Parentocracy Revisited: Still a Relevant Concept for Understanding Middle Class Educational Advantage?
In this paper, we revisit Brown’s (Br J Soc Educ 14: 65–85, 1990) concept of parentocracy which has been informatively applied in educational research in a number of studies in various countries internationally—but almost none in North America. We provide an expanded conceptualization of parentocracy and suggest that it provides a useful encapsulation of a number of similar, and/or complementary, conceptual approaches to understanding middle class educational advantage. Our expanded conceptualization of parentocracy stems from Brown’s (Br J Soc Educ 14: 65–85, 1990) original use, but encompasses both a socio-political ideology that favors parental sovereignty and market solutions in education, as well as a proactive interventionist parenting style premised on fostering child development (and strategically optimizing life opportunities) through structured, progressive skill-enhancing educational and extra-curricular experiences. We offer a discussion of a number of studies that can be seen to exemplify, either expressly or implicitly, these parentocratic tendencies. Finally, using the examples of Schools of Choice policy and French immersion schools in the Canadian province of Manitoba, we explore the implications of parentocratic practices for educational inequality and social reproduction in the 2010s.
KeywordsParentocracy Educational inequality Social reproduction Educational policy School choice French immersion Parental capital
The authors declare that they received no funding for the present article.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Ball, S. (2006). Education policy and social class: The selected works of Stephen J. Ball. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Bastiani, J. (1993). Parents as partners: Genuine progress or empty rhetoric? In P. Munn (Ed.), Parents and schools: Customers, mangers or partners (pp. 101–116). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Bourdieu, P. (1974). School as a conservative force: scholastic and cultural inequalities. In J. Eggleston (Ed.), Contemporary research in the sociology of education (pp. 32–46). London: Methuen.Google Scholar
- Bourdieu, P. (1997). The forms of capital. (R. Nice, Trans.). In A. Halsey, H. Lauder, P. Brown, & A. Stuart Wells (Eds.), Education: Culture, economy, society (pp. 46–58). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (Reprinted from Handbook of theory of research for the sociology of education, pp. 241–258, by J. Richardson, Ed., 1986, Westport, CT: Greenword Press).Google Scholar
- Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J.-C. (1990). Reproduction in education, society and culture (2nd ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Canadian Council on Learning (CCL). (2007). 2007 Survey of Canadian attitudes toward learning: Results for elementary and secondary school learning. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Council on Learning. Retrieved from http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/SCAL/2007/SCAL_Report_English_final.pdf.
- Chen, H. (2013). Micro-political analysis of the principal selection in a Taiwanese elementary school. Educational Research and Reviews, 8(21), 2007–2010.Google Scholar
- Coffey, A. (2001). Education and social change. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
- Coleman, J. (1997). Social capital in the creation of human capital. In A. Halsey, H. Lauder, P. Brown, & A. Stuart Wells (Eds.), Education: Culture, economy, society (pp. 80–95). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (Reprinted from American Journal of Sociology, pp. S95–S120, 94, Supplement 1988).Google Scholar
- Comer, J., & Haynes, N. (1991). Parental involvement in schools: An ecological approach. Elementary School Journal: Special Issue: Educational Partnerships: Home-School Community, 91(3), 271–277.Google Scholar
- Conway, S. (1997). The reproduction of exclusion and disadvantage: Symbolic violence and social class inequalities in ‘parental choice’ of secondary education. Sociological Research Online, 2(4). Retrieved from http://www.socresonline.org.uk/2/4/4.html.
- David, M. (1993). Parents, gender and educational reform. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
- David, M., West, A., & Ribbens, J. (1994). Mother’s intuition? Choosing secondary schools. London, UK: Falmer.Google Scholar
- Davies, S., Aurini, J., & Quirke, L. (2002). New markets for private education in Canada. Education Canada, 42(4), 36–38.Google Scholar
- Dehli, K. (2009). ‘Race’, ‘parents’, and education policy discourse in Ontario. In C. Levine-Rasky (Ed.), Canadian perspectives on the sociology of education (pp. 323–337). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Donahoo, S. (2009). Further deferring the dream: How privileged parents prevent the effectiveness of affirmative action. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 53rd Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Charleston, SC. Retrieved from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p297862_index.html.
- Eckler, R. (2015, April 12). The new tutor dynasty. Maclean’s. Retrieved from http://www.macleans.ca/education/the-new-tutor-dynasty/.
