Hidden Curriculum Education


Beside the formal curriculum, there exists a hidden curriculum within the education systems. Hidden curriculum refers to attitudes, values and principles which are implicitly imparted to students. Hidden curriculum is perceived to promote social control within the education environment and, subsequently, within the community. Therefore, hidden curriculum is aimed at creating obedience, conformity and coercion based on the idea that social inequalities are correct and just.

Primary and secondary education is a critical area for the evaluation of education, training, social change and socialization. However, society has protracted the education process beginning from kindergarten, high school and higher learning institutions (Clandinin & Connelly, 1995). As such, the role of education relies on existing consensus on values. These focus on the potential contributions that education can make towards the effective functionality of the society. Therefore, hidden curriculum contributes to a student’s social development through emphasizing unique skills, such as exercising restraint, cooperating, learning to wait in a patient manner, being neat and punctual, completing assignments, and demonstrating loyalty to administrators, teachers and peers. These aspects of educational institutions and requirements to conform to institutional objectives and expectations are critical for the satisfactory progression through school and subsequent assimilation into society.

The society can only survive if it holds collective values and their inherent social transmission (McLaren, 2009). The development and implementation of school rules, such as punishing a student for violation, would demonstrate the harm that could influence the society in case collective co-operation was inadequate. Therefore, through conformity and obedience to school rules, a student learns to appreciate the rules that apply to social adult life. This concept is premised on the assumption that there are universal values in the society’s structure and a concurrent conviction in the necessity and significance of instilling a sense of responsibility within the society’s members.

In modern, industrialized society, education provides the basis and opportunity for learning skills that can potentially place a person in a strategic position for future prospects in the labor market (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009). Thus, the synergy of specialized skills in the work environment emphasizes the need for social solidarity and cooperation. Education has a role in taking over the duty to oversee the socialization process, a role that is primarily the responsibility of the family. Therefore, hidden curriculum facilitates the instilment within student’s values such as discipline, punctuality, obedience and diligence, which are critical qualities for social integration and conformity in their adulthood.

In light of this, hidden curriculum facilitates the creation of a compliant workforce, which accepts that all people cannot be equal; therefore, conforms to the existing social and economic hierarchy while striving to advance the ranks through achievements and conformity. The education system is critical in aiding the integration of students into the economic system through structural communication between production and social relations. The configuration of social relations in education familiarizes the student with the norms of the work environment through the development of self-image, personal demeanor, social-class identification and methods of self-presentation which are critical in determining the individual’s adequacy for the job.

Hidden curriculum entails a comprehensive system of rules in education institutions that predetermine a student’s behavior and conduct. For instance, a student must attend classes regularly, must arrive at a defined time, and with an appropriate attitude and bearing; a student must not interrupt or disrupt classroom activities. Additionally, a student must do homework and learn in a reasonable manner. It is evident that, besides formal curriculum requirements, there are obligations that a student is required to meet. Therefore, the formal and hidden curriculums work in sync in constituting the discipline of the education institution. Hidden curriculum is not only essential for the development of student’s moral and social etiquette, but also aids in the development of responsible and self-conscious future adults.

Origin of Sexism, Racism, & Heterosexism in Education

  • Sexism

Prior to the 1960s, women were barred from universities and colleges, more so, graduate and professional programs. Furthermore, the more prestigious the program was, the more women were discriminated on the basis of gender. Women’s movements were significantly responsible for pressuring the government to enact laws prohibiting sex discrimination in education institutions. This led to the enactment of the law requiring educational institutions to eradicate gender discrimination in financial aid and admission policies, sports programs and gender-segregated classes, and faculty, staff and administrative hiring practices.

In recent years, women have been able to take advantage of the prevalent equitable opportunities to pursue higher education such as university or college degrees. While there has been significant progress in creating equal educational opportunities for both men and women, it is still essential to be vigilant to potential cases of discrimination (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). Making assumptions that sexism has been eradicated comprehensively in modern education is misguided; since, various forms of sexism continue to exist in various aspects of modern education. For instance, the curriculum is a potential area of being subjected to sexism; therefore, teachers in the formal education system should ensure that they adopt comprehensive curriculum that incorporates the interests of both male and female students.

