Saturday, July 19, 2014
First, the recent Department of Education report indicates that the difference between Black-White student suspensions starts as early as pre-school. Graph 1 shows that data as presented in the original report. The first column shows basic differences in pre-school enrollment between various race/ethnic groups in 2011-2012, and subsequent columns show rates of suspension, also divided by race/ethnic group, the first-tie such data was collected at the pre-school level. The original data can be found at the Dept of Ed web site. While state-level data is available, unfortunately, it is not in a single spreadsheet, but reported separately for each state, so the process of compiling state-level dataset for all 50 states is tedious, but it is what I use for the analysis below. Using the difference between enrollment and suspensions, I create a variable, "Black student suspension ratio," which is the level of suspensions as measured against enrollment. For example, in the national pre-school graphic below, Black student enrollment is 18%, while Black student 'Out-of-school suspension (multiple) is 48%, leading to a ratio of 267%--i.e., Black students were suspended at a rate of 267% more than their enrollment. Conversely, White student enrollment was at 43%, while suspensions were at 26%, leading to a ratio of 60%--i.e., White students were suspended at a rate of 60% of their enrollment. An 'individual-level' interpretation of this data might be 'White students misbehave at far lower rates than Black students,' presuming that no racial discrimination occurs in the process of assigning student suspensions. The following analysis tests that hypothesis--or rather, tests whether structural-level factors provide a better explanation for individual-level factors
As Graph 2 shows, also directly from the Dept of Education report, racial disparities in student suspensions occur beyond the pre-school level. The data I use for this analysis relies on the reported suspensions for all grade levels. Graph 3, which I have produced using Microsoft Excel, is an "area graph" that compares two variables at the state-level--the Black student suspension ratio (blue, indexed to the left along the y-axis) and the percent of Black state legislators (orange, indexed to the right). I also had Excel plot a trendline for both of these variables, which is the dotted line above the colored areas. One can notice several things from this graphic. First, I have sorted the state data from lowest to highest rate of Black student suspension ratio, with Maryland having the lowest rate, and Minnesota having the highest rate. Comparing this with % Black state legislators, a general trend can be seen--the higher the % of Black state legislators, the lower the rate of Black student suspensions, and vice-versa. This does not necessarily imply causation, but a relationship is apparent (more about this later). Second, one might notice that all 50 states are not represented on this graphic. One of the problems with voluntary data collection is that not all states report. In this case, many states simply did not report suspension data. I have not attempted to impute or recover missing data in this analysis, but use only the data reported to the Department of Education for 2009-2010.
Graph 4 shows a scatterplot of this same data--also using Excel. In this case, the presumed independent variable, % of Black legislators, is reported on the x-axis, and the presumed dependent variable, Black student suspension ratio, is reported on the y-axis for this plot. Each dot represents a state. The correlation is reported on the graphic as -0.68, which is a strong negative relationship between these variables. This means that as the % of Black state legislators increases, the ratio of Black student suspensions go down, and vice versa. The trendline helps visualize that pattern. Interpreting the relationship between these variables require additional data and hypothesis testing, and in class I facilitate a brain-storming session, where the students come up with various explanations, each of which, I clarify, become 'testable hypotheses' that typically require the collection or analysis of additional data to decide which hypothesis among them has the strongest support. In this case, my personal hypothesis is that political representation grants a greater level of equality at the group-level. In other words, states where the Black population has more political representation at the state legislative level, have a greater capacity for the implementation of policies that ensure the implementation of racially-fair policies in schools. Alternatively, or reciprocally, the greater percent of Black legislators can also imply that group has, in general, a greater reserve of organizational capacity and community-level political activism, which can be seen in agitation for equal treatment in local schools.
