Structure as Solution
Over the past forty years, there has seemingly been a steady but persistent decrease in the amount of attention that schools are able to pay to content and curriculum of education as the goals of education have become less clear, curriculum has expanded, and social problems have been dumped into schools for resolution. Concurrently, then, there seems to have been a steady increase in the social content with which schools have to contend. This dynamic is illustrated in Figure 8.1, and is highlighted in reports of what students and teachers pay attention to. In the 1940s and 1950s, major concerns were disciplinary, but related to issues of chewing gum, tardiness, or talking in class. By the 1980s, the issues had shifted to drug abuse, violence, and safety, among others.
This same problem can be viewed another way by suggesting that the amount of education that is actually delivered in the schools may vary systematically by socioeconomic category. Higher socioeconomic families can still "purchase" a good deal of educational content for their children, either by moving to expensive suburbs where schools are still considered to be working reasonably well or by sending their children to private schools. Children of middle-income families receive a good deal of educational content, but also experience more social programs geared at dealing with problems in their communities and the mix of families in attendance. For low-income families, especially those in poverty-ridden inner cities and rural areas, the "social" content of schools tends to dominate education concerns as these schools serve more as