National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Summer 2020


Journal of The National Collegiate Honors Council, vol. 21, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2020)


Copyright 2020 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


Patricia J . Smith’s essay on the professionalization of honors advances several original and provocative arguments that deserve serious consideration. Although Smith makes a plausible case that honors has fulfilled at least three of Theodore Caplow’s four stages of professionalization, a closer reading of this text reveals that the developments identified by Smith fail to satisfy the basic functions that each stage serves on the path toward professionalism. This essay argues that honors has little incentive to become a distinct profession because much of its highly skilled workforce enjoys the protection of occupational closure as college faculty and administrators. The author proposes an alternative sociological framework, inspired by the work of Pierre Bourdieu, for investigating past and present social dynamics of honors education. Key concepts of Bourdieu’s theory of practice (field, illusio, doxa, and habitus) are defined and applied to the context of honors.