Does education foster individual autonomy and critical inquiry or is it more accurately viewed as part of a system of social control? Discuss, with reference to Bowles and Gintis’ concept of the “hidden curriculum”, and Gramsci’s concept of hegemony
For a smoother functioning of society, it is imperative for the members to behave in a certain way. At very young age, a child is taught how to do things using the right hand, respect the elders and help the needy among many others things that are considered appropriate by the society. In this case, the behaviour of a person is regulated by the family. As one grows into adulthood, one is made aware of their responsibility towards the responsibilities that comes with one’s job. In a similar way, the behaviors of a student are largely affected by the education that one receives. Social control refers to the way a person’s behaviour is affected by the society through their socially accepted norms. In many ways, education is more appropriately viewed as a part of a system of social control in that through educating people; they have a higher likelihood of conforming to the taught norms. According to a study that was conducted by Bowles and Gintis (2011), schools rewards the students that seem to behave according to the accepted behaviors. In this case, rewards act as a positive reinforcement. Through many social relationships of education that include student-student, student-teachers among others, the students pick some behaviors that they conform to. This paper argues that education is more appropriately viewed as a part of a system of social control.
Social control is divided into two means that include informal and formal means. When it comes to the informal means, the informal mechanisms are used in various institutions that include schools, faith based organizations among others. In this case, the hidden curriculum that Bowles and Gintis explain is used. The hidden curriculum involves the lessons that are learned in any education setting that were not intended to be taught (Anyon, 1980). For example, in a school setting, there is a formal curriculum that the students are supposed to learn. However, Bowles and Gintis (58) add that there is a hidden curriculum that affects people behaviors, beliefs, values among other things. The formal means of social control occurs in various institutions that include law and education among others. Similar to the society, education has been a significant agency of social control in these formal institutions. There are many things that education teaches a student. For example, education teaches the leader the values of discipline, tolerance, and integration among other important values that assist in future responsibilities. Through a formally structured course and behavioral inputs, education institutions at various levels impact knowledge and ethics to the learners. By impacting the concepts of good behaviors, the educational system works as an agent of social control.
Through education, the students are taught how to comply and conform to some behaviors and norms of the society. Through schooling, the teachers can further the goals of social control by socializing the students. When the students socialize, they may learn to behave in a socially acceptable ways that they may not attain without socialization in schools. The students are also taught about the boundaries of the socially accepted behaviors. Teaching these behaviors teaches students how to behave after school. There are a couple of ways in which education use to reinforce social control that include positive and negative reinforcement. For example, when it comes to positive reinforcements, the students are rewarded for good behaviors (Krieken, 2010.p.159). On the other hand, negative reinforcements come in when the students behave inappropriately. In this case, shame, punishments, criticism among others methods may be used.
For example, some schools ridicule boys that behave in a manner that is considered being feminine. By his action, the gender norms may be reinforced. When it comes to formal sanctions, the schools may use suspensions and formal punishments to teach the students social control. According to Knoop (2011), schools have an imperative role when it comes to social control and assimilation of the students. For example, in public schools the immigrant’s groups were assimilated in terms of language and cultured among others things during the 19th century, the schools were created to assimilate the students as a social control means. In their study Bowles and Gintis (2011) argues that schools reward the students for behaviors that are considered appropriate. In this case, the students learn the appropriate behaviors and conform to them with a hope of being rewarded. Krieken et al. (158) point out that schools work as a mean of socialization where students have the likelihood of learning various things they couldn’t at home. When these students learn socially accepted behaviors, they become competent in handling the adult roles, and they have a higher likelihood of performing well in their careers in future. In other words, education is viewed as a part of social control since it instills into young people skills of commitment. When it comes to critical inquiry, the students are taught on ways of gathering ideas, assumptions and conducting an analysis. In most cases, some schools are big and getting time to interact with a single student to effectively foster critical inquiry has been a challenge. Teachers can effectively use education as an element of social control where they teach students various behaviors.
In their research, Krieken et al. (158) consider education as a mean of training. Krieken et al., points out that education provides training that assist people to effectively meet the industry needs in future. Through education, the students are taught how to behave in a certain way that ensures social cohesion. Krieken et al., study concludes their research by stating that education provides the students with behaviors that assist them to handle future responsibilities effectively (Krieken, 2010.p.160). In the past as Bowles & Gintis argues, the family was the one teaching the students about the appropriate behaviors. However, the educators view towards the family has largely changed. Nowadays, the family that was trusted to train the youths on moral has neglected their role and the schools have taken the role of social control. The teachers are currently the ones responsible for teaching the students about morals, values and beliefs. When the students are taught together, they will hold common behaviors that show social control. In the past, individual autonomy was taken as one of the main aims of education. However, with the diversity in classroom among other educational settings, fostering individual autonomy has been a great challenge. Learner’s autonomy is a complex construct that involves psychological among other pedagogical dimensions. Even if in some cases education can foster autonomy when teachers understand the techniques, education is more accurately seen as an essential when it comes to social control. Through education, people are becoming more and more complaint and adaptable for future careers in this capitalism era.
According to Bowles & Gintis (60-61), progressive educators have reported being committed towards maintaining control over children activities. Through this control, the educators have social control over the students. As indicated earlier, the teachers reward the students that conform to the social order with high grades among other favors. On the contrary, the students that do not conform to the appropriate behaviors are punished by being given lower grades. From these actions, the students that behave inappropriately are enticed to conform to the appropriate behaviors with the aim of getting better grades, appraisal among other positive reinforcement as their motives. Gramsci’s concept of hegemony argues that education assists in concealing contradictions. In an education system, the students may bury their contractions with a fear of being punished. This concept is referred to as the third face of power or the invisible power.
In summary, the above analysis shows that education is more accurately viewed as a mean of social control. For many years, education has been viewed as an agent of socialization where students learn various behaviors from social relationships. Educational institutions play a greater role in socializing the children and teenagers. When a child is not taught well at home, or when the parents neglect their responsibilities, education that he/she gets in school through the formal curriculum or even then hidden curriculum may correct his beliefs. For example, the students that learn about prejudice at home may be corrected in school. When these students get to meet many culture and races in schools some stereotypes are removed. Education as a part of social control in the societies cannot be overlooked.
Anyon, J. (1980). Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work. Journal of Education, 162(1).
Bowles, S. & Gintis , H. (2011). Broken Promises: School Reform in Retrospect, in A R Sadovnik (Ed), Sociology of Education: A critical Reader, Routledge: New York.
Knopp, S. (2011). What Do Schools Produce? Review of Schooling in Capitalist America: Educational Reform and the Contradictions of Economic Life.
Krieken et al. (2010).Sociology. Pearson: NSW Australia.