  • Racism

Racism has been a factor since the abolishment of slavery and the segregation of colored students from white students, since the civil rights movement and is still relevant in the modern era of social-economic and political democracy. Racism has significant impact on schools and comes in various forms. This includes overt racism in education institutions where attendance restrictions are gerrymandered to intensify segregation; where per-pupil budgeted expenditures for majority-ethnic schools are kept considerably lower than those of majority white schools.

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Teachers can also display personal racism, which extends beyond derogatory remarks and thoughts concerning a student. It is evident that a significant number of teachers are whites with middle income; schools tend to be run in accordance with the beliefs and values of this social class (Winfield, 2007). Occasionally, various values peculiar to the middle-income class are presumed to be common human values. When this occurs, ethnic students are made believe and feel that they behave contrary to the norms, when, in reality, it is simply different and not wrong. Meanwhile, institutional racism occurs when racism is embedded in the education system and functions automatically. These include common school practices, such as ability grouping and IQ testing (Winfield, 2007).

  • Heterosexism

 The establishment of the United States sexual education system aimed at reducing the incidents of venereal diseases and promoting heterosexuality through “traditional” sexual expression within marriage. The implementation of this system in the 20th century extended to the 21st century, where it has continued to be harmful and contentious to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and students questioning their sexuality (LGBTQ). This preference dynamic promotes heterosexism through enabling hetero-normative values to persist in education systems and subsequently into adulthood. This leads to a system that discriminates against those who do not subscribe to conventional sexual norms. The exclusion of LGBTQ issues has pushed them into the margins, consequently, erasing them systematically. The prevalence of hetero-normative culture in education institutions has granted privileges and preference to heterosexual students while discriminating against LGBTQ students. Heterosexism is not only discriminative in educational institutions, but extends to the institutions such as healthcare, government and business. Heterosexism is significantly embedded into traditional and cultural values of society, therefore, deconstructing its instructions of such constricted values is daunting.

Prevalence of Racism in Education Today

While various laws have been enacted prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, disabilities or originality, racism in schools continues to be an issue today, though significantly different from the racism experienced in schools before the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Significant school funding inequalities continue to persist with a large number of schools, depending on meager financing to finance their operations. This aspect leaves a significant number of minority students in urban areas in poor learning conditions. Racism in schools is presented in various forms and can be in the form of cliques, technical innocent comments in writing or verbally, bullying and cyber-bullying (Winfield, 2007).

The materials that students are exposed to in their home and the context in which such materials are placed influences how they act and think. Media exposure and sensationalism of hate crime have become an integral component of modern news, a fact that students are widely aware. Racism comes from various avenues; administrators and teachers can be perpetrators or victims of racist acts. For instance, schools where a significant number of teachers are primarily from one race or ethnicity and their assistants from another race are common. Often in these situations, there is an underlining tension which parents and students can feel.

Racism in schools influences students’ life and future profoundly. There are indications that schools continue to be segregated in many regions in the United States. Large numbers of children are constricted into their local public schools (Winfield, 2007). These children have no options or hopes to join private schools attended by their wealthy peers, since they cannot afford it; thus when it’s time for college, they are unprepared. Accordingly, such students are unable to enter into professions which have the potential to level their economic difficulty. Though these students may eventually graduate, they find themselves practically unemployable.

Stereotyping of ethnic groups as being incapable of learning or subjective to a defined way of life that does not require education is among the factors that have led to the persistence of racism in modern schools. Some teachers integrate selective stereotyping in their teaching methods, where students from ethnic backgrounds are perceived to have low affinity for learning and will often be ignored, despite their high affinity for education (Winfield, 2007). Such characterization of a student based on the perceived poor educational attributes of his/her ethnic background or originality characterizes stereotyped racism. Minimal cultural differences have been made significant in schools in result of teacher’s expectations and the general perceptions of attitudes concerning achievements in a defined school.

