Syllabus for Sociology of Education

Sociology 320-01, Spring 2004

Wynne 116





Welcome to Sociology of Education. Thank you for taking this course. I look forward to a pleasant and productive semester.




Kenneth B. Perkins, Professor of Sociology (at Longwood since 1984)

Former Member Prince Edward County Board of Education (July 1991-- June 1999)

Office in 106 C 



Office Hours: MW 2:00--3:30; TR 2:3:00 P.M. and by appointment. 


Teaching Schedule: MWF  9:00-9:50, 11-11:50; TR 9:30-10:45; 12:30-1:45


Course Description:


SOCIOLOGY 320. Sociology of Education. Sociology of Education examines the structure and process of education in contemporary society.  The primary focus is on U.S. public education.  Topics include the contribution of sociology to understanding education and teaching; the relationship of education to other institutions such as the family, government, religion, and the economy; demographic changes that affect education; the effect of social class on student achievement and teaching; formal and informal positions, roles and processes in schools; and consideration of current issues such as school funding, compensatory and special education programs, race and gender issues, and educational reform movements.  Prerequisite:

SOCL 101 or 102, or permission of instructor. 3 credits.



Course Homepage:



Course Orientation, University Mission and Objectives:


The somewhat practical orientation of this course is toward the sociology major and especially to the liberal studies student as you plan for a career in the teaching profession. The guiding idea was to pull together research on the dominant cultural, political, legal, and organizational issues, which will likely have a big impact on your role as teacher in the years to come.  Many forms of education will be mentioned, but public education from K-12 will be the main focus.


Sociology 320 fits with the overall mission of the university: "Longwood University is an institution of higher learning dedicated to the development of citizen leaders who are prepared to make positive contributions to the common good of society." (If teachers, and teachers to be, from Longwood University are not considered citizen leaders, I don’t know who would be.)


The course has several objectives:


·        To teach you about the role of authority in the profession of teaching and within the school organizational context;

·        To teach you how education as an institutions interacts with other social institutions like family, government and religion;

·        To teach you the basics of educational funding and its impact on school resources;

·        To teach you about Prince Edward's role in civil rights and integrated public education and in funding of schools;

·        To continue to hone your research, writing and verbal skills so that you will be a role model for your students and fellow teachers;

·        To teach you about role strain and role conflict as it relates to students, teachers, bus drivers, and parents,

·        To teach you about the role of peer culture, race, gender, and social class as they impact students and teachers;

·        To help you become familiar with recent federal education legislations (No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, signed into law on Jan. 8, 2002)



Required Materials:


DeMarrais, Kathleen B. and Margaret D. LeCompte, The Way Schools Work:  A Sociological Analysis of Education, 3rd Edition. New York:  Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1999.


Other sources we may utilize include:


The Richmond Times Dispatch (

Phi Delta Kappan (

Education Week (

Virginia School Board Association emails and web site (

The Policy Action Network (

The American Prospect Magazine Online (

The National Center for Educational Statistics’ Common Core of Data (



Note About The Structure and Flow of the Course:


The chapters in the textbook do not provide the structure of this course.  The course is structured in parts and units based on the course description.  The textbook provides substantive material for these units.  You will find that text chapters are not covered in the order they are presented in the text.  This is by design to fit the four large “parts” of the course.  We will take longer with some units than with others, and thus the timing of the relevancy of specific chapters of the text will vary. The textbook will provide some material for me for in-class presentations, but it is mainly your responsibility to read it. 


A Blackboard has been posted for the course and will be used for announcements and other communications.  This syllabus can be found there and other details about the course will be distributed via Blackboard and the homepage for the course. 


University Policies in Force:


If it comes to my attention that you are exhibiting a blatant disregard for class attendance, I reserve the right to apply the Longwood University Attendance Policy in full measure.  One other policy in force in this course, as you expect it to be, is the Longwood University Honor Code.  While “pledging” your work is not mandatory, I would encourage you to do so.  It is assumed that any and all work undertaken and produced in this class (whether explicitly pledged or not) as well as your behavior are subject to the Honor Code.


