This month’s digital theme is Sociology in Schools. The social spaces of education are part of, interact with, and reveal assumptions of the arrangements and formation of adult social worlds. Sociological accounts of schools, schooling and education have done a great deal to illuminate the ways in which social divisions are maintained, reproduced, and legitimated through education; the overwriting of existing inequalities is a finding in many critical studies of education. The labour of teachers and students (and its affective impacts) is work ripe for sociological inquiry, and in the current context – with many schools worldwide closed due to the pandemic – home-schooling, digital learning, and domestic-education sites have become increasingly visible topics for potential study.
When we first talked about this as a theme for the month though, we weren’t thinking about schooling just as an area of sociological study. Rather, we were thinking about getting sociological study into schools, with students at the helm. We’re curious about how sociologists might engage school-aged children and young adults with their findings, and how sociology can be a useful – and possibly transformative tool – in education settings, when in the hands of students themselves. The next generation will shape all of our social futures, and the youth strikes for climate are a very apt example of their capacity and willingness to do so. For academic sociologists, thinking about how to make research useful for teachers and accessible to classroom learning is one way of ensuring research with impact.
We’re thrilled to put a spotlight on Steve McQueen’s Year 3 project, a collaboration between Tate, Art Angel and A New Direction, on our Instagram this August. We will be introducing the project on the blog on Monday. In order to think sociologically with Year 3 we invited school-aged children in UK and Chinese school settings to respond to them. Our Instagram will showcase the images, alongside quotes from these 7-10 year olds. In the accompanying blog post we introduce the sociological analysis contained in these responses. We thank Tate for their kind permission to share the images, and all the students and teachers who thought so carefully with them.
Throughout the month, we’re also excited to welcome various sociologists to the blog, all of whom are exploring very different takes on the month’s theme. Alice Abrey writes on space and sound in the classroom, investigating student wellbeing through ethnography and LEGO in the UK. Niyousha Bastani’s post interrogates whiteness and the tactics of its over-representation in higher education. Manal Massalha stretches the idea of school to include democratic public spaces and places in an introduction to her visual sociological work in London. Kirsty Morrin draws out the neo-liberal character of the academies arrangement, which blurs distinctions between the public and private in schools in the UK. An interview with Alex Buckley from the Sociology on the Syllabus campaign rounds off the month’s posts.
We have also created a set of educational resources aimed at A-level students and first year undergraduates, each one introducing a sociologist that members of the editorial board wished they’d learned about in school. These profiles will be posted throughout this month and the next. We look forward to reading who you would have picked on social media, and hearing your thoughts on the month’s theme as always. Each month we make a series of papers from The Sociological Review’s archive which relate to our digital theme free to access. This month we have Sumi Hollingworth on social mixing in urban schools, Patricia Allatt on schooling as a commodity and a gift, and Bridget Byrne and Carla De Tona on how parents talk about choosing secondary schools.
Finally, if you are interested in writing for our blog; we’d love to hear from you. The four themes for the remainder of this year are texture, food, methodology, and an open call for postgraduate researchers. For the last couple of months, our submissions have been predominantly from the UK and the US, and if you’re reading this elsewhere, we’d actively encourage you to consider submitting . We welcome submissions from those using English as an additional language and will provide support to those who may need assistance adjusting their work in written English to a publishable standard. If your research relates to a community for whom English is not the only or main language, please state this in your application as we will explore the possibility of having your blog post translated into the other relevant languages as well.
Meanwhile, we extend our solidarity to all of you. Many of us are still in isolation: social distancing or shielding through national or personal necessity. Lots of our colleagues in education – precariously employed – have lost their jobs or face great uncertainty. We know this continues to be a challenging time, and are grateful for the online community we have with all of you. We hope you enjoy this month’s content.
– The Digital Team