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The Sociology of Childhood

6. School and Work

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In this module, we think about school and work and the relationship between them, focusing in particular on: (i) the idea that education is a fundamental right of children around the world: the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the Millennium Development Goals (2000) and the Sustainable Development Goals (2015); (ii) the economic argument for school: the growth in the 18th-19th century of the bureaucratic state, and the consequent need for a literate and numerate workforce; (iii) the moral argument for school: education enables the full flourishing of the human being; (iv) the impact of the expansion of mass schooling: schools as 'workhouses', the preference for standardisation, the flattening of local cultures, etc.; (v) the idea of school and work as a 'technology' that enables people to acquire certain skills or bodies of knowledge; (vi) the inappropriateness of a schooling system developed within (and for) the industrialised economy of the 18th and 19th centuries for the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century; and (vii) the fundamental similarities of the school space and the work space, their status as 'technologies', and the potential damage caused by schooling (or work) in which the student (or worker) does not acquire any skills and knowledge.


In this course, Professor Karen Wells (Birkbeck, University of London) explores the sociology of childhood. In the first module, we think about the idea is childhood is socially constructed, before moving on in the second module to consider the idea that children have agency. In the third module, we think about child rights and the emergence of a 'child rights regime', before turning in the fourth module to think about the inequalities that shape childhood. In a shorter fifth module, we think about different theories of identity emerging from psychology and childhood studies, before turning in the two final modules to think about two domains of childhood – school and work, and the juvenile justice system.


Professor Karen Wells is Professor of Human Geography at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research is focused on childhood studies, particularly the formation of childhood and the impact of inequality on children’s lives. She is author of The Visual Cultures of Childhood (2020), Childhood Studies: Making Young Subjects (2017), and Childhood in Global Perspective (2014).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Wells, K. (2021, August 23). The Sociology of Childhood - School and Work [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Wells, K. "The Sociology of Childhood – School and Work." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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