Speakers and Activities:


I plan to have at least one "expert" come to class, probably a local division superintendent of public education.  Also, I would like for us to take a little field trip to the Moton School, if you are not already familiar with its role in desegregation and the Civil Rights struggle.  This is the 50th anniversary of the famous Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.  To the extent we can we will take advantage of events surrounding this anniversary.


Please feel free to suggest guest speakers that you think could contribute to our course.




There is a “reflection” assignment and a project I would like for you to do in fulfilling the course requirements.  The “reflection assignment” is due very soon.  I ask you do to this so that I can have a sense of previous experiences and, for the liberal studies major, some of the factors that have caused you to consider teaching.


Reflection Assignment:  Due Thursday,  January 22, 2004


For everybody, regardless of major:






For Liberal Studies. Physical Ed., Special Education Folks and anyone else planning to teach, continue with this:


Please take a moment and reflect of what might be your three greatest fears about becoming a teacher and offer a paragraph or two of commentary on each about why you feel this way.  Then, take a moment and list what you believe will be the three greatest rewards that you look forward to in your new profession and a bit of commentary on each about why these would be enough of a positive force to offset your fears.


Please type these out for me.  I am not worried about how much sociology you can work into your responses. You cannot get these questions wrong.  I am asking them because I want to know something important about you and your experiences and thoughts about education.  Have fun with this, but give the questions some serious reflection as you write.


NOTE:  I would like for you to get into the habit of using an explicit heading structure for your form written work.  Start with this assignment by using an ‘Introduction’ (which contains the purpose of your paper and how the reader will find it to be organized). Follow with other appropriate headings and finish with a ‘Conclusion’ that is both a summary and questions that the reader might use for further reflection on what you have said.  I will grade this mainly on how well you cover the topics in the assignment and its organization.


Course Final Project:  Due April 15


The project is interesting, timely, and something probably new for you:  reading one of the most consequential congressional acts in our history.  It is the congressional reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  This time, the Act (known as H.R. 1, No Child Left Behind Act) has a distinct Republican stamp to it.  It has potentially far-reaching consequences for schools and teachers.  If you are planning on teaching, your knowledge of this Act will be a very attractive feature to an employer.


The project has basically four tasks. 



So, with this project, I can foresee an 8-12 total page paper that covers each part above.  The paper must in some way integrate relevant chapter material from the text.  You are free to use, in addition to your text, academic sources from other courses. Since this Act is really about leveling the playing field for disadvantaged children, you should find it easy to see connections with your book and with our in-class material.


Note About Student Participation:


From time to time I will ask for volunteers to present interesting material.  The whole class benefits when students have a formal role in the course. 




Evaluation will be based on:


·        Reflection Assignment     (50 points)

·        Mid Term Exam               (100 points)

·        Final Exam                     (100 points)

·        Project                   (100 points)


350 Total Points




Basic Parts and Assignments of the Course by Week


*Note that I may assign a few very recent articles that are published in journals or magazines on the Web.  I can post these assignments on Blackboard with links so that you don’t have to worry with keeping up with very long web addresses.  If you want to browse a very good magazine, look at the American Prospect


(Note: The time spent on each unit will vary.  The quantity and quality of discussion is a factor, as you would expect.)  


Weeks 1-3 (Jan. 12—Jan. 30); 


Part 1:            Sociological Tools for Understanding Education


Text:            Chapter 1:  “Theory and Its Influences on the Purposes of Schooling”

Text:            Chapter 2 Material on Bureaucracy and Scientific Management


Unit 1:             Dominant Sociological Theoretical Perspectives on Education and Society

Unit 2:            Functions of Education and Interaction of Education with other Institutions and

Attendant Demographic Forces


Unit 3:             Types of Authority in School (Chapter 2 material on bureaucracy and scientific

management important here)

Unit 4:  The Concept of Social Capital Applied to Education


            Suggested Library Source:

            "A Little Help From My Friend's Parents:  Intergenerational Closure and Education

Outcomes." (Sociology of Education, 71, October, 1998)


