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When women face limited opportunities for education, their capacity to achieve equal rights, including financial independence, are limited. Feminist theory seeks to promote women’s rights to equal education (and its resultant benefits) across the world.

Grade inflation: when is an a really a c?

Consider a large-city newspaper publisher. Ten years ago, when culling résumés for an entry-level copywriter, they were well assured that if they selected a grad with a GPA of 3.7 or higher, they’d have someone with the writing skills to contribute to the workplace on day one. But over the last few years, they’ve noticed that A-level students don’t have the competency evident in the past. More and more, they find themselves in the position of educating new hires in abilities that, in the past, had been mastered during their education.

This story illustrates a growing concern referred to as grade inflation    —a term used to describe the observation that the correspondence between letter grades and the achievements they reflect has been changing (in a downward direction) over time. Put simply, what used to be considered C-level, or average, now often earns a student a B, or even an A.

Why is this happening? Research on this emerging issue is ongoing, so no one is quite sure yet. Some cite the alleged shift toward a culture that rewards effort instead of product, i.e., the amount of work a student puts in raises the grade, even if the resulting product is poor quality. Another oft-cited contributor is the pressure many of today’s instructors feel to earn positive course evaluations from their students—records that can tie into teacher compensation, award of tenure, or the future career of a young grad teaching entry-level courses. The fact that these reviews are commonly posted online exacerbates this pressure.

Other studies don’t agree that grade inflation exists at all. In any case, the issue is hotly debated, with many being called upon to conduct research to help us better understand and respond to this trend (National Public Radio 2004; Mansfield 2005).

Symbolic interactionism

Symbolic interactionism sees education as one way that labeling theory is seen in action. A symbolic interactionist might say that this labeling has a direct correlation to those who are in power and those who are labeled. For example, low standardized test scores or poor performance in a particular class often lead to a student who is labeled as a low achiever. Such labels are difficult to “shake off,” which can create a self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton 1968).

In his book High School Confidential , Jeremy Iverson details his experience as a Stanford graduate posing as a student at a California high school. One of the problems he identifies in his research is that of teachers applying labels that students are never able to lose. One teacher told him, without knowing he was a bright graduate of a top university, that he would never amount to anything (Iverson 2006). Iverson obviously didn’t take this teacher’s false assessment to heart. But when an actual seventeen-year-old student hears this from a person with authority over her, it’s no wonder that the student might begin to “live down to” that label.

The labeling with which symbolic interactionists concern themselves extends to the very degrees that symbolize completion of education. Credentialism embodies the emphasis on certificates or degrees to show that a person has a certain skill, has attained a certain level of education, or has met certain job qualifications. These certificates or degrees serve as a symbol of what a person has achieved, and allows the labeling of that individual.

Indeed, as these examples show, labeling theory can significantly impact a student’s schooling. This is easily seen in the educational setting, as teachers and more powerful social groups within the school dole out labels that are adopted by the entire school population.

Summary

The major sociological theories offer insight into how we understand education. Functionalists view education as an important social institution that contributes both manifest and latent functions. Functionalists see education as serving the needs of society by preparing students for later roles, or functions, in society. Conflict theorists see schools as a means for perpetuating class, racial-ethnic, and gender inequalities. In the same vein, feminist theory focuses specifically on the mechanisms and roots of gender inequality in education. The theory of symbolic interactionism focuses on education as a means for labeling individuals.

Short answer

Thinking of your school, what are some ways that a conflict theorist would say that your school perpetuates class differences?

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Which sociological theory best describes your view of education? Explain why.

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Based on what you know about symbolic interactionism and feminist theory, what do you think proponents of those theories see as the role of the school?

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Further research

Can tracking actually improve learning? This 2009 article from Education Next explores the debate with evidence from Kenya. (External Link)

The National Center for Fair&Open Testing (FairTest) is committed to ending the bias and other flaws seen in standardized testing. Their mission is to ensure that students, teachers, and schools are evaluated fairly. You can learn more about their mission, as well as the latest in news on test bias and fairness, at their website: (External Link)

References

Education Week. 2004. “Tracking.” Education Week , August 4. Retrieved February 24, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Godofsky, Jessica, Cliff Zukin, and Carl Van Horn. 2011. Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University.

Iverson, Jeremy. 2006. High School Confidential . New York: Atria.

Lauen, Douglas Lee and Karolyn Tyson. 2008. “Perspectives from the Disciplines: Sociological Contribution to Education Policy Research and Debate.” AREA Handbook on Education Policy Research . Retrieved February 24, 2012.

National Public Radio. 2004. “Princeton Takes Steps to Fight ‘Grade Inflation.’” Day to Day , April 28.

Mansfield, Harvey C. 2001. “Grade Inflation: It’s Time to Face the Facts.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 47(30): B24.

Merton, Robert K. 1968. Social Theory and Social Structure . New York: Free Press.

UNESCO. 2005. Towards Knowledge Societies: UNESCO World Report . Paris: UNESCO Publishing.

World Bank. 2007. World Development Report . Washington, DC: World Bank.

