Social Foundations of School Curriculum

The main goal of any educational system is the transmission of society’s culture. This function of education can be fulfilled in societies without schooling as well (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2018, p. 152). Therefore, the education process is bigger than just schooling; however, schooling has a significant role in that process, especially in complex modern societies, as it socializes children and helps them acquire systemic knowledge.

American society is characterized by self-worth evaluation based on success and comparison with others. The global society has gone through various transformations to reach its current state: traditional societies of Medieval Europe converted through Renaissance into inner-directed societies of Western states of the 19th and 20th centuries. These societies, such as the American one, were driven by individualism, Puritan morality, achievement, nuclear family, the superior role of adults, work ethics, etc (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2018, p. 154). Later, after World War II, the new type of US society started replacing the inner-directed one – the other-directed society; its distinctive characteristics include teamwork, group integration, diminishing role of adults, etc. The resulting postindustrial society is knowledge-based; it produces research elite and supporting technical staff harnessing and creating knowledge. The family has been transforming as well, from the 19th and 20th-century image of a nuclear family to more flexible formats of cohabitation without marriage or children.

While moral knowledge can be taught through education, moral conduct can only be learned through participation in the life of a society. The same can be said about the moral character that cannot be a result of a knowledge transfer, but it is a consequence of one’s personal growth, decisions, and actions (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2018, p. 160). However, the school environment can help cultivate a person’s character through the complex interaction of the school community, leadership, and the right program. It is more beneficial for students to read through and discuss morally ambiguous stories than work with the material that was censored in order to avoid offense.

Regarding school culture and environment, the mainstream approach involves teacher’s control of students’ behavior. Reacting to that situation, both students and teachers adapt to each other, constantly assessing one another and trying to assume control over the environment. However, another possible reaction of students to their school environment is withdrawing into negativity and indifference (Ornstein & Hunkins, 2018, p. 164). There are some solutions to this problem that include non-grading policy and student re-engagement. The passive learning model dominates many classrooms; it implies emotional neutrality, the superior role of a teacher, and repetitive activities. The shift towards the active learning model can improve students’ experience and academic results, which is supported by the study of Fischel et al. (2018). At some point in a child’s life, their peers start to become the most important social group; this can be used to support the learning process by promoting cooperative learning and developing interpersonal skills. Racial, ethnic, and socio-economic issues have been playing a major role in the school environment, and they will continue to do so in the future. Therefore, the search for the answer to these challenges is relevant currently and will be so in the future.

As demonstrated, there is one main goal of an educational system, and there are various factors that influence it and need to be taken into account. These factors include general societal changes and transformations, moral aspects of learning, and school and classroom culture affected by teachers, peers, socio-economic, and racial elements. The lesson to be drawn is that it is possible to account for these concepts while designing the school curriculum in order to mitigate them or use them for the students’ benefit.


Fischel, J.E., Olvet, D.M., Iuli, R.J., Lu, W.H., & Chandran, L. (2018): Curriculum reform and evolution: Innovative content and processes at one US medical school. Medical Teacher, 41(1), 99-106. Web.

Ornstein, A.C., & Hunkins, F.P. (2018). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (7th ed.). Pearson Education Limited.

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ChalkyPapers. "Social Foundations of School Curriculum." April 15, 2023.