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Education and the Societal Arena.

The author argues that teachers and administrators need to focus on those things which make for problem areas in society. These problems may provide worthwhile problem-solving situations in the school curriculum for students. A variety of learning opportunities are required to ensure that pupils secure necessary information to arrive a desired solution.

There are/have been educators who strongly believed that what is taught in school should be closely related to what is important in the societal arena. Thus, school and society should be one and not separate entities. From a stimulating learning environment, pupils need to have opportunities to identify problems. These problems are lifelike and relevant to the involved learners. Once a clearly identified problem has been chosen, information needs gathering in order to solve the problem. A variety of reference sources should be used such as reading, excursions, technology, interviews, and audiovisual aids. Critical thinking needs to be used to separate the important from the unimportant, the utilitarian from the nonutilitarian, and the accurate from the inaccurate. This leads to an hypothesis in answer to the problem. The hypothesis is tentative and subject to modification and change. The hypothesis should be evaluated in a lifelike situation (Dewey, 1915).

Somewhat in the opposite direction, there are educators who recommend a basics approach whereby pupil learn essential subject matter. The subject matter has been chosen by educators, generally on the state level. With careful consideration, academic content can be selected which is relevant; all pupils should achieve these objectives in the different subject matter fields. The trivial and the unimportant are weeded out by selected educators who specialize In an academic area. The content selected might be called state standards in academic knowledge for pupil attainment. With demanding state standards, it Is believed by numerous educators that pupils might achieve at a more optimal rate, than what is presently the case. The teachers who implement these standards in teaching and learning situations need to have high expectations for pupils. Many fear that the US will not remain competitive on the world scene unless the school curriculum is highly challenging and emphasizes pupils achieving that which other nations have their pupils achieve when international comparisons are made. Former president George Bush stated as one objective for pupils in the US to be first in the world in mathematics and science when international comparisons are made from test results (Ediger, 1996).

Which philosophy of education assists pupils to achieve more optimally? This depends upon one's own philosophical thinking as to the role of the school. The first philosophy discussed above stresses the role of the school being to guide pupils to shoulder their responsibilities in society presently as well as In the future. School and society are one, not separate entities. The basics advocates believe that pupils presently should study academic subject matter in depth so that when these learners are adults they will do well in the societal arenas. Thus at a future time, pupils of today become members of society at a later time. The balance of this paper will stress the role of the school in society. Thus the school and society are one in goals to be emphasized, learning opportunities to be implemented, and evaluation procedures to be in evidence. The school setting then is a part of the societal arena, not separated from what is deemed relevant in society. The pupil Is a member of society presently, not waiting for the future in becoming a member of the real world.

Objectives in the Curriculum

Objectives for teachers to implement in the classroom harmonize with those in the societal arena. These objectives then emphasize pupils

1. becoming contributing members in the home setting.

2. becoming good citizens in society and in the school setting.

3. becoming positive consumers In using time for recreation.

4. becoming informed and proficient In the vocational and occupational areas.

5. becoming an ethical member in society.

6. becoming concerned about and using proper health habits.

7. becoming proficient in the use of and acquisition of subject matter to solve problems.

8. becoming knowledgeable and skillful in the use of computer technology.

Each of the above named objectives are broadly stated and stress that which is salient in society. These objectives need to be chosen carefully and provide guidance to pupils and teachers in having the former achieve what is salient in lifelike situations.

Becoming Contributing Members in the Home Setting

The home setting is removed in time and space from the school curriculum. What can the school do to emphasize pupils being contributing individuals at home. At a time when there are more single parents than ever before percentagewise, it behooves the school curriculum to stress units or partial units of instruction on the home. Pupils need to learn what they can do to give the family setting an improved atmosphere. Thus pupils need to learn to work together as a team in the home setting. The team stresses getting along with each other and treating others with respect and worth. Pupils in the home setting learn to keep their own rooms neat and tidy.