Questions & Answers

What is Social Psychology? and why social psychology?
WILLIAM Reply
learn about the people and understand there need to live in society what there basic need and learning institutions
Ghulammurtaza
Social Psychology deals with the study of individual as part of a group or communty and how they affect each other.
Sadiq
behavior study of humans are there institutions are social psychology but if they are study about society that means the learn about there living structure
Ghulammurtaza
social psychology means it formed after combined sociology and psychology and itis new descipline.
salem
social psychology study behavior reference society
Rajesh
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Hirsi Reply
what is sociology?
Omeneke Reply
It's a field of study which studies about human Society... (to make you more clear... the psychology studies single individual where as sociology studies group of individual who forms society)
sociology is study of socity
Sadia
not only study but it study with scientific method and sociological approach
Rajesh
rite #rajesh sosa
Sadia
thanks
Rajesh
hey help me defining sociological guru's ideas
luther
what is culture
Nandala Reply
what is urbanisation
Nandala
What are the weaknesses of the conflict theory
Skeazo Reply
a person who's combination of a particular culture and ethics has a great influence on his personality.
Habibu Reply
ok
Kenneth
what is the main differences between social loafing and social facilitation
godfrey
popuation education major areas
Rakesh Reply
plx i need a better definition of culture
Alqaseem
culture, according to E. B. Tylor (1921), is defined as a complex whole which include knowledge, beliefs, arts, morals, laws,customs , and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society
Adesola
what is orientalists anyone define pls
Anand
hello, I have my sociology exam gcse next Monday and I am so stressed, can anyone give me an advice of how to revise better and lower the stress 😭
Adry Reply
what level are you in the university
raymond
Before i say something
raymond
while we await your response, studies proof that psychology speaks more to condition of such. It concern sociologist most if you talk about culture, values, family, groups, organizations, society etc and not more of single individual/mind. However, tell us your level.
William
I'm in college not uni
Adry
good evening, how did sociology people behave
chukwuka Reply
They are social thinkers.And they adapt to any situation they found themselves.Also,they study in accordance,how the society behaved.For eg,the problem of Nigeria,Boko Haram etc,which is a social problem
raymond
mean that sociology people can stop the Boko Haram issues
chukwuka
As a social thinker,you can proffer solutions to stop this mess in the northern east
raymond
Raymond you are truely a sociologist
cynthia
am just 100level students, I find myself that I don't like talking too much to people, I always like still on my own way of life, is good for a sociology students
chukwuka
According to Peter Berger the people who should “stay away” from sociology are the people that can’t take a diversity of truths, people who are afraid to discover that there is something beyond what is taught to them, people that don’t have the drive to understand that society has many different...
perspectives from which it can be understood and it all depends on where you are standing. People who are used to things being the same all the time and are afraid of change..
If you feel that you fit in... Go ahead...
who is the father of Indian sociology?
The Reply
how does a sociologist do think critically
abdulaziz Reply
what does a medical sociologist is all about
abdulaziz
yes I am from sociology department
Nath Reply
hello
rajae
hi
Nath
hii
Prahallada
I'm new here
rajae
new here as well
soely
new here as well
Daphne
hi term paradigm pls
salem
hi
SHASHI
hey
Miguel
I'm so excited to see myself here
Miguel
paradigm is a group of ideas about what can be done.
Miguel
or how something can be done.
Miguel
pliz help with( the similarities bwn the fanctionalist and the feminist theory)
luther
functional and feminist are the same value in post industrial society and development of civilization in the defernt kind of geographic area.where people live in kinship and responsible .functions are the process of change the life of societies and feminist are the right of women in modern period
Ghulammurtaza
thanks more info
luther
what is kinship ?
Robert Reply
hi
Nath
afternoon
Nath
kinship is a relation
Nath
either by blood or connection
Nath
hi
Ayeshna
helo
ASHRAF
how are you
Ayeshna
hey
Nath
am good
Nath
u?
Nath
am ok nd thanks
raymond
thank you too
Nath
hie please gie me the similarities btwn the fanctionist theory and the feminist theory
luther
functionalist see society as a human body part that functions respectively whilst feminist is a perspective that works to see the needs of men in society (patriarchy)
abdulaziz
functional theory observed the balance and equal barium of the society. they see society is deferent farm. that fiminst are work for equality of gander
Ghulammurtaza
kinship is the vector of responses behaviour of societies with each other
Ghulammurtaza
function is the slowly process for changes of societies through developed and innovation of technology and use term for balance in society
Ghulammurtaza
what joins them [to be one]
luther
kinship is the relationship establlished through marriage or blood ties.blood relatives are cobsanguinieal kins and relatives by relation of marriage are affinal kins.for eg.a woman and her son are consanguineal kins and a woman and her brother in law are affinal kins
sanjukta
blood relatives are consanguneal kins
sanjukta
sorry l mean what join the feminist pespective and the fanctionalist one
luther
freedom for women's life how can survived and what right for doing omin modernization
Ghulammurtaza
what is sociology?
Soccer Reply
sociology is a science which study the society including social relationship ,social interaction and culture......
Akak
Thanks
Ankit
but can u send me syllabus of 12 th sociology
Ankit
and scope of it
Ankit
hello.
Sushant
Scope of scology can u tell me
Ankit
what do u mean by scope of sociology?
James
in simple meaning,social scope signifies the area of study.
Sushant
describe sociology as a science
godfrey
Origin of social system begin in?
Hazim Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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