How is school an agent of socialization? How does it perpetuate gender/class/race socialization? How does bullying impact school socialization?

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Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University, has argued that schools are practically the only spaces in which children learn to interact and resolve disputes with their peers, and that this is one of the most important roles of a school. Haidt claims that the rise of overprotective "helicopter parenting" has left more young people with social difficulties, meaning that when they reach college, disputes are more likely to escalate and involve deans and other authority figures. Much of the educational mission of a school can now be achieved through interaction with technology, rather than with other people, so socialization is now perhaps the primary reason for students to continue visiting school campuses, rather than learning from home.

The perpetuation of gender, race and class socialization depends very much on the school. Single-sex schools are increasingly rare, but still exist and create their own set of socialization issues. Some of these can be handled by judicious partnership with other schools for social events, drama and music. Private schools tend to be the preserve of the upper and wealthy middle classes, and the same may be said of public schools in particular districts where housing is expensive. Greater diversity is sometimes possible through, again, partnership with other schools or, in the case of private schools, the use of scholarships and bursaries. However, the dominant culture at the school is still likely to be relatively homogenous. Schools in the centers of large cities provide much more diversity, but this often comes with other social and linguistic problems which impact both education and socialization.

The effect of bullying on socialization depends on how it is handled. If the situation is managed quickly and effectively, the lesson can be salutary for both parties: the victim has an effective model for coping with bullying, and the bully learns that his/her conduct is ineffective and will not be tolerated. Bullying that is allowed to continue and escalate, however, has a purely negative effect on socialization.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on April 1, 2020
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Schools provide a common time and space for children of approximately the same ages to come together and learn. And while states have standards for math, language arts, science, and social studies that teachers directly instruct their students in, there are also other skills that students are learning, both directly and indirectly.

Sometimes schools create intentional programs to accomplish some of the goals of socialization. They may focus on a specific character trait, such as honesty or respect, for a month, and intentionally recognize those students who display that trait. And sometimes skills of socialization are taught more indirectly. By participating in class and seeing the behaviors (and rewards and consequences of those behaviors) of classmates, students begin to assimilate into patterns of social behavior that reflect that school's values. So, for example, after watching a classmate have her recess taken away for calling math "stupid," other children learn that this type of language and behavior are not appropriate and should not be imitated.

Depending on where children live, they may not have contact with any other children outside of school (particularly in very rural areas) or may only have contact with children of a race and socioeconomic status similar to their own, determined by housing affordability options. Schools, however, bring together a typically diverse group of students from a variety of backgrounds and ask them to accomplish learning goals together. Students learn to deal with conflict that inevitably arises from being in close proximity to others with dissimilar backgrounds. They hopefully learn empathy as it is modeled through literature and contextual situations. And they learn about healthy competition between students of various backgrounds. Students share recess, lunch, and creative arts classes with classmates who are different genders, races, and abilities and have daily opportunities to engage in healthy and authentic conversations as they discover areas of common interests.

Bullying can have multiple effects on socialization. If it is recognized and handled well at school, other students will see the negative results of that type of behavior and will not be encouraged to follow in that path. It can also indirectly strengthen other friendships as students bond together in resistance of a bully's threats. But if the bully's behavior isn't recognized or if the behavior isn't appropriately dealt with, impacted students will feel unsafe at school and will likely retreat socially in an effort to disappear from the bully's radar.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on September 26, 2019
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Schools act as an agent of socialization through the hidden curriculum. According to sociologists, the hidden curriculum is an unintended result of education. It is the process by which the norms and values of a society are taught to children, alongside the expectations of their particular society. It teaches girls how to be feminine, for example, and boys to be masculine. It also teaches children how they should treat and perceive other classes and races of people.

In terms of school socialization, it could be argued that bullying hinders this process because instead of teaching a child the correct norms and values of their society, bullying teaches deviant (or unacceptable) norms and values. So, instead of teaching a child how to correctly behave in society and how to feel part of their society, bullying can make a child feel less connected to society and more likely to become deviant.

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