The next variable I add into this analysis is data from the 2010 American Community Survey, specifically, a comparison between Black median income, and White median income. Just as the comparison of Black suspensions vs Black enrollment generates a ratio, the income data also generates a ratio that can be plotted. Graph 5 shows the scatter plot between the presumed independent variable on the x-axis, Black-White median income ratio, vs the presumed dependent variable on the y-axis, Black student suspension ratio. As above, each dot represents a state. For example, in the top left-hand corner is a dot that represents Minnesota, with the highest Black student suspension ratio for those states reporting, with 582%, meaning that Black students are suspended at almost 6x their rate of enrollment, as well as the lowest Black-White median income ratio of all states, with 48%, meaning that the average Black worker in Minnesota makes less than half of the average White worker. The state with the highest (most equal) Black-White median income ratio is Arizona, where the average Black worker makes 78% of the average White worker, and are also represented on the lower half of Black student suspension (197%). Like the graph above, for % Black state legislators vs. Black student suspensions, there is a negative relationship between these variables (r=-0.54), meaning that the lower the Black-White median income (i.e., the lower the level of racial income equality), the higher the Black student suspension ratio. Like the in-class process above, I show this graph to the students and facilitate a brain-storming session where they come up with various testable-hypotheses to explain the relationship between these variables.
It is important to remember that correlation never implies causation. Like the fundamental attribution error mentioned above, when we intuitively 'want' variables to be related by causation, we tend to see the above graphs and presume that % state legislators, and income inequality are contributing to causing unequal Black student suspension ratios. However, since correlation never implies causation, we must resist the urge to presume a causative mechanism. On the other hand, regression analysis, a separate (but mathematically related) statistical process, can be used to imply causation. In this final section, I pull together all three of these variables into 'multiple regression.' While I typically do not personally use the IBM software SPSS for my statistics (I use the open-source software R), SPSS has a relatively easy learning curve, and is available at our campus bookstore (and online) for the IUPUI students, so for the in-class example, I use SPSS to generate the graphic for this analysis, and walk the students through the meaning of several of the key output statistics. The equation for this model, roughly is thus:
Black student suspension ratio = X * % Black state legislators + Y * Black/White Median income ratio
The implication, based on the above correlations, is that there is a relationship between these three structural-level variables. Further, the mathematical/social interpretation of regression, if found to be statistically significant, is that causation can be implied between the independent variables (% Black legislators and Black/White income disparity) and the dependent variable (Black suspensions), which makes it a fundamentally more useful analysis than simple correlation, where causation cannot be implied. In the SPSS output show, I have circled several important parts. First, the "Adjusted R Square" of 0.713 implies that around 71% of the variation in Black student suspension rates in the Unites States can be explained *SOLELY* by these two structural variables of political representation and racial income inequality. Put more clearly, one does not need to presume individual causation in order to obtain a reasonable prediction of what a state's Black student suspension rate will be--i.e., one does not need the (implicitly racist) original hypothesis that "Black students misbehave at higher rates than White students" to explain Black student suspensions. The implication of this is that persistent racial discrimination is adequate to explain the differential rates of suspensions, and not "individual student" factors. What may, at first intuition, seem to have relatively little relationship with school suspension rates--political representation and income inequality--turn out to be powerful predictors, and, in fact, causative forces. Second, and finally, for this "brief introduction" to SPSS for my intro class, I also have them look at the "Standardized Coefficients-Beta" column in the graphic. Respectively, they are -0.665, and -0.703. Without going into a complicated discussion of how to interpret these numbers, they imply that both of these independent variables contribute approximately equally to the Black student suspension ratios, and both are related in negative ways. In other words, like the correlation results, the 'negative' relationship implies that as % Black legislators, and income equality ratio goes up, that Black student suspensions go down, and vice versa, and both of these factors have approximately equivalent causative force. If, for example, % Black legislators had been -0.3. while income ratio had been -0.9, it would imply that income ratio is far better predictor, about 3x more important, than % Black legislators. Here, however, the numbers are close, implying similar levels of predictive use.