- Epstein, J. (1983). Longitudinal effects of family–school–person interactions on student outcomes. Research in Sociology of Education and Socialization, 4, 101–127.Google Scholar
- Fine, M. (1997). [Ap]parent involvement: Reflections on parents, power, and urban public schools. In A. Halsey, H. Lauder, P. Brown, & A. Stuart Wells (Eds.), Education: Culture, economy, society (pp. 460–475). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. (Reprinted from Teachers College Record, pp. 682–710, 94, 1993).Google Scholar
- Fujita, H. (2010). Whither Japanese schooling? Educational reforms and their impact on ability formation and educational opportunity. In J. Gordon (Ed.), Challenges to Japanese education: Economics and human rights (pp. 17–53). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
- Government of Canada. (1982). Canadian charter of rights and freedoms. Retrieved from http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection/CH37-4-3-2002E.pdf.
- Hardin, G. (1999). The tragedy of the commons. In Mark J. Smith (Ed.), Thinking through the environment: A reader (pp. 251–259). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Hess, R., & Holloway, S. (1984). Family and school as educational institutions. In R. Parke (Ed.), Review of child development research (Vol. 7, pp. 179–222)., The family Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Hutchins, A. (2015). Just say ‘non’: The problem with French immersion. Maclean’s, 128(12), 16–20. Retrieved from http://www.macleans.ca/education/just-say-non-the-problem-with-french-immersion.
- Kachur, J. (1999). Privatizing public choice: The rise of charter schooling in Alberta. In T. Harrison & J. Kachur (Eds.), Contested classrooms: Education, globalization and democracy in Alberta (pp. 107–122). Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press.Google Scholar
- Lareau, A. (2000). Home advantage: Social class and parental intervention in elementary education. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods: Class, race and family life (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Lareau, A., & Cox, A. (2011). Social class and the transition to adulthood: Differences in parents’ interactions with institutions. In M. Carlson & P. England (Eds.), Social class and changing families in an unequal America (pp. 134–164). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Lareau, A., & Shumar, W. (1996). The problem of individualism in family-school policies. Sociology of Education: Extra Issue: Special Issue on Sociology and Educational Policy: Bringing Scholarship and Practice Together, 69, 24–39.Google Scholar
- Lareau, A., & Weininger, E. (2008). Class and the transition to adulthood. In A. Lareau & D. Conley (Eds.), Social class: How does it work? (pp. 118–151). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Makropoulos, J. (2009). Gaining access to late French-immersion programs: Class-based perspectives of Canadian students in an Ottawa high school. Bilingual Research Journal: The Journal of the National Association for Bilingual Education, 32(3), 317–330. doi: 10.1090/152358809003378941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Manitoba Education. (2014). Schools in Manitoba: Schools of choice. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/schools/choice/.
- Martin, N. (2014, November 17). WSD chairman spurns idea of school swap: French program running our of program space. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/wsd-chairman-spurns-idea-of-school-swap-282901881.html.
- Martin, N. (2015, June 29). French-language education needs prompt action: St. James-Assiniboia eyes more changes. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/french-language-education-needs-prompt-action-310589491.html.
- Ong, A. (2014, Mar. 30). Beware growing ‘parentocracy’: NIE don. The Sunday Times. Retrieved from http://4i14i2el2014.wiki.hci.edu.sg/file/view/20140330-st-beware-growing-parentocracy.pdf.
- Power, S., & Whitty, G. (2006). Education and the middle class: A complex but crucial case for the sociology of education. In H. Lauder, P. Brown, J. Dillabough, & A. Halsey (Eds.), Education, globalization and social change (pp. 446–453). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- van Zanten, A., & Darchy-Koechlin, B. (2005). Parentocracie et marché contre méritocratie. Le Monde de l’éducation, 340, 18–19.Google Scholar
- Weber, M. (1978). Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology. G. Roth & C. Wittich (Eds.). Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press (Original work published in 1956).Google Scholar
- Wrigley, J. (2000). Foreword. In A. Lareau (Ed.), Home advantage: Social class and parental intervention in elementary education (pp. viii–xvi). New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Yamashita, J. & Ohmori, A. (2009). Assessing the evidence of school choice: A case study of Japan using a statistical model. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 53rd Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society, Charleston, SC. Retrieved from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p302778_index.html.