Edited by Sara Delamont
Chapter 2: Sociology of Education: Advancing Relations between Qualitative Methodology and Social Theory
Ruth Boyask Perhaps the most fruitful distinction with which the sociological imagination works is between the ‘personal troubles of milieu’ and ‘the public issues of social structure’. This distinction is an essential tool of the sociological imagination and a feature of all classic work in social science. (C. Wright Mills, 1970, p. 14) To view education with a sociological imagination, using Wright Mills’s term, is to identify and attend to its relationships with both the personal and public. Sociology in intellectual and political work sheds light on the personal troubles and public issues of the times as well as the interrelationships between the two. In respect of the sociology of education, sociological theories and methodologies have been employed foremost to highlight and address inconsistencies in educational opportunity that are determined both at the level of the individual and in terms of social inequalities (Weis et al., 2009). With equivalent potential, but to a lesser extent in practice, the sociology of education contributes to the understanding and progression of the wider social world and how social equity in general terms might be achieved. Classical social science has made heavy use of abstract thought and theoretical speculation to construct knowledge of the social world and resolve its concerns, but evidence from observable reality also contributes to sociological understanding. As the discipline of sociology has developed there has been an accompanying and proliferating development in empirical methodologies. The methodological developments are informed by developments in other disciplines (most notably anthropology and psychology) and...
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