Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Hidden Curriculum

Here's an excerpt from a paper I had to write today for grad school on hidden curriculum. I thought this topic was sort of interesting, hence the sharing: Note: the formatting gets lost when I transfer it to my blog, apologies in advance)

In A Sociology of Educating, Meighan (1981) defines hidden curriculum as “taught by the school, not by any teacher… something is coming across to the pupils which may never be spoken…. They are picking up an approach to living and an attitude to learning.” (p. 314) In Themes and Perspectives Haralambos (1991) defines hidden curriculum as consisting “of those things pupils learn through the experience of attending school rather than the stated education objectives of such institutions.” (p. 267) The hidden curriculum includes values such as where formal education takes place, who participates in it, what the relationship between participants are, how success and failure are measured, and the overall purpose of education (Meighan, 1981). These values are translated into norms that condition the behavior of participants in the educational process. Meighan claims that students and teachers in a classroom are “haunted” by ghosts of things like the designers of the school, textbook writers, employer demands, and the creators and maintainers of language and jargon. Is a classroom institutional and sterile or warm and inviting? Are textbooks biased? Are employer expectations in line with what is best for students? Does the language used hold meaning for students? In The Hidden Curriculum of Higher Education, Eric Margolis notes that hidden curricula may be only partially hidden; some of us may be aware of them and may be participants in their hiding. “Curricula can be hidden by a general social agreement not to see.” (p.2) He makes a delightful analogy between the fairy tale “The Emperor Has No Clothes” and hidden curriculum. The emperor and his subjects were all socialized to believe that he had on clothes even though their eyes told them otherwise. None of them wanted to be taken for fools by pointing out that they could not see what everyone else seemed to see. Finally, it was an unsocialized child who pointed out to everyone that the emperor was in fact naked. What is being taught in our schools that we are socialized not to see?

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