School Attitudes

In forming my view that school functions in part to help folks accept workplace domination, I rediscovered the view of the ’76 book Schooling In Capitalist America:

Schools produce future workers; … schools socialize students to accept beliefs, values, and forms of behavior on the basis of authority rather than the students’ own critical judgement of their interests.

(Weakly) supporting evidence:

A recent survey of 3,000 employers … asked, “When you consider hiring a new nonsupervisory or production worker, how important are the following in your decision to hire?” Employers ranked “industry based skill credentials” at 3.2 on a scale of 1 (unimportant) to 5 (very important), with “years of schooling” at 2.9, “score on tests given by employer” and “academic performance” both at 2.5. By far the most important was “attitude” ranked 4.6, followed by “communication skills” (4.2). …

[In a] survey of 1693 British employers … Of the somewhat more than a third of the establishments reporting a “skill shortage”, personnel managers identified the recruitment problem as “lack of technical skills” in 43 percent of the cases, but “poor attitude, motivation, or personality” in a remarkable 62 percent of the cases. Poor attitude was by far the most important reason for the recruitment difficulty given. The importance of motivation relative to technical skill was even greater among the full sample.

Here’s one accounting of three more specific functions of school:

  • Legitimization: Repeated contacts with the educational system, which seems impersonal and based on reliable criteria, convinces students (and their parents) that they are ending up in an appropriate place in society based on their skills and abilities. Thus, people accept their position in life: they become resigned to it, maybe even considering it appropriate or fair.
  • Acclimatization: The social relationships in the schools encourage certain traits, appropriate to one’s expected economic position, while discouraging others. Thus,certain relationships are considered normal and appropriate. Subordination to authority is a dominant trait enforced for most students.
  • Stratification: Students from different class backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and genders are overwhelmingly exposed to different environments and social relationships and thus are tracked and prepared for different positions in the hierarchy. The different experiences and successes lead each student to see her place as appropriate.
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