As an introduction, this post will be based around the first assigned readings for this course from Barakett and Cleghorn’s text. From the initial pages of this book, we can gain an understanding of how education can be viewed sociologically. I don’t plan on explaining all of the terminology in the readings. However, it will be important for future readings and discussions to present and review this background knowledge. Here, I hope to present a brief overview of how vast this topic is and how many issues have and will arise in education.
So, how do we study education from a sociological perspective? As explained by Barakett and Cleghorn (2008), “education is sociological because it involves a network of interrelated societal institutions and a social process, and because it has sociological functions, both intended and unintended” (p. 2). In English, this means that education takes place in an educational institution such as a school system which is also connected to other parts of society. Some of these societal links mentioned include the economy, the political system, the legal system, and the family (p. 2). The school system itself is linked to and a part of society.
Another way education is a social process is simply because it involves the interaction of people in society. In my personal opinion, this is the most interesting part. Teachers bring to the classroom their life experiences, values and beliefs. Not only is there diversity among teachers, but there is also diversity among students. Because there are so many different people together from various backgrounds, it is possible to take on the norms, values and attitudes from the culturally dominant group (p. 4).
The text presents two categories of functions that formal schooling provides – intended and unintended. The intended functions are those we think of when we think of schools – knowledge, skills, values, mental abilities, etc. The unintended functions are referred to as “hidden curriculum” which I hope to address in future posts. Unintended functions, as explained by Barakett and Cleghorn (2008), include those regarding social control that often end up defining who is to succeed and who is not, what subjects girls and boys should be interested in, etc (p. 6). In addition to social control, an unintended function of schooling is that it provides care for children for the majority of their day for the majority of the year. There are so many issues surrounding the responsibility of parents as they act as a substitute for parents during the day – this is referred to as in loco parentis (p. 7). Another hidden function of schooling is that it provides social interaction for students. It is at school that children develop their social skills and social relationships.
Because society and the school system are always changing, critical reflection and analysis of all current trends and issues in education is very important. This is what I hope to accomplish here. Now that I have stated a bit of the background knowledge I have acquired through the text readings. I will have a better understanding of the social process of schooling and what issues may arise and will be better able to present them following the class discussion tomorrow!
Barakett, J. & Cleghorn, A. (2008) Sociology of Education: an Introductory View from Canada. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada.