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Hidden curriculum

Alongside the formal curriculum within educational establishments exists a hidden curriculum. This refers to values, attitudes and principles which are implicitly conveyed to students. The hidden curriculum is argued to encourage social control first within the school itself and, subsequently, within society as a whole. The aim of the hidden curriculum is to create conformity, obedience and coercion into belief that social inequalities are just and correct.

A functionalist analysis of education is that its role is reliant on the existence of a fundamental agreement on values. This is known as consensus theory. The focus is made on the contributions which education can offer to the effective operation of society. Functionalist argument suggests that the survival of society is dependent upon the holding of collective values and their social transmission. Emile Durkheim argued that the strict enforcement of school rules and subsequent punishment for infringement would highlight the damage that could be done to society through the lack of collective co-operation. By respecting those rules in school, the child would learn to respect the rules of adult, social life. Underlying this is the assumption that there exist universal values which order the structure of society and also a belief in the necessity to instill a sense of duty within individuals within that society.

Durkheim also argued that:

Functionalism prefaces collective social interests over and above individual social interests. A criticism of the functionalist perspective on education is that the dominant norms and values within a society are arrived by a general consensus. Norms and values within a society may, in fact, represent the interests of the elite.

Talcott Parsons argued that the role of education is to take over responsibility for the socialisation process primarily carried out within the family. A Marxist argument, such as that provided by Bowles and Gintis (1976) would be that schooling is the site for the instilment within the individual of values such as punctuality, discipline, obedience and diligence, qualities which are regarded by Marxists as those needed within a capitalist workforce. Thus, the hidden curriculum serves to preserve the economic status quo.

In summary, the hidden curriculum provides:

'The educational system helps integrate youth into the economic system, we believe, through a structural correspondence between its social relations and those of production. The structure of social relations in education not only inures the student to the discipline of the workplace, but develops types of personal demeanour, modes of self-presentation, self-image, and social-class identification which are crucial ingredients of job adequacy. Specifically, the social relationships of education – the relationships between administrators and teachers, teachers and students, and students and their work – replicate the hierarchical division of labour'.
(S. Bowles and H. Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976:131).
Going further. See:
Cultural reproduction of knowledge – see the work of Pierre Bourdieu.
See the work of Erving Goffman on 'total institutions'.

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