For book-length treatments of these issues, I have used two relevant ethnographies in various classes. First, Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity , by Ann Ferguson, who studied the ways that Black and White students were treated differentially in the classroom. Second, a more recent contribution from a Berkeley researcher, Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys , by Victor Rios, who embedded himself with youth in Oakland, CA.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
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Friday, July 4, 2014
Thursday, July 3, 2014
1. “In social sciences, the progress of knowledge presupposes progress in our knowledge of conditions of knowledge”
2. Move to reconcile theoretical and practical intentions, i.e., scientific and ethical/political.
4-5. Structuralism as the study of relationships; “Frazerian comparative culture which picks out decontextualized themes…” & colonialism; “good intentions so often make bad sociology”
8. Structural research, like scientific research, “continual retouching gives greater comprehensiveness and unity . . . whereas each detail of this picture, cut off and isolated from the whole, loses all meaning and no longer represents anything.”
10. The process of organizing facts is itself interpretive and an imposition on the system one is studying, thus showing the limits of the logic of practice. Bourdieu’s attempt to put into an organizing chart all of the oppositions and similarities was impossible, [since the habitus isn’t amenable to such logical formalizations] and is an inherent weakness of structuralism.
11. Bourdieu questions why we don’t radically critique all objectification, and therefore science. Our logical models are typically reified and we lose sight of the fact that they are simply economical ways of describing a set of data.
12. Practice (practical logic) isn’t the same as logical principles underlying practice. Most insiders do not rely on logical principles to make practice choices—they simply “do”. Practical logic is rarely entirely coherent
14. “Theory” implies social distance; the distance between the observer and the observed, [the insider and the outsider]
16. Bourdieu reconceptualizes the social scientist’s task of finding the logical meaning behind the practices (e.g., the ritualistic, traditional meanings behind marriage) and to see the benefit to the participants, specifically, the accumulation of economic and symbolic capital.
18. “Rites are practices that are ends in themselves, that are justified by their very performance; things that one does because they are ‘the done thing’, ‘the right thing to do’, but also because one cannot do otherwise.” The interpretive study of rites implies that the actors are intentionally seeking to accomplish these [subconscious, traditionalistic ends, rather than simply “doing what one does”]
25. One of the most destructive divides in social science is that between subjectivism and objectivism, and the fact that these dichotomies persist evidence the fundamental importance of them both.
26. Objectivism ignores the radical continuity between theory and practice, as if our perception of external structures can ever bring us to ontological reality. Qua Schutz, objective knowledge becomes “constructs of constructs produced by the actors on the social scene”
27. Bourdieu believes that social science must not only make the first break of questioning native experience and representations, but also questioning the presuppositions of the ‘objective’ observer who seeks to interpret native experience. The objective observer typically attempts to reduce exchanges (practice) to symbolic exchanges [see Nacirema]
27. He feels one of the most formidable barriers is the fact that scientific practitioners have constructed systems of power to protect their power over knowledge production, and delegitimize other ways of knowing. This power relationship is ignored
33-34. Participant observation, dominant in anthropology, is one of the research methods that most disguises the distinction between subject and object, by allowing the researcher to believe she is truly understanding the world of the observed. “simply another way of avoiding the question of the real relationship of the observer to the observed and its critical consequences for scientific practice.”
36-37. “the ‘thinker’ betrays his secret conviction that action is only fully performed when it is understood, interpreted, expressed… Leads one to conceive action as something to be deciphered, … that a gesture or ritual expresses something, rather than saying, quite simply, that it is ‘sensible’.”
40. Structuralism and objectivism proposes the categories that create the rules for the behavior and culture of the observed, ignoring the fact that these behaviors have been made by social processes of production and reproduction, not from a priori rules
42. Sartre greatly contributed to a theory of action built around strategies oriented towards ends, and anticipated reactions by others. [symbolic interactionism]
46. He further clarifies that the science of studying humans derives from humans, which is a core problem of the objectivist/subjectivist dichotomy. Objectivist understandings of humans are based in external or internal determinisms, while subjectivist understandings of humans based on the future intended outcome, or rather, the expectation of profit, which leaves out antecedent causes. In this sense, the subjectivist vision is the foundation for rational choice theory, essentially deterministic itself.
48. Pascal can be considered a forerunner of insight into the habitus, who talked about our justifications of our actions and beliefs based on our practice.
