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Study says values taught in public schools

Study says values taught in public schools

(July 10, 2001)

Education critics have often said that public schools no longer teach values. But a new study by Steven Brint, professor of sociology at the University of California, Riverside, found that traditional and contemporary values permeate public schooling.

Brint's findings will appear in the July edition of the journal "Sociology of Education." The article, co-authored with graduate students Mary F. Contreras and Michael T. Matthews, is titled "Socialization Messages in Primary Schools: An Organizational Analysis."

The study was based on interviews and observations in 64 classrooms at 10 elementary schools in Riverside, San Bernardino and eastern Los Angeles counties. It looked at five ways in which values are conveyed to students, Brint said. Schools transmitted values through face-to-face classroom instruction, through the lessons of the formal curriculum, through routine classroom practices, through school-wide programs, and through the use of public spaces.

Both face-to-face instruction and the curriculum mixed such traditional virtues as responsibility, honesty and fairness, with modern values such as cultural diversity, variety and choice, Brint said.

In face-to-face interaction with students, teachers emphasized practical values such as orderliness and hard work over either traditional or modern values. However, routine classroom practices tended to supplement traditional themes of individualism and achievement with more contemporary themes of group activity, variety and rewards, Brint found.

Brint concluded that the values emphasized by the schools are strongly influenced by their interest in maintaining order, emphasizing effort, and fostering a sense in all students of identification with their campus. Values such as citizenship and respect are often reinterpreted to fit these basic organizational interests of schools, Brint said.

In 1998, Brint authored a book that analyzed primary and secondary schools in various countries titled "Schools and Societies." He is currently directing a large-scale study of continuity and change in American higher education since 1970.

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