SCHOOLS AND FORMAL EDUCATION
The chances are that if you have purchased this book, you are enrolled in a post-secondary
educational institution. Another assumption: you have made the commitment to post-secondary
education out of the belief that this investment will result in a well-paying, fulfilling job.
Sociologists note that while education does provide the opportunity for occupational
advancement, it also perpetuates social inequality. That is, schoolchildren learn not only basic
literacy and numeracy skills, they also learn their ‘proper’ place in society; thus, social inequality
is reproduced across generations. It is also pointed out that upper-class children have more
advantages than their working-class counterparts, both in terms of attending a private school and
attaining a higher education. Even when students are grouped together in the same classroom
they do not receive the same education, as a result of tracking, or the differential assigning of
children to educational programmes, on the basis of perceived ability.
While public schools socially integrate diverse groups of children, some children attend
unconventional schools where the school population is quite homogeneous; e.g., private schools,
and schools that segregate students on the basis of race, sex, and religion. The benefits and
drawbacks of segregated schools are discussed.
Finally, the chapter notes the stresses schoolchildren often experience: the pressure to have
good grades and be popular with peers (these demands appear to be antithetical to each other).
And, of course, some children face violence at the hands of their schoolmates. The attributes of
childhood bullies and their victims are thoroughly examined.
In this chapter, you will
• learn about the role schools play in communities;
• come to understand the social functions of higher education;
• identify the various inequalities perpetuated by educational institutions;
• analyze how abuse or violence may take place on school grounds; and,
• appreciate the ability of education to foster a wholesome society.
Key Terms 2
education: A process designed to develop one’s general capacity for thinking critically, as well
as a capacity for self-understanding and self-reliance.
formal education: Education received in accredited schools during formal teaching sessions.
hidden curriculum: Lessons that are not normally considered part of the academic curriculum
that schools unintentionally or secondarily provide for students.
informal education: The variety of ways we undertake to gain knowledge for ourselves outside
institutions of formal education (e.g., schools, colleges, and universities).
meritocracy: Any system of rule or advancement where the rewards are strictly proportioned to
the accomplishment and all people have the same opportunity to win these rewards.
training: A process designed to identify and practise specific routines that achieve desired
Coleman, J. S., with J. W. C. Johnstone, & K. Jonassohn (1966 ). The Adolescent Society:
The Social Life of the Teenager and Its Impact on Education. New York: Free Press.
As we saw earlier, this is a classic study in the sociology of education, the findings of which
are still applicable in today’s society. Coleman examines the distinct value system of
adolescents and its implications for their academic achievement.
Guppy, N., & Davies, S. (2006). The Schooled Society: An Introduction to the Sociology of
Education. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
This book explores schooling from various perspectives, within a Canadian context. It
discusses both classic and contemporary theories and theorists and links their research to
educational inequality, the social organization of schooling, and the future of schooling in
Kadison, R., & DiGeronimo, T. F. (2004). College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental
Health Crisis and What To Do About It. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
In this book, the authors focus on the recent increase in serious mental health problems
among students on campus. They examine rising incidents of depression and harmful
behaviours such as binge drinking. The authors outline the school-related pressures faced by
students that have an impact on their well-being and provide helpful information both for
students and their parents to reduce the severity of stress-related problems. 3
Lauder, H., Brown, P., Dillabough, J-A, & Halsey, A. H. (eds.) (2006). Education,
Globalization, and Social Change. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
This book outlines the relationship between education and the outcomes it is generally
believed to have: economic success, the reduction of poverty, inequality, and environmental
harm. However, the authors state that there are limits to education’s ability to do all the
above. The authors examine these limits, as well as opportunities for success, through various
Livingstone, D. W. (2004). The Education-Jobs Gap: Underemployment or Economic
Democracy. Toronto: Garamond.
As the title suggests, this book, by an eminent Canadian sociologist, discuses the gap people
experience between the education they receive and the skills and knowledge necessary in
their occupation. The findings of this book are important for current students who are
interested about what work life will be like in the future.
Seeley, J. R., Sim, R. A., Loosley, E. W., with N. W. Bell, & D. F. Fleming (1956). Crestwood
Heights. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
This is a classic product of Canadian-based sociological research. An ethnographic study of
an affluent Canadian suburb (Forest Hill Village in Toronto), it explores how the community
school plays an important part in the lives of students, parents, and teachers, and how it
impacts children’s values, ambitions, and mental well-being.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC)
Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF)
Canadian Council on Learning (CCL)
Toronto Star Series: Brainstorm
Multiple Choice Questions
1. The rising need for ever more sophisticated educational qualifications is known as
a) diploma disease.
b) formal education.
d) postmodern educational requirements.
2. __________ is a process designed to develop one’s general capacity for thinking critically, as
well as a capacity for self-understanding and self-reliance.
a) Formal education
3. Education received in accredited schools during formal teaching sessions is known as
a) manifest functions.
c) formal education.
d) ability grouping.
4. __________ refers to the process designed to identify and practise specific routines that
achieve desired results.
d) Ability grouping 5
5. Lessons that are not normally considered part of the academic curriculum that schools
unintentionally or secondarily provide for students are known as
a) latent functions.
b) the hidden curriculum.
c) secondary socialization.
d) accidental learning.
6. Which of the following is an example of a latent function of schools?
a) the teaching of the importance of punctuality
b) the teaching of knowledge and skills
c) the warehousing of unemployed young people
d) all of the above
7. Which of the following statements would be most closely associated with the symbolic
a) Schools teach students how to dress and behave to befit their social roles.
b) Schools train students in patient obedience—a necessary qualification for the workplace.
c) The job of schools is to give students human capital and skills.
d) none of the above
8. According to Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, the rise of the research-oriented
university has resulted in greater power for
a) university administrators.
b) federal and provincial governments.
d) all of the above
9. A __________ refers to any system of rule or advancement in which the reward