Kenneth Horvath (2023)
In Rainer Diaz-Bone & Guillemette de Larquier (eds.), Handbook of economics and sociology of conventions. Cham: Springer, Online first
Abstract. School education is troubled by a deep dilemma: to radically ensure equality by providing fair opportunities for all pupils while producing inequality by differentiating and sorting students according to individual merit and potential. School systems handle this dilemma by designing and conducting myriad forms of testing and sorting. These testing and sorting practices, however, persistently fail to function in an equitable manner. This handbook chapter discusses how economics and sociology of conventions (EC/SC) help to understand and to problematize this “malfunctioning.” It provides an overview of existing studies that have implemented the neopragmatic perspective of EC/SC to understand dynamics that evolve between the politics of education, organizational forms of school education, and everyday pedagogical practices. On this basis, the chapter sketches five ways in which research centered on the guiding heuristic of conventions furthers understanding of educational inequalities: (1) accounting for the plurality of understandings of what makes “good and fair” school education (and hence of what counts as “inequitable” or “unfair” in the first place); (2) conceptualizing the relations and the interplay between everyday pedagogical situations and wider social formations, including the field of politics; (3) understanding different forms of testing and sorting as negotiated and contested outcome of concrete practices of design, critique, and research; (4) deciphering how (unintended) patterns of disadvantaging arise from how social actors define and handle uncertain educational situations; (5) providing a framework for reflecting about how social research is itself entangled in the formation, reproduction, and transformation of educational inequalities.