49. Logical paradox: one can choose to believe p. However, one cannot simultaneously believe p, and also to believe that the decision to believe p was based on a choice to believe p. The memory of the process must be obliterated.
52. Objectivism allows the researcher to see the entire social world as an object of study, as theater, and every action is filled with symbolic meaning. … In contrast, the “theory of practice as practice”, assumes that actions are constructed out of a system of dispositions/habits/practices (habitus) that have some practical function.
53. The habitus is a system of durable practices that allow agents in a particular class of conditions to adapt and accomplish a certain outcome. However, there is no assumption of intentional aims in such agents, or an overarching set of principles or orchestrator. … The agent, working within this habitus, is acting in a “world of already realized ends—procedures to follow, paths to take…”
54. Contrary to scientific experimentation that gives preference to recently gained knowledge, habitus gives preference to early experiences. … The habitus therefore is a product of history, and the schemes become engrained in human practice and interpretation. In this way it tends to guarantee consistency in continued practice to anything that does not conform to the history of accepted practices.
55. The habitus is not deterministic in a mechanical way—it allows freedom of thought and action. However, limitations exist based on the range of past experiences, and in this way makes habitus seem deterministic. Further, because we depend so heavily on habitus to accomplish our outcomes, it is difficult to think and act outside of the habitus, both theoretically, and practically, since the habitus is social and other agents actively limit our expressive capacity.
55-56. habitus is circumscribed by each particular class, and tends to generate behaviors that we see as “reasonable” and “common-sense”, and “that are likely to be positively sanctioned,” while at the same time limiting behaviors that would be “negatively sanctioned because they are incompatible with objective conditions”—i.e., the other agents believe such behaviors are not productive or destructive.
56-58. Practices cannot be deduced from current conditions, but can only be understood within the historical context in which that habitus emerged. The habitus is “embodied history”. … It brings together two objectifications—bodies and institutions. The practices of our bodies to accomplish objectives match the institutions that have become established in our habitus. Both reinforce the other, and what make both seem “natural.” … Institutions aren’t viable if they are simply logical or functional, but they most also match the dispositions of our bodies.
59-60. All individuals that come from a particular social class [habitat] will share exposure to similar beliefs and practices, i.e., they will have the same habitus. “Personal style”, is the stamp of a group’s habitus.
62. The habitus is the solution to the objectivist, subjectivist paradox—it gives us strategies for action, yet we need not have subjective intentions to act. Our complex series of behaviors and routines are structured by the habitus. [Part of what Bourdieu also wants to do here is subvert rational choice theory]
66. Practical sense is our bodily involvement in the world. It is like having a “feel for the game” for any given field using one’s habitus. Practical sense is what gives us our sense of subjective experience—the meaning, investment and predictability for our actions. Native membership in a field is what makes everything within that field “make sense”, or seem sensible.
67-68. In contrast to game fields, one doesn’t choose one’s social field, one is born into it, and one learns it through years of slow processes of autonomization. This makes one’s involvement in the game seem all the more unconditional and unconscious. … Just as a child learns to speak by doing, not by learning fundamental rules of speech, we learn to act by doing, not by learning the symbolic meaning of our actions. … This makes it as difficult to understand another habitus as it is to become a native speaker of a foreign language, since many of these patterns must be incorporated when very young. (see also pg. 74)
70-72. Oppositions between male and female bodies in the Kabyle people are fundamental, and reflect both the social and sexual divisions of labor. These dichotomies are also a fundamental part of the habitus.
73. Mimesis is the process acquisition of embodiment. It is more than simply imitation, which implies mechanization and the precise reproduction of specific gestures in every specific situation, as well as the conscious intention to memorize. Mimesis implies a generative schema that is unconsciously learned through socialization. Reproduction is the “practical reactivation which is opposed both to memory and knowledge”, and takes place below the level of consciousness. Further, “the body believes in what it plays at”—it is not simply mimicking actions, but the holistic embodied experience “makes sense”. Our bodies “do not memorize the past, it enacts the past, bringing it back to life. What is ‘learned by the body’ is not something that one has, like knowledge that can be brandished, but something that one is.”
