Archive for the ‘social movements’ Category

state-of-the-field article “School choice’s idealized premises and unfulfilled promises” now available

Just before 2019 ends and we enter 2020, I’ve finally broken the superstition that whatever you do on New Years will be what you will do for the following New Years.  This year, a R&R converted into an accept and page proofs before New Years hit!

My co-authored paper with Megan Moskop is now available under the Organizations & Work section of Sociology Compass!  In this paper, using critical sociology and education research, we overview the variants of school choice systems in the US and their impacts on students, schools, and society.

Here’s the abstract:

School choice’s idealized premises and unfulfilled promises: How school markets simulate options, encourage decoupling and deception, and deepen disadvantages


In school choice systems, families choose among publicly funded schools, and schools compete for students and resources. Using neoinstitutionalist and relational inequality theories, our article reinterprets recent critical sociological and education research to show how such markets involve actors’ enacting myths; these beliefs and their associated practices normalized white, privileged consumption as a basis for revamping public education as market exchanges between schools and families. Proponents argue that choice empowers individuals, focuses organizations on improving quality, and benefits society more broadly by reducing inequality and segregation. We argue that such school choice myths’ excessive emphases on individual decision‐making and provider performance obscure the actual impacts of school choice systems upon people, organizations, and society. First, rather than enlarging alternatives that families can easily research, select, and (if needed) exit, school choice systems often simulate options, especially for disadvantaged populations. Second, rather than focusing schools’ efforts on performance, innovation, and accountability, they can encourage organizational decoupling, homogeneity, and deception. Third, rather than reducing societal harms, they can deepen inequalities and alienation. Future research should examine both how markets are animated by bounded relationality—routines that enable them to form, maintain, and complete exchanges with organizations—and how activism can challenge marketization.

Please consider assigning this state-of-the-field article in your sociology of education, inequality, economic sociology, and/or organizations courses!  (If your institution doesn’t have access to Sociology Compass, please contact me directly for a copy.)

This paper began when Megan approached me during a March 2018  Future Initiatives “Publics, Politics, and Pedagogy: Remaking Higher Education for Turbulent Times” event at the Graduate Center.  After hearing me talk on a faculty panel about my research interests, Megan asked whether we could do an informal reading group on school choice readings.  We exchanged emails and agreed to meet in person to discuss readings.

At the time, Megan was working on her masters classes and thesis in urban education at the CUNY MALS program.  She was looking for a way to manage her growing collection of citations as she analyzed her past experiences with teaching 8th graders and their families about how to participate in the mandatory school choice market in NYC .

As a new entrant to research on learning and schools through my on-going ethnography of a democratic school, I had the sense that whatever was happening in the insurance market for older adults seemed to exist in other emerging markets for other age groups.  To understand the education options in NYC, I had attended a few NYC Dept. of Education and other orientations for families on how to select pre-K and higher program.  I found these experiences comparable to my observations of orientations for professionals and older adults about enrolling in Medicare: palpable waves of anxiety and disorientation were evident in the reactions and questions from these two differently aged audiences to workshops about how they were supposed to act as consumers felt similar.  I thus became interested in learning about research on the comparable school choice market for my ethnographic research on how intermediary organizations try to orient consumers to the health insurance market.  (Indeed, a side benefit of this collaboration was that the school choice readings helped amplify my development of the bounded relationality concept that ultimately appeared in Socio-Economic Review.)

Megan and I met regularly discuss readings that Megan had suggested and I had found through literature searches in sociology.  After several of these meetings, I raised the possibility of writing a state-of-the-field overview article.  Working on this draft helped us keep track of what we had learned.  It also helped us understand how to map existing research and to identify a void that our respective expertises and writing could address: synthesizing critical studies emerging from organizations and education.   For Megan, I hoped that this experience would give her a behind-the-scenes look at the academic production of research, so that she could decide whether to head this direction.

As we read more about school choice, I realized that we hadn’t come across a chart mapping the types of school choice systems currently in operation.  Megan thus worked hard at developing a table that describes and compares different types of school choice systems.  (In my opinion, this paper’s table is a handy first step for those trying to understand the school choice landscape.)

Meanwhile, I focused on applying an organizational framework to categorize research from the sociology of education and education fields.  As we worked on the drafts in response to writing group and reviewers’ and Sociology Compass section editor Eric Dahlin’s comments, we also realized that no one had systemically broken down the impacts of using market practices to distribute public goods across levels of individual persons, organizations, and society at large.

Along the way, thanks to Megan’s connections to education and activism, we got to learn directly from people about on-going activism and research.  For instance, youth organization IntegrateNYC sent representative Iman Abdul to talk to my “Future of NYC” honors college students about efforts to racially integrate NYC public schools.  Megan and I also attended Kate Phillippo’s talk about her research on school choice in Chicago from her latest book, A Contest Without Winners: How Students Experience Competitive School Choice (2019, University of Minnesota Press).

In all, writing this paper has been a great journey with a fun and insightful collaborator.  Had you asked me back in spring 2018 what the outcome of presenting at a CUNY event would have been, I could not have predicted this.  I am forever grateful that Megan came to talk with me!

