Notes on: Vincent, C, Ball, S., Rolllock, N. & Gillborn, D. (2012b). Being Strategic, Being Watchful, Being Determined: Black Middle – Class Parents and Schooling. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 33 (3): 337 – 54.

There is a general 'paradigm of active involvement'but also differences in parental strategies according to how important academic achievement is which reflects 'differential family habitus and differential possession and activation of capitals'. (337)

They want to counter deficit understandings of Black Caribbean homes and look at middle-class families and the intersection of race and class and their complexities. They've already discussed interactions in schools based on intersectionality [which I think must be Vincent et al. 2012 a] and there they discussed approaches focusing on either class or race and said that an intersectional approach is more productive, because at different points in time and in different places 'race, class and/or gender can come to the fore  '(338), as in Horvat. BMC parents are different to WMC parents, but they also differ within themselves.

62 qualitative semistructured interviews, including families where one or both parents self defined as Black Caribbean. They recruited through family and education websites, Black networks and social groups and snowballed. They are after parents in professional managerial occupations using the SOC manuals. Most the response were mothers but 13 are with fathers, mostly in London and follow-ups with 15 of them following themes that had emerged, like how and whether respondents talked with children about racism, or to revisit the complexities of race and class. They met where possible preferences for Black or White interviews, and noted particularly that Rollock was popular and is able to code switch.

All prioritised education and achievement and monitored academic progress and discussed experiences at school. They were all ready to intervene if necessary. Nearly 1/3 had been involved with the governing body or PTA. However there were some differences in practice. One couple had moved from private to state school in the interests of ethnic diversity and value for money. They focus strongly on academic achievement and doing well in GCSEs. They also provided extra tutoring. They strongly encourage their own child to go to a good university and to shadow CEOs at a global company. They are aware of racism and discrimination. Another couple is also proactive but allows her son more space for choices. In Bourdieu's terms, there is a 'difference in dispositions, in terms of what was "right" and "natural" in terms of their parenting' (340). There are also different in terms of their 'possession and activation of capitals', both economic resources and cultural goods. There are differences in social networks and educational qualifications. The last couple seem to be 'less firmly established in the middle-class' and was more ambivalent about identifying herself as such.

They draw on Bourdieu 'alongside critical race theory' (341). They follow the tenets of CRT — race is socially constructed. They'd taken from Horvat and others Bourdieu's formula: '[(habitus) (capital)] + field = practice'. Forms of capital have to be recognised, valuable within the field of education and the likelihood of effectiveness depends on the match between the structuring of an habitus and that of the field, expressed in terms like a '"feel for the game'", an awareness of conventions and regularities, how individuals play their cards. The field is a competitive social space, but not a level playing field. There are additional dimensions when race is introduced because 'White power holders may refuse to accept as a legitimate the capitals held by Black families' (342).

The habitus in Bourdieu is a system of dispositions, '"durable but not eternal"'. Individuals make choices but there are structural constraints that make them more or less right or natural, material conditions of existence, 'probable and improbable outcomes that in turn shape our unconscious sense of the possible, probable and… desirable for us"' [citing Manton]. The habitus is formed initially in the family but that can be restructured through education and later experiences. It can be embodied in 'ways of dressing, eating, speaking and walking', beginning in the family. There is usually a strong work ethic as well, sometimes seen as inherited. For Horvat, we can look at race and class simultaneously in an habitus.

There has been much discussion of the concept of capital and its types — economic, social and cultural -- and again the forms it can take, embodied, objectified [books and pictures] or institutionalised [qualifications]. Families can invest cultural capital in education. Capital has to be activated however, and this 'requires recognition' so there can be differences in the degree of effectiveness (343).

They mapped these differences in terms of 'social positioning in dispositions towards education, and also the differing degrees to which they possess and activate their capitals'. After coding, they identified four main groupings or clusters. At one end were 'those "determined to get the best"… And in the middle those who are "being watchful and circumspect" and those with "a fighting chance". At the other end… "Hoping for the best"'. These were of course snapshots and did not necessarily remain static and could change as events and circumstances changed. These variations appeared within what seem to be 'a broadly homogeneous group' in terms of income, occupation and educational attainment.

Those determined to get the best were clear about long-term planning, and did tutoring or even moving house to get into particular schools or into areas with good schools. Some used private schools. All focused on academic achievement. Trust in the state system was often 'very limited (often because of their own experiences)' (344) and many were worried that schools were too ready to accept mediocrity. One couple homeschooled their children rather than have them in a school which had low expectations and poor standards, including a perception of low expectations of Black children. Good stocks of capital made tutoring and activities possible — the home also exposed students to 'high status cultural activities' like music, travel, horse riding and in one case being sponsored to go on a mission abroad. This was seen as just necessary legitimate competence, something natural. There is also high levels of surveillance of the school and a readiness to argue to defend their own children's interest, for example getting them to move up a year group, tutoring to pass the 11+. This group did have tend to have 'high levels of educational qualifications, income towards the mid-– high end of the scale (upwards of £60,000 per annum) and to self identify (sometimes reluctantly…) as middle-class'(345) [so are they different or not?]

