Learning Situations and its Culture
The educational system has come to play an increasingly vital role in the general culture in the American school which has been going on for centuries. That this should be the case is, in my opinion, a consequence of the general trend to structural differentiation in the society. Thus I choose to analyze teachers and children in a daycare center and parent teaching child.
Teachers and children in a daycare center. Relatively speaking, the school is a specialized agency. It is a social system and its structure has a relation to its primary functions in the society as an agency of socialization and allocation. First, as an agency of socialization, it is an agency through which individual personalities are trained to be motivationally and technically adequate to the performance of adult roles. Though it is not the sole such agency; the family; informal “peer groups,” churches, and sundry voluntary organizations all play a part , as does actual on-the-job training.
The socialization function may be summed up as the as the development in individuals of the commitments and capacities which are essential prerequisites of their future role-performance. Commitments may be broken down in turn into two components: commitment to the implementation of the broad values of society, and commitment to the performance of a specific type of role within the structure of society.
While on the one hand, the school class may be regarded as a primary agency by which these different components of culture are generated, on the other hand, it is, from the point of view of the society, an agency of “manpower” allocation. It is well known that in American society there is a very high, and probably increasing, correlation between one’s status level in the society and one’s level of educational attainment. Both social status and educational level are obviously related to the occupational status which is attained.
In school the teacher is institutionally defined as superior to any pupil in knowledge of curriculum subject-matter and in responsibility as a good citizen of the school. While it is important that the school class is normally part of the larger
organization of a school, the class rather than the whole school is our concerned here, for it is recognized both by the school system and by the individual pupil as the place where
the “business” of formal education actually takes place. In preschools, kindergarten children are typically placed in a single “class” under one main teacher, but in the elementary and secondary schools, the pupil works on different subjects under different teachers; here the complex of classes participated in by the same pupils is a significant part of culture.
Parent teaching child. The school age child, of course, continues to live in the parental household and to be highly dependent, emotionally as well as instrumentally, on his parents. But he is now spending several hours a day away from home, subject to a discipline and a reward system which are essentially independent of that administered by the parents.
Hence for children, the school have increasingly become the principal channel of selection as well as agency of socialization and is in line with what one would expect in an increasingly differentiated and progressively more upgraded society. The legend of the “self-made person” has an element of nostalgic romanticism and is destined to become increasingly mythical, if by it is meant not just mobility from humble origins to high status, which does indeed continue to occur, but that the high status was attained through the “school of hard knocks” without the aid of formal education and the culture it brings
The structure of the school system and the analysis of the ways in which it contributes both to the socialization of individuals and to their allocation to roles in society is, I feel, of vital concern to all students of American society. Notwithstanding the variegated elements of culture in the situation, I think it has been possible to sketch out a few major structural patterns of the school system and at least to suggest some ways in which they serve these important functions.
Kahl, J.A. (1993). The American Class Structure. New York: Rinehart & Co.
Parsons, T., Bales, R.F., et al., (1995). Family, Socialization and Interaction Process. Glencoe: The