This week’s article is going to be the first among the series that I will be discussing interpreting the sociology of education as analyzed by different postmodern sociologists. Specifically, I will be redefining and reconstructing the “hidden curriculum” in our education.
Let us first set the parameter here. What is curriculum and how is it different from the term hidden curriculum? Basically, what we refer to as a course of study describing a set of lessons within a specific class or grade level is what we explicitly know as our “formal curriculum” or simply “curriculum” as we learn it from school. “Hidden curriculum,” on the other hand, is a term that is used to describe the unwritten social rules and expectations of behavior that we all seem to know, but were never taught. For example, children just seem to know that if you smack your gum in class, you will get in trouble. Most students also know that it’s not a great idea to tell an off-color joke in front of a teacher, even if the joke was funny in the locker room. Similarly, students quickly learn which teachers are more insistent than others about conforming to classroom rules, who are more adept at catching them cheating on tests, and who are more gullible about accepting homework excuses. As a sociologist said it, “no one ever explains these things to them, yet students readily adjust their behavior according to those expectations, knowing what the consequences are likely to be, and are prepared to make those choices seemingly without effort.”
An important article that should not be missed is an article written by Michael W. Apple and Nancy R. King. It is entitled “What Do Schools Teach?”
In this paper, the authors elaborate on two areas. The first point describes a “historical process through which certain social meanings became particularly school meanings, and thus now have the weight of decades of acceptance behind them.” We should be aware that historically the hidden curriculum was not hidden at all; instead, it was the overt function of schools during much of their existence as an institution. The second point, “empirical evidence of a study of kindergarten experience to document the potency and staying power of these particular social meanings” is explained. That the first initiation into social dimension of the world of work is actually happening in the kindergarten stage. Personal attributes of obedience, enthusiasm, adaptability, and perseverance are more highly valued than academic competence.
The authors found that through observation and conducting interviews of the subjects in one particular kindergarten class, information gathered “revealed how social meanings of events and materials are established remarkably early in the school year.”
The final aspect raises the question of “whether piecemeal reforms, be they humanistically oriented or otherwise, can succeed.”
The authors add as a final retort that “this paper by itself cannot totally support the argument that schools seem to act latently to enhance an already unequal and stratified social order. It does confirm, however, a number of recent analyses that point out how schools, through their distribution of a number of social and ideological categories contribute to the promotion of a rather static framework of institutions. We want to suggest that educators need to see teachers as encapsulated within a social and economic context that by necessity often produces the problems teachers are confronted with and the material limitations on their responses.”
The article concludes with the following questions: “In whose interest do schools often function today?”; “What is the relation between the distribution of cultural capital and economic capital?” and “Can we deal with the political and economic realities of creating institutions which enhance meaning and lessen control?” This set of questions will be answered in my next article.