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The Duality of Courses and Students: A Field-theoretic Analysis of Secondary School Course-taking

Joseph J. Ferrare
Sociology of Education
Vol. 86, No. 2 (APRIL 2013), pp. 139-157
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43186767
Page Count: 19
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Abstract

Significant attention has been given to how students become grouped or 'tracked' through the courses they share in common. However, this work has yet to be connected to a targeted analysis of the way in which courses are grouped with other courses through the students they co-enroll. Drawing on insights from field theory, the author examines this duality with special attention to the social organization of courses and the curricular discourses they contain. Multidimensional scaling and multiple correspondence analysis are used to analyze course-taking data for a cohort of students (2005-2009, n = 494) at a comprehensive high school in the midwestern United States. The results illustrate a 'field' of courses that are distributed vertically according to a principle of status that opposes different forms of curricular discourse and horizontally according to oppositions between symbolic and material forms, artistic and technical skills, and the 'inner' work of the household to the 'outer' work of certain occupations. While the vertical dimension of courses is associated with a racial and social class hierarchy of students, the horizontal dimension passes through a division of the sexes.

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