How schools teach children about their social station

Tuesday, June 6, 2023 - 14:23 in Psychology & Sociology

Their eyes filled with tears, their mouths with accusations after losing a game of European handball. The fourth- and fifth-graders were so upset that they soon received counsel from a gym teacher. “You need to accept that this is how it goes, and not just say that they cheated,” he told them. “But they were cheating!” burst out one of the students. According to sociologist Peter Francis Harvey, losing that game countered everything these mostly upper-middle-class children understood about themselves and their station in the world. “It had to be that the rules were unfair, someone was biased, somebody cheated them, the game was poorly constructed,” Harvey said. Harvey, a postdoctoral fellow with Harvard’s Inequality in American Initiative, embedded for two years at this racially diverse upper-middle-class private school, where he documented dozens of everyday episodes like the handball defeat. Another year was spent with a racially diverse set of fourth-graders in a working-class...

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