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The 'Third Wave': Education and the ideology of parentocracy

By Phillip Brown


In this paper it will be argued that we are entering a ‘third wave’ in the socio‐historical development of British education and that similar trends are also evident in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The ‘first wave’ can be characterised by the rise of mass schooling for the working classes in the late nineteenth century. The ‘second wave’ involved a shift from the provision of education based upon what Dewey called the “feudal dogma of social predestination” to one organised on the basis of individual merit and achievement. What is distinct about the ‘third wave’ is the move towards a system whereby the education a child receives must conform to the wealth and wishes of parents rather than the abilities and efforts of pupils. In other words, we have witnessed a shift away from the ‘ideology of meritocracy’ to what I will call the ‘ideology of parentocracy’. This paper will consider the evidence to support this conclusion and examine its sociological significance

Topics: LB Theory and practice of education
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Year: 1990
DOI identifier: 10.1080/0142569900110105
OAI identifier: oai:
Provided by: ORCA
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