Making the middle class: schooling and social class formation

Craig Campbell (University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Publication date: 1 June 2015



As the Australian working class continues its decline, sociological and historical scholarship has begun to focus more on the middle class. The purpose of this paper is to explore the historiography and social theory concerning the middle class, and argues that the ways in which middle class families use schools have been a powerful force in the formation of that class.


This paper reviews the author’s own work on this topic, the work of other scholars, and suggests a number of social practices that middle class families employ as they school their children.


The ways that many families operate in relation to the schooling of their children constitute a significant set of social class practices, that in turn assist in the continuing formation of the middle class itself. The social and policy history of schooling can expose the origins of these practices.

Research limitations/implications

This paper originated as an invited key-note address. It retains characteristics associated with that genre, in this case putting less emphasis on new research and more on a survey of the field.


In the early twenty-first century, the relevance of social class analysis for understanding a great range of social and historical phenomena is in retreat. This paper argues the continuing importance of that kind of analysis.



Campbell, C. (2015), "Making the middle class: schooling and social class formation", History of Education Review, Vol. 44 No. 1, pp. 54-70.

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