Journal Article: The Clouded Crystal Ball: Trends in Educational Stratification


EDUCATIONAL sociology, SOCIAL structure, EDUCATIONAL equalization, EDUCATIONAL change, EDUCATION -- United States


Alexander, Karl L.




This paper presents the author's opinion on articles about educational stratification and inequalities in the 2001 issue of Sociology of Education. Things look the way they do in the U.S. owing to a school-quality floor that comes with a high standard of living. Different systems of certification involving examinations and licensing are embedded in different systems of schooling and must be understood by means of conceptualizations that respect the systemic context. But to claim that the structure and functioning of an education system is less determinant does not necessarily mean that individuals are freer to choose their own fate or that the stratification system within which that educational system is embedded is less rigid for that reason. In his article, Adam Gamoran alludes to the distinction between school practices that contribute to educational effectiveness and school practices that contribute to educational equality. But even if schools are the second-best option for reform, they at least are an option and we probably know more than is generally appreciated about how to make the education process work better for disadvantaged children. In a sense, effective school reform is an attempt to impose the unnatural and that poses formidable challenges.


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