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The Hidden Curriculum In Higher Education

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The Hidden Curriculum in Higher Education is a daring look at the way colleges and universities produce race, class, and gender hierarchies and reproduce conservative ideology. These original and provocative essays shed light on all that remains hidden in higher education.


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The Hidden Curriculum in Higher Education is a daring look at the way colleges and universities produce race, class, and gender hierarchies and reproduce conservative ideology. These original and provocative essays shed light on all that remains hidden in higher education.

35 review for The Hidden Curriculum In Higher Education

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor (I sometimes get notified of comments)

    The first chapter of this is really useful – it is a quick introduction to the problems of the hidden curriculum giving particularly useful thumbnails of various sociologists and their theories. The book itself is available on Eric Margolis’s homepage: http://margolis.faculty.asu.edu/Artic... There are paradoxes involved in all of this stuff. The point is that much of what can be considered to be a ‘hidden’ curriculum really isn’t all that hidden at all. In fact, the point of a hidden curriculum i The first chapter of this is really useful – it is a quick introduction to the problems of the hidden curriculum giving particularly useful thumbnails of various sociologists and their theories. The book itself is available on Eric Margolis’s homepage: http://margolis.faculty.asu.edu/Artic... There are paradoxes involved in all of this stuff. The point is that much of what can be considered to be a ‘hidden’ curriculum really isn’t all that hidden at all. In fact, the point of a hidden curriculum is that it should be ‘hidden in plain sight’. Someone that was more interested in Foucault might have called this book something like ‘Power-Knowledge in Higher Education’. The point being that power is often assumed to be something that is imposed on us from outside and that knowledge is the thing we ought to be able to use to ‘uncover’ power and the lies power tells us. However, the truth is a little more complicated. Power and knowledge are in fact intimately connected. Effectively, those who run the world have the greatest say in how the world is to be ‘read’. In this way what is often ‘hidden’ about the hidden curriculum is actually the fact that power encourages us to ‘not see’ a whole series of things, or rather, to see things that reinforce power as if they were ‘normal’ and ‘common sense’. Something I read recently said that the point of the social sciences is to make certain ways of seeing the world seem ‘strange’. Sociology has lots of ways of referring to this idea – sociologists talk of ‘troubling’ assumptions, of undermining prejudices, of overcoming stereotypes, of being forced to think again about our worldview or paradigm or schema. Many of the chapters in this book set out to help us do exactly that – to get us to see what is hidden directly in front of our eyes. I’ve just finished writing a review on a book called Big Data, and one of the things I didn’t mention in that review was the fact that the authors clearly want to preference ‘data’ over ‘theory’. They have a chapter where they say this isn’t what they are really about, but given their long discussion about correlation over causation, it is hard not to say their preference is to at least ‘hold off’ theory so the data can speak for itself. The question is, then, how much can data really speak for itself? This book shows that it is the questions that we are likely to ask that direct our attention away from seeing what is ‘the hidden curriculum’ and thereby encourage us to see only the spoken curriculum. Part of the problem with all of this stuff is that many of the theories about a hidden curriculum aren’t all that compatible with each other nor are they necessarily ‘coming from the same place’. There is a long discussion of Bernstein, for example, someone who certainly discussed the ‘hidden curriculum’ – if not necessarily in those terms. Bernstein’s view was that people have different linguistic resources depending on their social class and that schools were set up to appeal to middle class linguistic codes and so to make working class linguistic codes seem odd, if not mentally deficient. The problem is that many of Bernstein’s followers interpreted his work as saying that working class children were in deficit – and that therefore they needed to be fixed. Bernstein didn’t agree with this assessment – he has Halliday write a long introduction to either the second or third volume of Class, Codes and Control explaining why this isn’t the case – but the fact remains that many of his followers did believe this deficit model and have caused much harm as a consequence – something that Suzanne Romaine makes very clear in her wonderful Language in Society. As Jesus was won’t to say: ‘For God Sake, I’ve been dead for 2000 years, I can’t be blamed for what these ‘Christians’ have to say about me’, Bernstein possibly deserves similar care. Still, much harm has been done in his name. This book is another edited collection – so, it is essentially a series of chapters covering very different aspects of the hidden curriculum by different authors. One of my favourites was a chapter on architecture and how this reinforces the curriculum and pedagogy employed in different courses. Very few learning spaces can be considered ‘pedagogically neutral’ – that is, the spaces themselves dictate certain ways of teaching and disallow other ways of teaching. But what do those ways of teaching have to say