The Hidden Curriculum and the Truth About Schooling

"We don't need no education. We Don't need no thought control. Hey! Teacher! Leave those kids alone." Pink Floyd, in their iconic song Another Brick in the Wall 


Sometimes, I wonder if it would have made what I have to say about school more credible if I was a dropout (rise-out, opt-out...) myself, instead of a lifelong unschooler.

Because as such, it's assumed quite often that I must have no clue what I'm talking about.  School doesn't really teach obedience to authority, conformity, and all that jazz.  I just think it does, because I've never been to school to see how nice it is, and instead have been turned against this fine institution by my prejudiced parents.  Or so the idea goes, at least.

It's true that I can't ever know from personal experience what elementary or high school is like (besides kindergarten, of course), but I feel very confident making the statements I do about school.  Why?  Because all the research I've done shows not only that school really does teach obedience and conformity, but that the educators in the schooling system are well aware of that fact.

Open any mainstream/used in university classes sociology or education text, and I can almost guarantee that it mentions something called "the hidden curriculum."

I found this description of the hidden curriculum in a book called Sociology of Education: An Introductory View From Canada that we picked up a while ago secondhand (I posted briefly about it when I first discovered the passage): 
"The fundamental patterns in any society are held together by tacit ideological assumptions.  In schools, some rules are not overt, but they serve to organize and legitimate the activities of teachers and students.  Much of what the school teaches and the students learn does not appear in the formal curriculum.  Successful school performance requires that the student learn what are considered important and useful skills and knowledge.  But students must also have the skills to uncover the hidden rules and expectations that affect their dispositions, identities, and personalities.  For example, schools emphasize conformity, deferred gratification, achievement, competitiveness, and obedience to authority [emphasis is mine].  Students must understand the social and other dimensions of this hidden curriculum.  The hidden curriculum refers to the tacit teaching of norms, values, and dispositions that occurs through student's social experiences in routine school activities."
In another book, Society: The Basics (Canadian edition), it's noted that:
"...the school's so-called hidden curriculum, subtle presentations of political or cultural ideas, imparts important cultural values.  School activities such as spelling bees and sports encourage competition and showcase success.  Children also receive countless messages that their society's culture is both practically and morally good."
Taught to think our culture is both "practically and morally good," is it any wonder that things continue to be so bad?  If our culture is good, then there's obviously no need to change things in any real or radical way.  The same book also goes on to say that "schools further socialize young people into culturally approved gender roles," something that, as a person who often chooses to identify as a feminist, and has a good handful of queer friends, disturbs me on multiple levels.

I find it funny that so many people consider writers like John Taylor Gatto (who wrote, among many other things, this essay, which I think is great) to be so shocking, considering he's really just framing what the education profession knows to be true in a different light.

This is all just to say that not only do I consider myself justified in my dislike of the schooling institution, but also that the people who claim these things are untrue don't seem to have done much research themselves.  It seems they react in automatic defensiveness, and out of a desire for it simply not to be true, not because they've actually thought about or researched the possibility that, well, it is true!  Now if only more people could start seeing that truth, things would start changing faster...

Share this

Related Posts

Next Post »