Happy New Years, readers!  May the new year bring you joy, happiness, and health.


book cover exploration #2: party in the street

Party cover

In this installment of book cover exploration, I wanted to explain the background behind this image. Like I did for “From Black Power,” I spent a fair amount of time searching for the right image. I looked at quite a few artists who painted pictures of protest. Interestingly, few people did antiwar related art. Then, I went to Getty Images and lo and behold, the perfect image appeared.

This was taken by William B. Plowman, a professional photographer. The image is from July 28, 2004 at the Democratic National Convention. I think it is perfect in that it is an “everyday” photo and it combines the theme of antiwar activism and the Democratic party.

obama photo

The book has many incredible images. This one is a picture of Obama giving “the speech” in 2002 that cemented his reputation as an opponent of the Iraq War.  We were lucky to track down people who were present at the speech. Sociologically, we find this image gripping because Obama is a connection between the world of activists and the world of partisan politics.


50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!

Written by fabiorojas

June 7, 2018 at 4:28 am

student walkouts against gun violence: notes and commentary

I have been asked by a few news sources on my views about today’s student walkouts, which are protests in favor of stricter gun control legislation. In no particular order:

  1. There is a long tradition of student protest, which includes walk outs by K-12 students. These include various student protests during the Civil Rights era, walk outs for other issues like immigration, and walk outs to protest school administrators and teachers (e.g., see Grant’s history of Hamilton High School).
  2. By themselves, walkouts will not directly lead to change unless they are connected to a larger political strategy.
  3. If this turns out to be an effective tactic, it will not be enough by itself. It will likely be part of a larger serious of contentious events around this issue.
  4. Gun control is a highly constrained space in American policy. Voters know what they like, elected officials know what they want. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room for movements.
  5. It would be interesting to see which schools issued statements for or against a protest and what correlates with that (e.g., Democratic district, district SES, etc.)
  6. My bet is that the biggest effect of these protests will be on students themselves. As suggested by some social movement research, participation acculturates people in new ways.

Add your own comments and predictions below.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 15, 2018 at 1:01 am

party in the street: huffington post coverage

protest foto

The protests against the Iraq War were some of the largest in American history. What happened? Why did they collapse? The Huffington Post ran an article on this topic and spoke to my friend and co-author Michael Heaney and myself. A few clips:

One explanation is that the anti-war push of 2003-2007 was successful — not in ending the war, but in knocking out the political party that started it.

The anti-war movement was not purely an anti-war movement, as Indiana University professor Fabio Rojas pointed out. He described the anti-war protest movement as “two groups coming together”: the core peace movement and the larger group of people who were registered Democrats and opposed to the Iraq war and then-Republican President George W. Bush, in general. “Once the Democrats win the White House,” he said, “the two groups start moving apart.”

Rojas studied the protest movement and its decline with University of Michigan political science professor Michael Heaney. After attending dozens of protests where they conducted more than 10,000 surveys of anti-war protest participants over the course of a decade, the two professors wrote a book, Party in the Street: The Antiwar Movement and the Democratic Party After 9/11, to explain it.

Check it out!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

March 7, 2018 at 2:40 pm

after charlottesville: the conversation continues

Written by fabiorojas

September 1, 2017 at 4:33 pm

party in the street: theory is put to the test

The main argument of Party in the Street is that the nature of partisanship affects the level of protest. If your movement thinks it is part of/opposed to a party, then protest will track who is in power (e.g., if your side wins an election, you mellow out). If the movement rejects the party system, then mobilization will be independent of election outcomes.

Well, we have a new data point. The Trump administration has declared a buildup of troops in Afghanistan. The party in power is Republican and the antiwar movement is tied to the Democratic party. The prediction: we should see an increase in antiwar protest.

Now, there is a mediating factor. The Afghanistan war has been the more popular part of the War on Terror. While hard core antiwar groups opposed interventions in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the public (and the Democratic party) has been more supportive of armed intervention in Afghanistan. This suggests an increase relative to the baseline of almost no protest (which we’ve seen since about 2010), we should a modest increase. Definitely not 2003 levels, but we should see more if the build up continues.

Am I right? Tell me what you think.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street / Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome! 

Written by fabiorojas

August 23, 2017 at 12:01 am

catholicism and black lives matter

More from the special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies – Kevin C. Winstead provides a fascinating ethnography of how religion and social movements come together in Black Lives Matter:

This ethnographic study examines how Black Catholics identify with and respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. The study follows several national Black Catholic gatherings since the death of Mike Brown. Using an adaptation of Scott Hunt, Robert D. Benford, and David Snow’s social movement frame analysis, I explore how Black Catholics define and construct the ongoing political issues within the Black Lives Matter movement. I discuss the conditions which contribute to Black Catholic’s participation, or lack thereof, in this social movement through the processes of diagnostic framing, prognostic framing, and motivational framing. I position the larger Black Catholic belief system within frame analysis, examine the relevance of the frames with the Black Catholic community, and analyse the frames’ timing with the Black Lives Matter cycle of protest. This research has implications for intragroup meaning making as Black Catholics start the process towards identifying with the Black Lives Matter social movement.


50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)/Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street  

Written by fabiorojas

July 26, 2017 at 12:28 am

Posted in fabio, social movements