Class Rules: Exposing Inequality in American High Schools (EdSector Archive)
30 August 2013 | by Peter W. Cookson Jr.
Class Rules challenges the popular myth that American high schools are “the great equalizers” and demonstrates how these schools create enduring inequality through their socialization processes.
Peter Cookson, Jr. compares the cultures and curricula of five high schools that have contrasting social class compositions: an elite boarding school and public schools in a wealthy suburb, a middle-class neighborhood, a working-class rural community, and a low-income urban community. He describes how the structure, rites of passage, and class consciousness in each school reproduce social class inequality. It shows that students undergo different class rites of passage depending on the social—class composition of the high schools they attend, and where they go to high school is a major influence on their social class trajectory.
“A superb job of analyzing the powerful forces in our schools that reinforce the racial, ethnic, and social class structures our nation hopes to overcome. Breaking out of one's social class was always hard, but may now be harder than in previous decades. Cookson reminds us what high schools can be, the great equalizers, institutions for promoting America's finest values.” —David Berliner, Regents' professor emeritus, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University
“This highly readable and original book illuminates why we don’t have open class warfare in our society, despite huge inequalities. Peter Cookson humanizes the abstract concept of social class, showing how schools reproduce classes through institutional practices that forge class-‐ based consciousness. He also suggests how education might be changed.” —Caroline H. Persell, professor emerita, New York University
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