Schooling is a rite of passage that we take for granted. Beyond the idea of a stage in the development of young people, school is distinctive. Whatever happens at home or in the wider community, schools have an ethos of their own both collectively and individually. The building and the discipline, the expectations of what is learnt and of behaviour are all unlike any other experience, even if there are some unexpected similarities to other institutions.
All this might seem obvious but it is also taken for granted. There is an assumption that schools are an inevitable part of life and that the modern state cannot do without them. They are there to instil the necessary skills for economic survival and the social understandings of obedient behaviour, and are assumed to be the place where personal development takes place. Some might argue that these are three mutually incompatible goals (Egan, 1997). Nevertheless a great deal of reliance is placed on schools. They are seen to be responsible for all kinds of patterns of behaviour and success. Parents have a tendency to expect schools to develop not only academic prowess but social skills (Cullingford, 1990). Pupils are placed in schools as though the schools are hermetically sealed, and the pupils seem to emerge with particular qualities. The fierce regime of inspection is certainly centred on this premise (Cullingford, 1999a).
Schools are taken for granted, but they are also assumed to be generally pleasurable experiences. Would parents relish them so much,