Teaching and teachers are inextricably embedded in society. Our work reflects the expectations, social practices and assumptions of our cultures. As we teach, we shape children’s lives and contribute to our collective futures. In a sense, we thus take ‘what is’ and build towards ‘what might be’. Education thus contributes to social change as well as personal fulfillment. Additionally, at the same time as it enhances the nation’s human resource, it also builds and distributes life-chances for individuals. It is not surprising then that issues concerning values, opportunities and priorities are often raised or that education is a frequent topic for political discussion.
On the structural relationships between education and society, with fascinating comparative and historical analysis of how education systems develop and change over time, see:
- Archer, M. (1979) The Social Origins of Educational Systems, London: Sage. (Reading 17.1)
A major work offering international comparisons of primary education systems and their relationships to the culture, economy and political systems within France, Russia, India, England and the USA is:
- Alexander, R. (2000) Culture and Pedagogy: International Comparisons in Primary Education, Oxford: Blackwell
The dramatic changes in primary school practices in England as a result of public policy has been seen as a struggle over values, understanding and power. Detailed accounts of how national policy affected primary education and was mediated by teachers and children can be found in:
- Osborn, M., McNess, E. and Broadfoot, P. (2000) What Teachers Do, London: Continuum
- Pollard, A. and Triggs, P. (2000) What Pupils Say, London: Continuum
A wide range of issues concerning teaching and society can be accessed by consulting textbooks from the sociology of education. The most up to date text is Meighan and Siraj-Blatchford, though there are also a number of older text-books which still have relevance:
- Meighan, R. and Siraj-Blatchford, I. (1997) A Sociology of Educating, London: Cassell
- Burgess, R. G. (1986) Sociology, Education and Schools, London: Batsford
- Reid, I. (1986) The Sociology of School and Education, London: Fontana
Another excellent general source is:
- Halsey, A. H., Lawlor, H., Brown, P. and Stuart Wells, A. (1997) Education: Culture, Economy and Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press.