Brock University

Education Omnibus: Schools and inequality

This session features research in the area of education with a focus on schools and inequality.

Session Organizer: Janice Aurini, University of Waterloo,


Sociology of caste/ism, education and inequality

Dip Kapoor, University of Alberta,

Developed from a current review of the theoretical and empirical literature on caste/ism,education and inequality in India,this paper proposes a need for a different theoretical-analytical approach to caste/ism,education and inequality research which considers both structural and agency-related concerns. Empirical studies are referenced in relation to the same to illustrate the contemporary manifestations of caste/ism in schooling in India and it's socio-educational impacts and the implications for re-thinking approaches to sociological research/studies of casteism,education and inequality.


Youth "At Risk," Safe Schools, and Educational Inequality

Naomi Nichols, York University, , Alison Griffith, York University,

This paper describes emerging findings from year one of a five-year community-based research project on schooling and community safety. Building on our previous institutional ethnographic research on mothering for schooling, alternative education for homeless youth, and the social organization of Safe Schools processes, our curent project highlights the policies and processes through which young people become systematically disconnected from/within their communities and disengaged from school. Specifically, our research seeks to document and analyze the inter-institutional work processes, policies, and procedures for promoting community safety from the standpoint of young people who live in the neighbourhood and who have been institutionally designated as “unsafe” through dove-tailing youth justice and safe schools processes.

In this presentation, we will describe the project’s objectives and central research questions; explain how this project builds on findings from previous institutional ethnographic work that we have done together and individually; outline our research activities to date; discuss emerging methodological and theoretical insights; and then share key findings from our first year of research. We will end our presentation with a description of current and future work to use project findings to carve out and initiate an agenda for change.




There may be no ‘I’ in Team, but there is in Time: Queer Temporalities

Stephany Peterson, University of New Brunswick,

The research seeks to consider the notions of queer and heteronormative temporalities, relative to socially constructed aspects of sex and gender.  These perspectives are contextualized within the frameworks of the field of critical thinking, further positioned within Dewey’s microcosm of society: the school.  
Employing value-laden language calls for finding a vernacular that makes accessible these concepts so that priority can be placed on problematizing the concept, not the term of reference.  Orienting oneself within the research by considering the vernacular that surrounds it is a method by which to begin developing a comprehensive perspective of the topic.
In a sea of ‘isms’, the word feminism has become a pivoting point of reference; similarly with critical thinking, the root of the problem with the lack of concrete definition is that notions of oppression defined and examined without contextual reference to the other systemic forces at work fail to recognize the aspects of power and dominance that function to perpetuate the oppression.  Isolating the ‘female problem’ positions people in a within - or without - dichotomy.  
It is in the spirit of problematizing something as taken for granted as language designations that this research considers sex, gender, critical thinking, and the school.


Inclusivity, equity and the public school system: Challenges from non-normative gender and sexual identities

Wendy Chappel, York University, , Paul Ferraro, York University   ,

The public school system is under continual public and political scrutiny to define and execute their mandate of inclusivity and equity. Most recently challenges to this mandate have been centered on the discrimination of non-normative sexual orientations and gender identities. Characterized by the sensitive nature and public discomfort surrounding the area of children’s sexuality, these challenges are further complicated by increasing incidents of homophobic bullying occurring within the school environment. The recent highly publicized case of Coy Mathis, a 6-year-old MTF transgender, who won the right to use the girls bathroom at Eagleside Elementary School in Oregon, Colorado (2013) demonstrates the contentious and complex nature of these issues. This essay will argue that these limited accommodations mandated by the courts substantiate the resistance by the school system and public to acknowledge unique identities and exposes the heteronormative legacy that continues to limit the way equity policies are interpreted and enacted. What appears to be an accommodation is in fact an institutional strategy to contain, regulate and silence a small population that challenges the heteronormative logics of gender and disrupts the way the education system operates.


The Dilemmas of a Bureaucratic Intellectual: Memorial University’s First Sociologist

Stephen Riggins, Memorial University Department of Sociology,

Memorial University’s first sociologist, Donald Willmott, was cross-appointed in 1956 to the provincial government’s Department of Public Welfare and the university. In addition to introducing undergraduates to the discipline of sociology he was expected to work as a part-time researcher and advisor for Public Welfare. His main dilemma as a bureaucratic intellectual was choosing between the role of a fact finder, who tended to substantiate Welfare officials’ perceptions of reality; and the role of a policy advisor who defined the job in a more ambitious manner and took the initiative of offering uninvited remedies along with “the facts”. The first option was consistent with a satisfying university career. The second option could potentially lead to a more insecure career because the role of a policy advisor at Public Welfare was not institutionalized in a manner which encouraged serious thinking about policy. The experiences of Donald Willmott and his wife Elizabeth tell us about the nature of faculty appointments which blur the distinction between discipline research and policy research; the way liberal Americans reacted to Newfoundland society in the 1950s; and about academic mores at Memorial university, especially the lingering influence of religion at a secular university.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie