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School as Classificatory Machine: Sorting, Socialization, and Class in a Japanese Middle School

  • Author(s): Park, Jeehwan
  • Advisor(s): Graburn, Nelson
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation calls attention to the ways in which Japanese middle school education creates as well as reflects class divisions. It not only examines conditions in which students' class positions may shape their career choices in the transition from middle to high school, but also illuminates the ways in which class dispositions and practices are constructed through formal schooling in contemporary Japanese society. As such, it aims to understand how class works in the society not only as divisions but also as formations, and to propose how we can do an ethnographic analysis of class.

The second chapter examines high school reforms, teachers' educational movements, and a change in the Japanese model of learning. It shows that structural, social, and cultural transformations surrounding secondary schooling in Japan may contribute to the growing effects of middle school students' family background on the transition to high school.

The third chapter describes how evaluations and tracking in middle school create a sense of one's place in society. It documents sorting processes through which low achieving students coming from lower-class families are socialized to take positions into which they were born without complaint.

The fourth chapter explores how middle school teachers' career guidance works to maintain class division in educational aspirations and then in educational attainment. Teachers try to preserve educational aspirations that students already have rather than to encourage them to have higher goals. Such counseling works to discourage lower-class children more than middle-class ones, thereby leading to the unintended consequence of differentiations of educational attainment along class lines.

The fifth chapter demonstrates how a minority culture is created by schooling and how it is related to the minority's class location. To this end, in addition to referring to the literature on formations of the minority culture, it examines an educational practice through which elementary school teachers prioritize minority boys' manual over academic education.

Finally, the conclusion reconsiders socio-cultural, theoretical, and practical implications of the above ethnographic descriptions, whereby it strives to suggest a way of doing ethnography on class and of reducing the effect of class on education.

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