Those hoping for the best saw academic achievement as important but also allowed more space for the child's own voice. They were less focused on school and schooling and saw happiness as more important. They did not place pressure on their children, accepted that they might not be academic or do homework, accepted if children were doing well enough. The local schools are important. Sometimes state schools were a priority. Sometimes teenagers in particular prevented too much contact with or monitoring of school. This could produce 'considerable frustration' (346) if the school was seen as having low expectations, and led to a focus on out-of-school time and ranges of activities.

These differences 'are fairly subtle'. There are similarities, for example in using tutors or doing extra curricular activities, and parents are often 'education "insiders"', educated to degree level, and with incomes towards the mid or low end of the scale (£40,000 and under). They often 'expressed reluctance about or refusal to see themselves as middle-class'.

Specific circumstances can force moves along this continuum, for example one parent found that her teenage son was experiencing overt racism at his private school, so she took him out of it, even if that sacrificed academic achievement in favour of 'emotional well-being'. [There some quite detailed examples of the names he was called and why he couldn't cope like the other Black boys by pretending he was White, 347]. Despite 'considerable amounts of economic social and cultural capital' the school refused to 'give legitimacy to their interventions' and took no action, an indication of 'Whiteness at play' (347) [apparently further defined in Gillborn 2008] refusing to accept racism and placing the problem in the child, even though he was tested and found to have no particular learning difficulties. [He is discussed in one of the other pieces too]. The head was particularly aggressive when she withdrew the child and said the student was '"some sort of latent gangster… how he embraced the bling culture"'. In this case class resources were useless and the school made her cultural capital redundant, so she is able to use it in other practices, providing supportive networks, paying for private tutoring [maybe private testing?]. She has also tempered her ambitions for her son.

In the middle of the continuum are those who are watchful and fighters. Watchfulness is the 'main identifying attribute'. Achievement is important but does not have the same intense focus and attract the same long-term planning. Parents do monitor ask questions and act on observations but they rarely take radical action such as moving schools. They do take the initiative but remain within the boundaries set by the school of what is appropriate parental involvement — they email questions, ask for meetings, draw the teachers' attention to their concerns and adopt largely positive relationships. They are concerned to make sure the teacher knows the needs of their child and do not sink beneath the radar. They are good at dialogues, concerned not to look too pushy, prepared to look a bit humble while showing that you know what you're talking about, being prepared to work with teachers and being '"circumspect in how you challenge people in authority"' (349). One perceived unfair reprimands directed at her son but was reluctant to name race as a factor, strategically because she saw the risks inherent in doing so. Instead she spoke to the senior manager 'calmly, assertively, and diplomatically' [not at all like me then] and managed to get a point over without mentioning race or racism. These tactics common among WMC but BMC also have to deal with stereotypes of both themselves and their children and they 'use their dress, speech and demeanour to position themselves as knowledgeable, interested, enthusiastic and proactive in their dealings with schools'.

Fighters are outside the boundaries of what schools accept as appropriate teacher pupil relations. They have challenge the school directly sometimes specifically, sometimes on wider issues to do with equality. They have named race and racism explicitly, including cultural racism, low expectations and assumptions. These parents have been able to translate individual experiences into collective concerns, and have sometimes taken collective action, like supplying OFSTED with documentation, or complaining directly to schools. Sometimes they acted on behalf of other Black parents, 'a shift away from the individualism normally understood to characterised WMC families' (350).

Overall, all 62 saw education as important. Most of their own parents had. They were more proactive than their own parents because the resources were more expansive and their cultural and social resources had more value. They did have a problem because they 'can have their cultural and social capital devalued, rejected and treated as illegitimate' [so can proletarian sociology lecturers after a masonic fix]. Their activation of capital may not be effective. This can be seen as parental failure, although it also reflects the power of White institutions who refuse to recognise these resources, as a form of denial. Awareness of this resistance further affects strategies for interacting with schools. Combining Bourdieu with CRT helps reveal these interactions, and shows that overall 'racism continues to be a considerable threat and concern for this group' (351).

Practices also show differences in the possession and activation of capital, and family habitus, and this case 'the conscious and unconscious messages they give their children about… Priorities, and what role education plays in that process' (351) these dispositions are themselves circumscribed by a framework that makes some possibilities inconceivable, as revealed by the different stances of the clusters — actions and approaches of the clusters at either end of the continuum 'would appear "improbable" or even "inconceivable" to the other'.

For White parents, those less secure in the middle classes demonstrate most anxiety activity and strategy, apparently. In this case the most determined cluster of parents are the most strategic and most active but also see themselves as the most established. However the Black middle classes are located within the middle classes as a whole in a rather 'fragile and emergent' manner, and even those identifying themselves as professionals 'exhibited unease or ambiguity around identifying themselves as middle-class, seeing themselves as "in" but not "of" the middle classes'. Their position is not secured compared to past generations, which makes education even more important. However the parents are aware of low expectations and so education becomes a 'high-risk site' that becomes crucial for them to try to manage and monitor.

Note 1 says that gender is extremely important as well and they're going to write about it.