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“The Nature of Schooling” by Doris R. Entwisle Rewiev

The Nature of Schooling is an essay addressing the issue of economic inequality and its impact on children’s educational achievements. Entwisle, the author, argues with misinterpretation of the critical studies on the issue that were understood as proof that knowledge is more genetically related than based on environmental factors. She demonstrates aspects of school as an institution capable of narrowing the gap between regular students and the underprivileged ones. Her key point lies in the importance of the home and income factor in children’s education. Hence, she emphasizes the ability of schools to mitigate such impact in order to use their opportunities to fight inequality.

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To start, Entwisle (2015) argues with the early evaluation of the effect of the educational Headstarts programs on its pupils who belong to low-income families. Beforehand, these programs were believed to have no significant impact on children’s IQ (Entwisle, 2015). However, the author emphasizes that the re-evaluation of the data provided by Headstart demonstrates the opposite (Entwisle, 2015). For instance, Headstart participants had more chances to graduate high school, while the non-Headstart group ended up in prison more often (Entwisle, 2015). Moreover, Entwisle (2015) proves that Headstart youngsters’ parents were more satisfied with their children’s school performance. The latter argument does not seem absolutely convincing: as Enwisle (2015) mentions herself later, parental education level among the low-income groups happens to be lower. Hence, there is no guarantee that parents’ satisfaction actually reflects the state of affairs. However, Entwisle’s criticism of the early assessment of Headstart seems quite fair.

Moving on, Entwisle (2015) points out the importance of studies, tracking children’s cognitive growth throughout a year. Schools mitigate the difference in the home environment that is inevitable during summer vacations (Entwisle, 2015). According to Heyns (Entwisle, 2015), families’ socioeconomic status was the essential factor that built the gap between the different groups of students. As Entwisle (2015) claims, “over the summer, however, the better-off white children in her study gained 11 units more than students in the next lower economic category” (p.220). However, it stays unclear how Entwisle defines cognitive growth: she does provide examples on reading and maths (Entwisle, 2015), but it stays unobvious if she means anything broader than these criteria and, if so, why she does not demonstrate those parameters. Overall, the point on the effect of a seasonal factor is still clear due to the descriptive statistics provided by the author.

In the “Dimension of Inequality” part, Entwisle (2015) provides her readers with an understanding of inequality effect on education. She explains how family income affects educational achievements (Entwisle, 2015). For instance, in 1992, only 5 % of children from the families of the lowest income quantile received a degree (Entwisle, 2015). However, it seems insufficient to analyze exclusively socioeconomic dimensions of inequality when the title speaks of many. The text speaks of the essential part of social inequality; however, the author does not dig in the discussion of gender or orientation-based inequality. Moreover, Entwisle could have used broader data to have a universal perspective, as Bodovski (2019) did by comparing educational practices in Russia and the States. Hence, while demonstrating her comprehensive understanding of economic inequality mechanisms’ influence on the educational system, the author lacks attention to other dimensions of discrimination.

To conclude, the piece aims to prove that, despite the opposite opinions being quite popular, schools should be an agent of mitigation of the a priori differences between the students. Entwisle proves the misinterpretation of several massive databases and demonstrates the strong relationship between the socioeconomic level of families and the educational success of their children. Nevertheless, the main drawback of the text lies in its limitation of the inequality dimensions, while the topic appears to be more comprehensive. To say nothing about the fact that Entwisle could have expanded the sample of the cases applying data from other countries. As for the notions needing clarification, it is fair to name cognitive growth which is not defined by the author.


Bodovski, K. (2019). Childhood and education in the United States and Russia: Sociological and comparative perspectives. Emerald Publishing Limited.

Entwisle, D. R. (2015). The nature of schooling. In R. Arum (Eds.), The structure of schooling (pp. 219 – 228). Sage.

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