Joe Soss. Learning Where We Stand: How School Experiences Matter for Civic Marginalization and Political Inequality.

Monday, February 23, 2015 - 2:00pm to 3:30pm
Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

"Learning Where We Stand: How School Experiences Matter for Civic Marginalization and Political Inequality."

In this paper, we shift the study of education and political inequality from the things that education policies allocate (e.g., skills, knowledge, and other forms of human capital) to the  relations that schools organize and the ways students are positioned within them. Schools, we argue, operate as sites where individuals have their first, formative experiences with the rules and cultures of public institutions, authority relations and their uses by officials, and what it means to be a member of a rights-and-obligations-bearing community of putative equals. By connecting the recent turn toward meso-level analysis in citizenship studies (e.g., Margaret Somers) to relational theories of inequality (e.g. Charles Tilly), we develop a novel account of how schools construct citizens and position them in the polity. Building on this theoretical intervention, our empirical analysis shows, first, how race (in conjunction with class and gender) structures experiences of school relations and, second, how these experiences matter for citizens' positions and dispositions in the polity. American schools, we conclude, function as relational mechanisms that convert social inequalities into civic and political inequalities.

Joe Soss is the inaugural Cowles Chair for the Study of Public Service at the University of Minnesota, where he holds faculty positions in the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Sociology. His research and teaching explore the interplay of democratic politics, societal inequalities, and public policy. He is particularly interested in the political sources and consequences of policies that govern social marginality and shape life conditions for socially marginal groups. His coauthored book, Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race (2011), was selected for the 2012 Michael Harrington Award (APSA, New Political Science) and the 2012 Oliver Cromwell Cox Award (ASA, Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities), and was named a 2012 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title (American Library Association). In 2010, he received the campus-wide Outstanding Faculty Award from the University of Minnesota's Council of Graduate Students (COGS). In 2013-14, he served as Dale T. Mortensen Senior Fellow at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark.