Herlufsholm Boarding school (c) Michael B. Rasmussen

Herlufsholm Boarding school (c) Michael B. Rasmussen

Article: Lisa R. Bass (2014) Boarding Schools and Capital Benefits: Implications for Urban School Reform, The Journal of Educational Research, 107:1, 16-35

This is the question asked by Lisa Bass in her recently published research – specifically she asks what are the capital implications of boarding schools for urban school reform in the United States. Here’s the abstract:

The author discusses the boarding school model as a schooling alternative to improve life chances for disadvantaged youth, particularly African American youth, by positively meeting their social and educational needs. Bourdieu, Coleman, and other social scientists purported that these needs can be better met by exposing students to social and cultural capital. In this qualitative study, the environment of a boarding school is studied to determine to what extent they increase students’ exposure to social, cultural, and education capital (Bourdieu, 1977, 1993, 1996). Findings indicate that the boarding school model is successful at increasing students’ exposure to social, cultural, and education capital. Implications include implementing successful practices from boarding schools into traditional day schools.

Seasoned observers of boarding schools in other parts of the world will already be familiar with the benefits of such forms of education, so the positive implications expressed in the study should come as no surprise – what did surprise me was the lack of any sustained discussion of how forms of capital (in particular economic capital) buy you access to such schools in the first place. A more expansive analysis of Bourdieu’s forms of capital may have helped further contextualise the study, but having said it, it would be difficult to argue against the findings presented here.

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