Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Hidden Curriculum: A Social Factory

A rant by Yours Truly, Perpetually Bemused

                Within the institution of modern education lay two separate, yet equally pervasive, curriculums which prove to govern the lives, present and future, of our youth. The first, the advertised set of classes such as mathematics and history, is insignificant for the purposes of this discussion. The second, the hidden curriculum, is the one we need to recognize and is, in my opinion, perhaps the single most defining obstacle to social and moral progress. The Hidden Curriculum is ubiquitous in its quest to force a set of social expectations upon children when they are at their most malleable. The Hidden Curriculum can differ between schools depending upon the prevailing social status of its students, in order to fine-tune its social structure to perpetuate a system of inequality across the board.

                The unfortunate truth is that the hidden curriculum itself teaches ignorance of its own existence, and most people therefore do not recognize it as a harmful manifestation of the sociopolitical dominance of those in power and the perpetuation of a system that caters to the few. The largest problem is that what is “taught” are considered societal norms, and are therefore difficult to argue against, especially for a child, and the curriculum succeeds in masking itself in this way. Few are exceptions to this rule. Rebecca Walker, a premiere activist for feminism and equal rights, writes about this very subject in “Putting Down The Gun” when her son approaches her with problems. “Maybe girls will like me if I play sports” Rebecca Walker’s son confides in his mother, the hands of the hidden curriculum at work. “In a nutshell, the girls liked the jocks the best, and sometimes deigned to give the time of day to the other team, the computer nerds”. But why?

                The hidden curriculum seeks to enforce familial expectations, social roles, obedience, gender status, and the idea that dissent is unacceptable. In doing so, the education system acts as a factory; it pumps out “clones” if you will, who all share similar ideas about what is socially acceptable and what their place is within society. There are exceptions, of course, but not nearly enough to combat the problem. The majority of the population ends up behaving and believing the way the government wants them to. Girls like boys, boys like girls, men must make money and seek high paying jobs (private schools, upper middle class neighborhoods), no one must question the higher ups and men must do labor to be happy (working class families, inner city schools), men must be tough, aggressive and competitive, women must be devoted and emotional. A dichotomy is taught to form between man and woman. They are taught to be emotionally, physically, and “aspirationally” different. Men are prepared for office and war while women are prepared for motherhood. Walker recognizes this problem, though does not use the term “hidden curriculum” to describe it:
         “It occurred to me that my son was being primed for war, was being prepared to pick up a gun … It is a war against vulnerability, creativity, individuality, and the mysterious unknown.”

                From things as simple and difficult to argue as depicting a family as mommy and daddy, with daddy in a suit and tie and mommy in an apron, to things as difficult to spot as implied racism. But it is all taken in on a subconscious level by the student.

                Try to imagine a world without this hidden curriculum. A world where man and woman have more freedom to choose how they live their life and what they believe. A world where students are taught that dissent is to be celebrated, that gender is far more ambiguous than it is allowed to be, that men can be emotional and women can be competitive. Would there be a need for feminism? Social progress would be an inevitable byproduct of an enlightened people. The possibilities for humankind where man and woman are not shaped to perpetuate a broken system are endless. New governments, new economic systems, a renewed respect for the environment, a greater and more widespread, enlightened morality; these are all, as I see it, inevitable under a system without this hidden gender manufacturing.
If only.

PS Americans - Did you know that the Equal Rights Amendment, proposed way back in 1923, has yet to be incorporated into the Constitution? Ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states, the equal rights amendment seeks to enforce equal rights for both sexes. That means equal pay for equal work, no discrimination on grounds of gender, and a general step in the right direction for moral and social progress.
It hasn’t passed yet. An amendment seeking equality HAS NOT PASSED. Way to go America.
Spread the word.
Also, this wasn't supposed to be funny so kiss my ass.

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