It could be said that the authors are a bit one-sided in their arguments. Their cause and effect suppositions are zero sum games. Their analysis of the data is predominantly pointed at “the system” with secondary influence of family. There is more at play than these two things. That most children of farmers do not overcome their cast is certainly in part due to a system that rewards the bourgeoisie, but almost for the nominative cultural reasons that it is common for children to follow in their parents footsteps. Another component at play that the authors leave out is a genetic component. While this could be controversial, it would have led to an essay with a wider perspective if it had mentioned this important component that is always at play when talking about a child’s educational outcomes. Intelligence, IQ, studies have shown to correspond with educational stimulation early on and diet. And between the lower and higher classes, there is a significant amount of disparity in these areas.
The thesis of the essay is that “The chances of entering higher education can be seen as the product of a selection process which, through the school system, is applied with very unequal severity, depending on the student’s social origin.” (Passeron & Bourdieu, 2). The note that the disparity is much more pronounced across the social gap then it is along the gender gap. However, there are significant disadvantages of females in terms of the times of careers they study once inside the university system: “Thus, the fact that the chances of university entrance are much the same for males and females of the same social origin must not allow us to forget that once they enter, the two sexes are unlikely to be studying the same subject. (Passeron & Bourdieu, 6).
For lower classes, there is a very low chance of finding a career that could net them a career amongst the higher classes in France. This is likely a microcosm that is consistent across many university systems.
They believe that students are not just users of educational systems and their biases, but it also affects the outcomes of who they are as people. Their tastes and preferences in life, their goals and self-image are all affected by the educational system that they are a part. Because higher education is expensive, some students of poor backgrounds do not grow up seeing it is a possibility open to them. In contrasts, students from wealthy backgrounds see their ability to get a higher education as a given, not pipe dream. The extracurricular activities that students participate in when they are young are outcome indicators for academic performance. These activities are also sharply divided in availability across social classes. The author’s lists things like being able to play a musical instrument. This has been shown in studies to affect intelligence positively. Both the instrument itself and the cost of lessons are very expensive, so this educational booster is mostly only available to kids of families can afford to pay the bill.
Education background profoundly affects students. Ascetic interests appear also to be governed by social class. And some of these interests, such as art and art-history and Latin, overlap into the academic world.
In order to solve the problem, the authors believe that the education system must be structured in away where it assumes no formal education or training on the part of the students. While this solution is good, it is a very general solution offered in the essay. Their solution could work, but it would require much more than changing policy, it would require fundamental changes to the culture. It would involve training programs for teachers all across the school system. The current school system, as the authors readily admit, is the product of the culture within which it is contained. So while their solution seems like it would be effective, it is easier to write out that a solution than to implement it. The education in France is part of the problem; it is not the entire problem. The overriding problem, of which the educational system is a symptom, is a class system in France, which has allowed this social inequality to unfold in the form that it has.
As long as there is social inequality in France, it will manifest itself in various governmental systems. The education system is just one place where it will be seen. The authors are right to feel indignation at the class system they have found within their country. Through their survey method, they show that there is a systematic bias against students from low-income background. Right now the struggle to get an education for a farmer’s son compared to an executive son is nearly one hundred to one. The solution they propose involves closing the gap between formal and informal education. If implemented, this solution could work. However, they propose no clear guidelines to how their solution could be implemented on a systematic level in the equation system in France. It would involve an enormous amount of funding and political will for them to implement such a change, something that likely would be much easier said than done.