Weeks 4-7 (Feb. 2—Feb. 27)


Part 2:  Schooling in Social, Economic, and Political Context


            Text: Chapter 2:  “The Social Organization of Schooling”

                     Chapter 4:  “The Labor Force in Education:  Teachers, Counselors, Administrators,

                        And Ancillary Staff”


            Unit 1:            The “Landscape” of Education,” and the Social Organization of Schooling (material

from Chapter 2)

Unit 2: How Desegregation Came About and How it Changed and is Changing the “Landscape” Video: "Equality Under the Law:  The Lost Generation of Prince Edward County"

Unit 3:             The School Budget: Local, State and Federal Roles in Funding (material from

            Chapter 2)

Unit 4: Bureaucracy, Professionalism and Scientific Management:  Deskilling of Professionals or Good Management Sense? (material from Chapter 4)

            Unit 5:            Video:  “Children in America's Schools”


            This would be a good time to start reading the No Child Left Behind Act.    


Suggested Library Source:

"How Money Matters:  The Effects of School District Spending on Academic Achievement."  (S of E, 70, July, 1997)


[Mid-Term Exam After All of the Preceding Material.]


Weeks 8—10 (March 1—March 19;  Spring Break is the week of March 8)


Part 3:  A Sociological Analysis of the ‘Curricula’ in Schools


Text:  Chapter 6:  “What is Taught in Schools:  Curriculum and the Stratification of Knowledge”


            Unit 1:  The Formal, Informal and Hidden Curriculum


Suggested Library Sources:

            "Tracking and Transitions through the Middle Grades:  Channeling Educational

                        Trajectories."  (S of E, 69, 4, 1996)

“Sociodemographic Diversity, Correlated Achievement, and De Facto Tracking” (Sociology

of Education, 75, October  2002)

            “Educational Battlefields in America:  The Tug-of-War over Students’ Engagement with

                        Instruction” (Sociology of Education, 73, October 2002)



Weeks 11—15 (March 22—April 23)


Part 4: Social Class, Peer Culture, Race and Gender Issues in Schooling      


            Text:            Chapter 5:  “Social Class and its Relationship to Education”

Chapter 3:  “Youth Culture and the Student Peer Group

                        Chapter 7:  “Ethnic Minorities:  Equality of Educational Opportunity”

                        Chapter 8:  “Gender Equity in Schooling”


            Unit 1:  Social Class of Families and its Effects in Education

            Unit 2:            Popular Culture, Street Culture, and School “Climate”

            Unit 3:            Race and Ethnic Issues

            Unit 4:            Gender Issues in Schooling


            Suggested library sources:


            "Extracurricular Activities and High School Dropouts."  (S of E, 68, 1, 1995)

            "Changes in the Black-White Gap in Achievement Test Scores  (S of E, 72, April, 1999)

            "Factors Contributing to the Academic Excellence of American Jewish and Asian

                        American Students."  (S of E, 68, 1, 1995)

            "Marginality Theory and the African American Student."  (S of E, 70, July, 1997)

            "Are Students Being Pulled Out of High School?  The Effect of Adolescent Employment

                        On Dropping Out."  (S of E, 70, July, 1997)

            "From First Grade Forward:  Early Foundations of High School Dropout."  (S of E,

                                    70, April, 1997)

            "Nerds to Normals" (Sociology of Education, 66, 1, 1993)

            Virginia Department of Education's Policy on Uniforms

            "The Meaning of Meanness:  Popularity, Competition, and Conflict among Junior

                        High School Girls."  (S of E, 70, July, 1997)

            “Race, Cultural Capital, and Schooling:  An Analysis of Trends in the United States”

                        (Sociology of Education, 69, January 1996)

            “’Moving On’:  Residential Mobility and Children’s School Lives” (Sociology of Education,

72, April 1998)

            “Cultural Capital, Gender, and School Success:  The Role of Habitus” (Sociology of

Education, 75, January 2002)


            “The Service Ethic and Teaching”  (Sociology of Education, 69, July 1996)