The sociologist leads us to understand that the academic institution can perpetuate social inequalities
While the Charest government refuses to reverse its decision to increase tuition fees for university education, thousands of students cast strike votes and gather in the streets to challenge the validity of this increase. The positional contrast between the Liberal government and Québec students is nothing new.
Photo taken during the Graduate Students Association general assembly, which voted to strike against tuition increases. Montréal, Tuesday, March 6, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor
The issue has come up periodically for at least three decades. In spring 2007, Minister Michelle Courchesne introduced a law to end the tuition freeze, requiring student fee contributions to go up $100 per year from 2007 to 2012.
This recurring increase did not lead students toward a general strike. But with the 2010 Bachand budget, which continued the tuition hikes in the same vein, the debate has been revived. If the government prevails, university student tuition fees will begin their increase in fall 2012 by $325 per year, and this for five years, meaning a total increase of $ 1,625. At this rate tuition will reach $ 3,793 a year in 2017.
The Government considers it reasonable for students to consider the fees as an “investment”, because university graduates will receive substantial income once in the labour market. Thousands of students — with ever-increasing numbers — oppose this accountant’s logic intrinsic to the tuition hikes.
It’s a safe bet, and it even seems obvious that Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) would stand behind students in Québec and would display, like them, a red square, symbol of the student mobilization.
The French sociologist, of which it is the 10th anniversary of his death, is recognized for his work on accessibility to higher education, which bring the issue beyond a simple war of numbers.
Bourdieu would support student claims by referring to particular theories and concepts developed in his works, “The Inheritors: French Students and Their Relations to Culture” (Les héritiers, 1964) and “Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture” (La réproduction, 1970).
Photo taken during the feminist march against tuition hikes. Montréal, Thursday, March 8, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor
Socialized to Think
In Bourdieusian analysis, universities perpetuate inequalities that begin in early childhood. Throughout the socialization process, mediated from, among other things, the education received, children learn and master a number of skills that will affect the way they think and act.
Experiences gained during identity construction accumulate, are internalized and leave their indelible mark. These experiences shape and transform.
They end up forming a habitus, which Bourdieu defines as a set of internalized provisions that construct social agents and act as schemes for circumstantial assessment and evaluation that generate ways of doing and ways of being.
These different inculcations condition one’s relationship with the world and determine aptitudes of perception and judgement. From this, a collection of resources and capabilities settle within each of us. Students define their educational path according to this habitus that reflects their social class position.
"Danger! Educated Women!" Photo taken during the feminist march against tuition increases. Montréal, Thursday, March 8, 2012 © Eduardo Fuenmayor
In other words, the desired level of education is developed according to its own logic, influenced by a combination of factors that Bourdieu conceptualized as “cultural capital” (eg, the educational level of parents), “economic capital” (parental income, etc.) and” social capital “(the network that contributes to the socialization). Children are socialized depending on the volume and type of economic, cultural and social capital available to parents. They will learn to see themselves as able or not to attend university.
Making choices about the level of educational aspiration can be Continue reading