The Social Fabric of Education
Although we tend to think of them as separate from other institutions, 1 such as the family, the community, and local businesses, schools actually operate within a network--a social fabric--of these other institutions. The interrelationships, status, stability, and policies of these institutions, which comprise a system or macrosystem, can have both positive and negative impacts on schools. Unfortunately, because we have tended to view schools as separated and separable from other institutions, the struggles that schools face in dealing with obstacles and opportunities presented by external institutions have been too seldom acknowledged in ways that might help school professionals deal with those obstacles and opportunities. The last chapter outlined some of the developments that public education in America has undergone during the twentieth century and particularly during the latter part of the twentieth century as businesses and other groups were galvanized into action about school performance. This historical context suggests that although there has been a great deal of finger-pointing and blame laying about school performance, schools have actually changed very little.
In addition, every society has a prevailing ideology or set of shared values that shape attitudes, opinions, policies, and structures for that society. 2 The ways in which the ideology or indeed the society itself affects schools are seldom articulated explicitly. Combined, the social fabric and ideology create a set of attitudes and social context that deeply influence schools and their ability to perform their educational tasks. This social fabric presents schools with some of their most intractable difficulties. As