81. “because it is entirely immersed in the current of time, practice is inseparable from temporality. Science has a time which is not that of practice. For the analyst, time disappears. …it tends to ignore time and so to detemporalize practice.”
86. “Practice has a logic which is not that of the logician.” Over-analysis of practice leads to “the theorization effect”—the construction of false theories based on the use of data in ways other than its milieu allows.
90. “The logicism inherent in the objectivist viewpoint inclines one to ignore the fact that scientific construction cannot grasp the principles of practical logic without forcibly changing their nature. Objectification converts a practical succession into a represented succession.”
96. “The Kabyle woman setting up her loom is not performing an act of cosmogony; she is simply setting up her loom to weave cloth intended to serve a technical function.”
103. “The motor of the whole dialectic of challenge and riposte, gift and counter-gift, is not an abstract axiomatics but the sense of honour, a disposition inculcated by all early education and constantly demanded and reinforced by the group, and inscribed in the postures and gestures of the body as in the automatisms of language and thought, through which a man asserts himself as a real, manly man.”
108-109. “Officialization [creating laws, explicating norms] is the process whereby the group (or those who dominate it) teaches itself and masks from itself its own truth, binds itself by a public profession which sanctions and imposes what it utters, tacitly defining the limits of the thinkable and the unthinkable and so contributing to the maintenance of the social order from which it derives its power.” … “Politics is the arena par excellence of officialization strategies.”
115-116. Arranged marriages are initiated by prestigious family members being present, utilizing the symbolic capital of the importance of the family in the negotiations.
118. Where economic capital accumulation is not possible, religious and symbolic capital may be the only forms of capital accumulation.
119-120. Economic and symbolic capital are inextricably linked: the trust necessary for engaging in market transactions are supported by the symbolic capital of the trading parties. Dealers (or royalty) frequently make a large show of their symbolic capital to increase trust in their product and services. This includes marriage transactions. … “Symbolic capital is credit”
121. The hypersensitivity of families to slurs and innuendo is because it reduces their symbolic capital and thus their economic viability.
124. Neither economic wealth nor cultural competence can be converted into capital unless the exchanges take place in a specific field relevant to that wealth and competence.
125. The tribal chief is like the head banker, who accumulates power, respect, obligations and service by lavishing gifts and food to the villagers.
131. “The accumulation of material wealth is simply one means among others of accumulating symbolic power—the power to secure recognition of power.” … Duby suggests that the accumulation of economic capital was not possible until symbolic capital could be reproduced durably.
132. Certification, licensure, diplomas, etc (credentials) separate the individual from having to prove her symbolic capital to each new person. Credentials are institutionalized forms of making symbolic capital permanent, objectifying it. Like law, credentials “symbolically consecrate” the power structures and classes that exist and reproduce the system of domination, guaranteeing the continuation of the structures of power.
135. “The established order, and the distribution of capital which is its basis, contribute to their own perpetuation through their very existence, through the symbolic effect that they exert as soon as they are publicly and officially declared and are thereby misrecognized and recognized.” Social science can therefore not treat social realities as things (Durkheim), but must understand the symbolic value of the social realities. In doing so, social science must reintroduce the subjective meaning into the objective reality it has described, which originally destroyed the subjective meaning. Social science must then take into account both the quantifiable characteristics, as well as the meanings attached to them. Social science must therefore move beyond the debate between social physics (quantitative) and social phenomenology (qualitative).
136. The objectivist vision provides great numerical data about power differentials, but in doing so it destroys that which gives meaning to the exploitative relations, and thus which gives those relations power. Even though these symbolic meanings of power are “misrecognitions”—i.e., constructed hierarchies of meaning with little relationship to objective reality—within the habitus and field, their exploitative power remains when left unchallenged and misunderstood.
141. Subversive action helps us correctly recognize the exploitative nature of modes of domination and the previously misrecognized meanings of the symbols of power.