David Strang, and Andrew L. Creighton, "Bureaucratization without Centralization: Changes in the Organizational System of U.S. Public Education, 1940-1980;" Joseph Tobin, David Wu, and Dana Davidson, "A Comparative Perspective;" Stephen Brint and Jerome Karabel, "Community Colleges and the American Social Order;" and John Chubb and Terry Moe, "An Institutional Perspective on Schools" all in Arum and Beattie Reader.


Supplemental Reading:

Tom Loveless. 1998. "Uneasy Allies: The Evolving Relationship of School and State." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 20: 1-8.

V.        SCHOOLS

Sectoral Differences:

4/4         Read Peter Cookson and Caroline Hodges Persell, "The Chosen Ones" and Anthony Bryk, Valerie Lee, and Peter Holland, "Classroom Life" in Arum and Beattie Reader.

              Read Bidwell, C.E., Frank, K. A., & Quiroz, P.A. (1997). Teacher types, workplace controls, and the Organization of schools. Sociology of Education, 70, 285-307.

              Read Caroline Hodges Persell. Forthcoming 2000. "Values, Control, and Outcomes in Public and Private Schools." In Maureen Hallinan (Ed.). Handbook of Research in the Sociology of Education. New York: Plenum.

Commentator: _______________________________

Supplemental Reading:

Carol Ascher, Norm Fruchter, and Robert Berne, Hard Lessons: Public Schools and Privatization. 1996. New York: Twentieth Century Fund Press.

Anthony S. Bryk, Valerie E. Lee, and Peter Blakeley Holland. 1993. Catholic Schools and the Common Good. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

William H. Clune and John F. Witte (eds.) 1990. Choice and Control in American Education, Vol. 1: The Theory of Choice and Control in Education. New York: Falmer Press.

Chubb, John E.and Moe, Terry M.. 1991. Politics, Markets, and America's Schools. Washington, D.C.:Brookings Institution.

Cookson, Peter W. and Caroline Hodges Persell. 1985. Preparing for Power: America's Elite Boarding Schools. New York: Basic Books.

E.H. Haertel, T. James, and H.M. Levin (Eds.), Comparing Public and Private Schools: Volume 2: School Achievement. Philadelphia, PA: The Falmer Press.

Thomas James and Henry M. Levin (Eds.), Comparing Public and Private Schools: Volume 1: Institutions and Organizations (pp. 190-217). New York: The Falmer Press.

Marks, H. M. & Lee, V. E. (1994). Public vs private schools: Research controversies. In T. Husen and T. N. Postlethwaite (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of education, Volume 8 (pp. 4839-845). Second Edition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Persell, Caroline Hodges, Cookson, Peter W., Jr., and Catsambis, Sophia. 1992. "Family Background, High School Type, and College Attendance: A conjoint system of cultural capital transmission." Journal of Research on Adolescence 2: 1-23.


4/4         Read Maureen Hallinan, "Tracking: From Theory to Practice;" Jeannie Oakes, "The Distribution of Knowledge;" and Adam Gamoran, "Is Ability Grouping Equitable?" All in Arum and Beattie Reader.

              Read Gamoran, Adam and Mare, Robert D. 1989. "Secondary School Tracking and Educational Inequality: Compensation, Reinforcement or Neutrality?" American Journal of Sociology 94: 1146-1183.

              Read Valerie E. Lee and Anthony S. Bryk. 1988. "Curriculum Tracking as Mediating the Social Distribution of High School Achievement." Sociology of Education 61: 78-94. Jstor:

              Amy Stuart Wells and Jeannie Oakes, "Potential Pitfalls of Systemic Reform: Early Lessons from Research on Detracking," Sociology of Education, Extra Issue, 1996:135-143. [lounge]  Jeannie Oakes and Amy Stuart Wells, “The Comprehensive High School, Detracking, and the Persistence of Social Stratification.” [lounge] and at:


Supplemental Reading:

James D. Jones, Beth E. Vanfossen, and Margaret E. Ensminger, "Individual and Organizational Predictors of High School Track Placement," Sociology of Education 68 (October 1995):287-300.

Samuel R. Lucas. 1999. Tracking Inequality: Stratification and Mobility in American High Schools. New York: Teachers College Press.

Hugh Mehan, Irene Villanueva, Lea Hubbard, and Angela Lintz. 1996. Constructing School Success: The Consequences of Untracking Low Achieving Students. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Frederick R. Mosteller, Richard J. Light, and Jason A. Sachs. 1996. "Sustained Inquiry in Education: Lesssons from Skill Grouping and Class Size." Harvard Educational Review 66 (Winter):797-842. For the abstract go to:

Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Control:

4/11             Read Steven Brint. 1998. Schooling and Societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, ch. 8, "Teaching and Learning in Comparative Perspective." [BS]

                    Read Mary Metz, "Classroom Interaction: Principled Conflict," in Arum and Beattie Reader.

