How can we improve educational access and opportunity for today’s students?
A new volume edited by Barbara Schneider, renowned sociologist and education scholar at Michigan State University, concentrates on answering this question across a range of perspectives.
The “Handbook of the Sociology of Education in the 21st Century” delves deeply into current issues and populations of students that have long been overlooked. Importantly, says sociologist and president of the William T. Grant Foundation Adam Gamoran in the foreword, the authors explore theories, research and reforms that could reduce inequality in the K-16 education system.
“The strength of this volume is that it examines specific strategies to improve access and opportunity in areas ranging from school-family relationships to charter schools to community colleges and alternative certification programs and other domains,” he writes.
“Perhaps uniquely among the social science disciplines, sociologists have a role to play in exploring the structural foundations of inequality, demonstrating that reducing gaps is not merely a matter of providing equal access, but of dismantling and reconstructing the social structures that create unequal access in the first place.”
Covering new ground
Schneider’s publication encompasses a new range of topics, representing changes in demographics and the intersectionality of gender, race, ethnicity and social class in students’ lives, since a previous handbook was edited by Maureen Hallinan nearly 20 years ago.
Issues facing groups that have not received enough attention in the past, including undocumented immigrants, first-generation college students and those from the LGBTQ community, each receive their own chapter.
The 25-chapter handbook, published by Springer in 2018, pays particular attention to recent changes in types of schools as organizations, and considers the role of families in children’s education from preschool through postsecondary education.
The transition from school to the world of work, the changing landscape of higher education, and its impact on students, is explored in depth.
There also is a section covering new methodological work for studying social systems.
“This is not your traditional sociology of education volume; it is not narrow in its scope,” writes Schneider, John. A Hannah University Distinguished Professor, in the handbook preface. “It is forward-thinking and captures the issues that are now facing education, threading back to their provenance, and weaving them into a matrix that has cross-disciplinary interest … The message is one that reinforces why we need to be vigilant in addressing how inequities in schools are manifested in the educational system.”
The major emphasis of all the chapters is that it is the social context of education that forms and shapes educational opportunities.Barbara Schneider
Empowering new scholars
The handbook can be used to inform policymakers, and for students taking undergraduate or graduate courses.
Schneider asked each invited chapter author to also select a promising graduate student or newly minted colleague to join them as a co-author—thus empowering the next generation of sociologists of education.
Her associate editor was one of her former advisees Guan Saw, a Ph.D. graduate of the MSU Measurement and Quantitative Methods program who is now at University of Texas at San Antonio.