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ERIC Number: EJ910925
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Dec
Pages: 27
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 85
ISSN: ISSN-1740-2743
"The Smokescreen of Meritocracy": Elite Education in Ireland and the Reproduction of Class Privilege
Kennedy, Margaret; Power, Martin J.
Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, v8 n2 p222-248 Dec 2010
Despite generally being neglected in sociological research, the study of elite schooling provides valuable insights into how educational exclusion operates. The predominance of the privately educated in key leadership positions highlights the extent to which such exclusive schools act as conduits of privilege, where they not alone determine a student's academic learning, but also (and more importantly) "shape students lifestyles and life chances". Students of elite schools are first rewarded in the education system and later with high status occupations, where their social gifts are interpreted as natural ability and interest. In this regard it is clear that privileged groups "utilize the education system in such a way as to ensure optimum benefit for their children", and in the process they continually reproduce the existing class stratification system. This paper seeks to challenge the legitimacy of the meritocratic discourse, which serves to "justify" such educational inequality. The paper will demonstrate how the combination of a strong meritocratic ideology and the provision of elite education is critical to the upper class project of exclusionary social closure. The authors will argue that educational attainment must be viewed as more than personal achievement, because elite schools "both inculcate and certify economically valued cultured capital" and it is apparent "that processes of credential cronyism are at work" in the education system as it presently stands. (Contains 18 footnotes.)
Institute for Education Policy Studies. University of Northampton, School of Education, Boughton Green Road, Northampton, NN2 7AL, UK. Tel: +44-1273-270943; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Ireland