West Haven: Classroom Culture and Society in a Rural Elementary School

West Haven: Classroom Culture and Society in a Rural Elementary School

West Haven: Classroom Culture and Society in a Rural Elementary School

West Haven: Classroom Culture and Society in a Rural Elementary School

Synopsis

Johnson sees the school experience as inculcating children of widely different backgrounds with a common set of myths, rituals, and values important to the continuity of our national culture. He describes how, in ordinary classroom life, the children are conditioned to look after themselves rather than others, to rank the worth of others by race and sex, to separate work and play, and to consume rather than produce--lessons often different from the stated curriculum.

Originally published in 1985.

Excerpt

In elementary school your child learns many things. All his experiences at school are designed to produce in him a desire to learn, to help his neighbor, to like his school, to honor his home, and to love America.

West Haven Public Schools, Elementary School Report Card

With few exceptions, all of us spent a good portion of our lives in public school classrooms. We may recall faces, sounds, or places--some pleasant, some not so pleasant. In our society elementary schooling is one of the most profound experiences of childhood, and its effects always remain with us. Apart from our families and mass media such as television and films, public schooling, mass education, remains our most powerful vehicle for the social and cultural conditioning of children.

This book is an account of preschool through sixth grade day-to- day classroom life in the rural, midwestern elementary school I term West Haven. Public schools and school classrooms are a small society and culture--a way of life into which children are initiated and conditioned to adhere. The West Haven Elementary School report card tells us that in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic classroom life presses children to adopt particular norms for behavior ("to help his neighbor"), important cultural values ("desire to learn"; "to honor his home"), and core social goals ("to love America"). My purpose is to describe the social and cultural reality of everyday classroom life and to note the conditioning effect of the process of elementary schooling on children.

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