Children from various ethnic backgrounds are often tested in schools; where the tests are aimed at measuring the degree to which ethnic children have performed against the set goals of the school. Since children form lower income class ethnic groups, such as blacks from inner city communities, are socially distant from the schools’ objectives and goals, they have the lowest results on the tests. Consequently, these children are placed in standardized groups aimed at making up for their perceived deprivation. In such circumstances, a teacher’s expectations come into play where the low performing group, comprising mostly of ethnic children, is given minimum performance standards in contrast to the higher group, comprising mostly of white children from middle class families (Winfield, 2007). While various multicultural programs have been implemented as a consequence of the diverse ethnic groups, it is evident that racism is still prevalent in schools today. Educators, administrators and parents have a critical role to play in the elimination of the various forms of racism that are persistent; therefore, school racism should be dealt with on all levels.

Policies Addressing Heterosexism in Education

Heterosexism is an endemic problem in society; however, in spite of the liberal attributes given to university environments, lower education institutions are not exempted from the wider social-political context in which they are entrenched. LGBT students often experience harassment, negative attitudes and violence on campuses. Therefore, a common school of thought that addresses such challenges is essential. Comprehensive education-wide policies and programs are essential in assessing and changing attitudes towards LGBT individuals (Koschorek & Tooms, 2009). Higher educational institutions have implemented various programs and policies that discourage the prevalence of heterosexism; therefore, significant efforts are required for a comprehensive overhaul of the hetero-normative attitude that has been adopted in most educational institutions.

These include the promotion of inclusiveness and equity for all individuals in the education system through recognizing teacher and student diversity and anti-heterosexism goals in selecting programs and priorities. Therefore, promoting anti-heterosexism education is necessary, since the role of the education system is critical in developing positive societal change that addresses the realities of LGBT issues for parents, teachers and students. Inclusive education policies are premised on the belief that heterosexism assumes it is the only sexual orientation in the entire school system; therefore, denying LGBT students accommodation and affirmation (Koschorek & Tooms, 2009). These policies provide that LGBT students have the right to be represented and included through affirmation in a respectful and positive manner. Hence, they have a right to be treated with dignity, equitably and fairly without fear of violence, discrimination or harassment. In light of this, LGBT students should have recourse avenues without being reprised when they are harassed, abused or discriminated.

The development of anti-heterosexism is an integral objective of education that permeates materials, curriculum, pedagogy, practices, policies and programs. The elimination of heterosexism in school requires educators to embrace their responsibility to be enlightened and reflect on their individual behaviors and attitudes in modeling understanding, respect and affirmation of sexual orientation diversity (Koschorek & Tooms, 2009). The educational curriculum is a critical factor, which contains accurate information and positive images concerning culture and history that reflects the contributions and accomplishments of LGBT individuals. Therefore, in order to create a LGBT inclusive education environment, educators must take initiatives to make schools safe for LGBT students, staff and parents through:

  • The use of language that supports all sexual orientations while discouraging disparaging language or remarks that promote heterosexism;
  • Development of a strategic plan to be used in the event discrimination, violence or harassment incident;
  • Treating everyone with acceptance and respect; while not making assumptions in sexual orientation matters;
  • Challenging students, staff and parents who continue being prejudiced on the basis of their precepts towards sexual orientation;
  • Keeping confidential matters of disclosure of gender identity or sexual orientation (Koschorek & Tooms, 2009).

The adoption of anti-heterosexism policies is critical in recognizing that heterosexism plays a contributory role in harassment and bullying in schools. Thus, counseling programs and counselors should not attempt to change the LGBT students through referral or use of reparative, aversion or conversion therapies. Educators have a significant responsibility in ensuring that access to developmental programs is available for assisting the implementation of policies that address LGBT issues in schools and classrooms.

In light of this, developmental programs should entail curriculum, strategies and lesson plans that aid teachers in addressing LGBT issues in education environments. While the education system attempts to implement programs and policies aimed at mitigating and eliminating the impacts associated with heterosexism, governmental agencies such as the Department of Education must become discernible advocates of anti-heterosexism education through facilitation of adequate resources for implementing change in education system (Darling-Hammond & Bransford, 2005). The agency should also facilitate training, directives and curriculum documents that integrate anti-heterosexism perspectives.

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