                    Read Richard M. Ingersoll. 1994. "Organizational Control in Secondary Schools." Harvard Educational Review 64 (Summer): 150-172. For the abstract go to:


                    Read Aaron Benavot, Yun-Kyung Cha, David Kamens, John W. Meyer, and Suk-Ying Wong. 1991. "Knowledge for the Masses: World Models and National Curricula, 1920-1986." American Sociological Review 56:85-100. In Jstor:

                    Read Ann Swidler and Jorge Arditi. 1994. "New Sociology of Knowledge." Annual Review of Sociology 20: 305-29. [Lounge]

Commentator: ____________________________

Supplemental Readings:

Elizabeth Cohen , "On the Sociology of the Classroom." In Jane Hannaway and Marlene E. Lockheed (Eds), The Contributions of the Social Sciences to Educational Policy and Practice: 1965-1985.  Berkeley: McCutchan, 1986, pp. 127-162.

_______.1994. Designing Groupwork: Strategies for the Heterogeneous Classroom. 2nd ed. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

Cohen, Elizabeth G. Working for Equity in Heterogeneous Classrooms: Sociological Theory in Practice. New York : Teachers College Press, 1997.

John W. Meyer. 1992. School Knowledge for the Masses: World Models and National Primary Curricular Categories in the Twentieth Century. Washington, DC : Falmer Press, 1992.


4/18         Read Steven Brint. 1998. Schooling and Societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, ch. 9, "School Reform and the Possibilities of Schooling." [BS]

                Read Peter Cookson, "Reformers and Revolutionaries: The Drama of Deregulation" and David Berliner and Bruce Biddle, "Why Now?" in Arum and Beattie Reader.

                Read David Tyack and Larry Cuban. 1995. Selection from Tinkering Toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [Lounge]

Commentator: _______________________


4/25             First set of final presentations, by:





5/2             Second set of final presentations by:






Cooperative learning in education
Home schooling
Adult and/or continuing education
Technology and Education: Will technologies change the practice of education?
Charter Schools
School Choice
Programs that enhance minority student educational success
Effects of early childhood education
Efforts at fiscal reform in education
Supplemental educational programs and institutions

These topics need to be formulated into sociological problems, i.e., a case needs to be mde for what is sociologically problematic about the topic.


         The course is designed to introduce you to the sociology of education subject matter and to hone your scholarly skills.  The latter include reading critically and expressing your ideas orally and in writing, scanning and critically evaluating research literature, assessing the state of knowledge about a problem, and generating ideas for further research.

         Consequently, in addition to the core readings, the course entails oral and written commentaries on those readings, and a final paper on the state of knowledge about a particular problem in the field and proposed directions for future research.  All of your work must be completed on-time.  No late work will be accepted.


         Each set of one or more core readings will have a commentator who will begin the discussion by 1) briefly summarizing the major ideas in the work(s), 2) making constructively critical comments about the strengths and limitations of the work(s), 3) linking it to other readings, and 4) raising a series of questions for class discussion.  These comments will be delivered orally in class.  In general, the written version should be about two to four pages long.  However, your comments should not be read in class, they should be spoken.  The typed, double-spaced written version is to be turned in the day it is delivered.  I will provide feedback on your commentaries.

Final  Paper:

         Your final paper can be either a review and synthesis of the state of knowledge about a particular problem in the sociology of education with ideas about further research that is needed or an original research report.  Please give me a written statement of the problem you would like to explore no later than February 1.
         In doing your paper, you should draw relevant citations from Sociofile, Social Science Citation Index, from Robert Dreeben's extensive bibliography, and from other germane sources and current sources, including research papers published on the world wide web.  The paper will review the issues and literature in a problem area with respect to: 1)  The theoretical, methodological, and policy issues the particular problem raises.  2)  What research is needed on the topic.  3)  Your ideas about how that research might be done.  (What data are needed?  Do such data exist?  If not, how might those data be obtained?  How might they be analyzed?)  If you do an original research report, it should follow the standard research paper format found in such journals as Sociology of Education, American Sociological Review, or American Journal of Sociology.  Please follow the American Sociological Association style guide.
        The final paper is due without fail on April 25.

Office Hours:

 My office hours are Mondays from 3:30-4:30, Tuesdays from 2:30 to 3:30, and other times by appointment.  My office is Room 441 in 269 Mercer Street, phone number is 998-8350.  You can also contact me on e-mail, either at: or on the department network at:


 Your final grade for the course will be based on the following:

                Commentaries, presentations, and class participation          50%

                 Final paper and presentation                                                50%


                                                                                           TOTAL      100%