Term of Art: Hidden Curriculum

“Hidden Curriculum: In education, the hidden curriculum refers to the way in which cultural values and attitudes (such as obedience to authority, punctuality, and delayed gratification) are transmitted, through the structure of teaching and the organization of schools. This is different from the manifest or formal curriculum that is subject-based or topic-based. Philip Jackson’s classic work on Life in the Classroom (1968) points to three aspects of the hidden curriculum: crowds, praise, and power. In classrooms, pupils are exposed to the delay and self-denial that goes along with being one of a crowd; the constant evaluation and competition with others; and the fundamental distinction between the powerful and the powerless, with the teacher being effectively the infant’s first boss. Much sociological research has been concerned with the undesirable aspects of the hidden curriculum, whereby schools are said to sustain inequality, though sexism, racism, and class bias. If, as Emile Durkheim postulated, schools reflect the larger society of which they are a part, it is not surprising that, for good or for ill, the hidden curriculum reflects the values that permeate the other societal systems that interact with education.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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