about the types of things expected to be learnt there? By looking at the structure of those spaces themselves, but also the artworks on the walls and the floor coverings and notices and student work on display, much can be learnt about what is expected to be learnt there. There has been an interesting shift in higher education towards encouraging ‘mentors’ – now, don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of ‘mentors’ is a lovely one, but, as is pointed out here, too often this is really about academics reproducing themselves in their students. That is, they find people like themselves and they find ways to help these people become even more like themselves. This becomes a problem for people of colour or working class students who struggle to find a ‘mentor’ because they are too different to start with and so mentoring in fact reinforces difference, again by ‘normalising’ advantage. The other really interesting chapter for me was the one on encouraging people to ‘lower’ their expectations when going for jobs after being retrenched. This was utterly fascinating, as I’ve repeatedly seen this stuff in action, having been a union organiser in a past life, and so also seen how devastating being told expecting to get a new job on similar wages to what you have been on for years is pretty much a pipe dream. But in an employment market that is shrinking and casualising, what else can such agencies say to people? The point, yet again, is that what is hidden in the particular curriculum is hidden behind one of the fundamental truths of our system – that all is to be blamed on the individual and their ‘inadequacies’. We live in what Beck called a ‘risk society’ and as such it is entirely up to us to mitigate the risks that we face – it is not society’s role or the role of governments to do anything about these risks. As Beck points out, this leaves responsibility for mitigating the failings of the system with those with the least power to be able to do anything about it. The other two chapters I want to briefly mention are chapter 9 on gender and engineering – really interesting and really disturbing. Especially the fact that students do seem to be taught in engineering to take credit for other people’s work. And chapter 10 on community colleges in the US and how the actual constitution of these, from the simple administrative deficiencies through to the employment arrangements of the staff, work to encourage the view that these are much less efficient places of learning than elsewhere, particularly those places where students are expected to pay through the nose. We have witnessed a similar destruction of our Tertiary and Further Education (TAFE) sector in Australia, particularly in the state where I live, which has seen many of these institutions literally close while government funding is handed over to private suppliers. Defunding public services while simultaneously complaining that the defunded services can longer do what they did before is the constant theme of our age. This is an interesting collection about something I believe is terribly important – how power reproduces itself and makes itself appear to be common sense. Not least, because it is basically what I’m doing my PhD on. How we represent different groups of people in our society has a lot to say about the stereotypes our society works under. For instance, in the school marketing materials I’ve been looking at there is a clear difference between how teachers interact with students if they are shown in private or in state schools. In state schools two-thirds of the images have the teacher standing above the student. In private schools in two-thirds of the images the teachers either level with the students or, in some cases, actually lower than the student (although, only if the teacher is male). In some school promotional materials the only time a teacher is seen beside a student is when the student is dark skinned, often this teacher will be blond and actively helping the student. In private schools there are many more images of teachers one-to-one with students, in state schools these tend to be group images. Such commonalities have much to say about what these schools want to promote about themselves and the kinds of discipline they want to display (or feel they can display) to potential future parents. But they also have things to say to us – the people looking at these images – and our assumptions and prejudices about the kinds of discipline necessary in these different kinds of schools. One of the things I found particularly surprising was that about half of the private schools I was looking at had images of students laughing – while only one of the very many more state schools had an image of students laughing. Laughing, of course, means very different things in state and private schools. In a private school it shows that the kids are enjoying their learning experience, in a state school it shows (or, at least is likely to be read as showing) a lack of discipline. The idea of ‘making strange’ what we take for granted is the key benefit of the social sciences. This book gives many examples where what we would otherwise take very much as common sense, becomes anything but that once a contrast is made between how one group is treated in comparison with another.

  2. 5 out of 5

    He Watches

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sher

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jvw.researcher

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    Madison Andrews

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  25. 5 out of 5

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  33. 5 out of 5

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  35. 5 out of 5

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