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Race, class and school choice

All in the mix: class, race and school choice considers how parents choose secondary schools for their children and makes an important intervention into debates on school choice and education. The book examines how parents talk about race, religion and class – in the process of choosing. It also explores how parents’ own racialised and classed positions, as well as their experience of education, can shape the way they approach choosing schools. Based on in-depth interviews with parents from different classed and racialised backgrounds in three areas in and around Manchester, the book shows how discussions about school choice are shaped by the places in which the choices are made. It argues that careful consideration of choosing schools opens up a moment to explore the ways in which people imagine themselves, their children and others in social, relational space.

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This chapter turns directly to the question of school choice – to examine how parents experienced the injunction to choose. It finds that, for many, the feeling that they had ‘no choice’ increased stress and anxiety around schooling. Nonetheless, the feeling of having ‘no choice’ often included a prior disregarding of some schools that their children could reasonably be expected to gain admission to. The chapter also explores what parents said about both private provision (including private Islamic schools) and state selective schools in the form of grammar schools. Approaches to school choice, including to private and selective education, also varied by area. The chapter considers the ways in which parents talked about processes of choice and focuses on one particular account of a mother living in Cheadle Hulme which shows the anxiety that trying to get the best outcome for your child sometimes produced. It shows that previous work on school choice, which tends to focus on the concerns of the professional (white) middle classes, may risk underestimating the ways in which worrying about schools and education is shared across class and ethnic differences.

in All in the mix
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in All in the mix
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Negotiating with multiculture

This chapter focuses explicitly on parents’ discussions of ethnic diversity. These are put in the context of policies around multiculturalism and integration in which schools have been a key policy site. Parents were more likely to consider diversity as something related to race or ethnicity rather than class. The chapter contends that we lack a differentiated vocabulary for discussing diversity and ‘mix’. Furthermore, there are distinct discourses around ethnic diversity circulating in the different areas, with parents in the area with the least ethnic diversity, in particular, expressing reservations and fears about increasing diversity. Parents of BME children have a particular stake in seeking out schools with an ethnic mix as they see those schools as potentially offering their children security against the racism and racialised othering which they might face in more white schools (and which the parents themselves may have experienced in their own schooling in Britain). Thus the book argues that it is critical that we consider questions of both class and race when understanding parents’ views about school choice, but that we should also be attentive to ways in which ideas and imaginations of place frame parents approaches to schooling and education.

in All in the mix
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Chapter 2 sets the scene of the three different areas in Greater Manchester of the study. It describes the areas which have distinct demographic makeup and also different profiles in terms of reputation and, as we explore, residential mobility. It also describes the methodology of the study. One of the distinctive features of this book on school choice is the located nature of the study. Interviewees talk about places and schools which we have reliable knowledge of, including the demographic makeup of the schools. This enables us to understand how those places are imagined and lived in and how the schools are understood in the broader ‘tactics’ (De Certeau 1984) of living in places. The chapter shows that, when parents talked about the areas in which they lived, issues of race and class were dealt with quite differently in the three areas, suggesting different discourses that circulated about these social categories in the contrasting locations. The chapter also shows the varied ways in which ‘elective belonging’ (Savage et al. 2005) can work.

in All in the mix
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This chapter introduces the book, exploring how the process of school choice enables the examination of how parents imagine themselves, their children and others in relational space and involves navigating ideas of social differences, particularly those which are raced and classed. It also examines how school choice is an emotional process and traces understandings of affect in relationship to race and class. It also examines the role of the state education system in producing inequalities.

in All in the mix
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This chapter explores some of the emotions stirred up in the process of choosing schools. It examines how much of parents’ talk in these areas about school choice, and in particular what they are most worried about, is structured by ideas of class and also race, even when these are not mentioned directly. It argues that undesirable schools are often characterised by their pupils in ways which suggest processes of othering. The school is assessed in part through the ways in which the children dress and behave – or sometimes how the parents behave. Thus the chapter explores how judgements made about schools are gendered, raced and classed. In these accounts, class is particularly prominent in shaping parents’ fears.

in All in the mix
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This chapter charts the rise of notions of consumer choice in the field of state education and its relationship to the changing structures of school provision. It considers how a shift towards the ‘choosing parent’ can maintain inequalities of race and class. It also addresses gaps in Bourdieusian approaches to education, particularly focusing on how racialised processes have frequently been sidelined in this literature. In considering the literature on school choice, this chapter also points to gaps in the literature, which has historically largely focused on white middle-class parents and children. Finally, it explores the importance of understanding schools as located in particular places – enabling an exploration of spatial processes of school choice. It will examine how ideas such as territorialisation and stigmatisation of space can interact with processes of school choice.

in All in the mix
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Deaths and politicised deaths in Buenos Aires’s refuse

The appearance of corpses in rubbish tips is not a recent phenomenon. In Argentina, tips have served not only as sites for the disposal of bodies but also as murder scenes. Many of these other bodies found in such places belong to individuals who have suffered violent deaths, which go on to become public issues, or else are ‘politicised deaths’. Focusing on two cases that have received differing degrees of social, political and media attention – Diego Duarte, a 15-year-old boy from a poor background who went waste-picking on an open dump and never came back, and Ángeles Rawson, a girl of 16 murdered in the middle-class neighbourhood of Colegiales, whose body was found in the same tip – this article deals with the social meanings of bodies that appear in landfills. In each case, there followed a series of events that placed a certain construction on the death – and, more importantly, the life – of the victim. Corpses, once recognised, become people, and through this process they are given new life. It is my contention that bodies in rubbish tips express – and configure – not only the limits of the social but also, in some cases, the limits of the human itself.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal