Socialization is incredibly important to society, and as a result, it is very important to schools and educational institutions. It is, in short, the process of preparing young people with the skills, customs, and practices that they need to know in order to fit in with the members of their own society or community. This could mean a number of different things depending upon the region where the schooling is taking place, but the idea is to ensure that individuals will be able to operate as functional, contributing members of the social order in that given place. Schools are very important places for a number of reasons, but they are primarily charged with providing young people with their socialization practices. It is very important to reflect upon the role of schools in this regard, as they ultimately hold tremendous power when it comes to shaping the outcomes of children.
The K-12 experience is probably the one where the most important socialization takes place. Social institutions are those things that a society puts into place in order to support its efforts. In short, these institutions are the customs and practices that relate to the society’s goals and aims. One of the social institutions that comes to bear in the K-12 context are manners and learning how to respect authority. One of the primary things that my school experience taught me was that I needed to respect authority and listen to people who held positions over me. This was done in a number of different ways, from having to listen to teachers in the immediate classroom context to having to listen to the coaches and other leaders of various teams and clubs.
In addition, social hierarchy refers to how individuals are placed into what amounts to a ladder. In schools, social hierarchy is arranged in a number of ways. For one, older people are given prominence over younger people. Thinking back to my own K-12 experience, I can remember specifically that older people had many more privileges. As we got into high school, we were able to leave for lunch, and we were given class choices so that we could set a schedule that made sense for us. In addition, older people got to go to prom and things of that nature. Social hierarchy was largely determined by seniority, which had its ups, but also had its downs in this regard.
There are many functions of education. Socialization is one of those. In my experience, I was taught many different customs. We had specific rules on how we could dress, and if we broke those rules, we were punished. As mentioned previously, we were socialized into the norms of having to almost blindly follow rules without questioning. Future preparation is another important function of education. Because I went to a school that wanted to be known as “college prep,” much of what we did was based upon the idea of preparing for the college educational experience. We took classes that hoped to make it much easier for us to succeed once we got into the potentially difficult and dangerous waters of college prep. These things helped to show many of our students that we were valuable, and that we had a future. By just putting the college prep label onto things, we were placed under expectations of success.
Ultimately, the educational institutions are incredibly important in shaping people for the future. Schools help to reinforce social institutions and prepare young people to step out into the world after them. In my experience, looking back at high school can provide one with tremendous insight into just how society purports to prepare its young people for a move forward.