In the home setting, pupils need to assist with setting the table for meals as well as helping to clean up afterwards. Clothes are hung up when not used to preserve the neatness of these items. Clothes which need to be washed are placed Into a hamper or the clothes washer. After the washing and drying of clothes has been completed, they are hung up properly. Beds are made neatly each day with a room environment that is decorative, clean, cheerful, and inviting. Family members help each other in times of need such as illness and fatigue. Pupils are willing to pitch in and do the work necessary to maintain a quality home environment. These attitudes guide pupils in wanting to improve the societal arena (Ediger, 1991).

Becoming Good Citizens in Society

At a time when juvenile and adult crime is rampant, the school needs to offer course learnings on the role model of the good citizen. Thus the pupil needs to know and understand the laws of the land and how to abide by these standards. The learner also needs to realize the consequences of violating and breaking laws. Are there laws that are immoral that need to be broken? If the conscience says, "Yes," the individual must be ready to suffer the consequences. For example, many were imprisoned due to disagreeing with separation of the races and racial discrimination during the 1960s, In particular. The consequences for disagreeing openly with the laws of the land can be very rigid and devastating. If an individual is willing to break rules and laws, he/she must be willing to accept involved punishment. In times like these, selected improvements have come about due to violating of offensive laws, rules, and regulations.

The good citizen works toward improving society for all. Respect for human rights is a must. Paying a fair share of tax moneys, advocating equal rights for all, obeying the laws of the land, eliminating violating the rights of others, assisting others In times of need, and being positive toward the self and others are excellent models for the good citizen to follow. The good citizen has rights and responsibilities in society. A peer buddy approach in school may assist pupils in becoming caring individuals (Camoni and McGeehan, 1997).

Becoming Positive Consumers of Recreation

People seemingly clamor for more opportunities in have free time and engaging in recreation. Recently in listening to a superintendent of schools talk to a group, he mentioned a desire to retire and spend all of his time playing golf. I am afraid the satisfaction coming from playing golf would soon be over when this would be done each succeeding day! Recreation is a part of life and during the working school can do much to educate pupils for positive use of leisure. The following are excellent ways for pupils now to use their leisure time:

1. reading good books for enjoyment.

2. using technology to obtain information from internet, World Wide Web, CD ROMS, e-mail, fax, and other data base sources.

3. engaging in team sports such as golf, tennis, table tennis, volley ball, basketball, soccer, football, and baseball, among others.

4. playing games with one, two, or three others such as in checkers, chess, bowling, pool, card games, and badminton.

5. sightseeing, field tours, and experiences in nature and the natural environment.

Recreational activities should be positive, energizing, and mentally healthful experiences. Too frequently , recreation has consisted of drinking harmful beverages and unhealthy endeavors. These do not assist the individual to improve the self and live a more wholesome life.

Becoming Proficient in the Vocational and Occupational Areas

Pupils in the first year of school should study different jobs and occupations. These should be concrete and lifelike in their study. Learners should have ample opportunities to visit places of interest that relate to ongoing lessons and units of study. These places should indicate to pupils the usefulness of labor in society. Good role models need to be observed in the work place. Experiences should be interesting and meaningful to pupils.

Parents and others need to bring possible tools of their trade to school to show to pupils the kind of work performed. Pupils may build on what has been learned as the school year progresses. Sequentially, pupils need to learn more about the world of work as progress is made on different levels of schooling. On the secondary years, pupils need to experience directly what is involved in the work place with practical experiences under the supervision of a qualified instructor. Definite objectives should be achieved by pupils (See Phi Delta Kappan, May 1997 Issue).

Becoming An Ethical Member In Society

Ethics in school and In society need adequate emphasis. Too frequently, pupils and adults do what is expedient with the self in mind only. Traits of honesty, decency, integrity, and responsibility are then deemphasized. These four traits are needed badly in school and in society. Dishonesty through thievery, stealing, and lying are much in evidence. Standards of decency are violated through harassment in its diverse forms and with deviant behavior. The integrity of the individual is at stake with following the crowd or jumping on the bandwagon. Everyone is doing it -- therefore the individual pupil feels he/she must also be a follower of what is unwise and lacks wisdom. Traits of responsibility are lacking when pupils do not shoulder what is reasonably expected of them. Blaming others and shirking one's own responsibility too frequently are in evidence. Excuses are given for being irresponsible. Pupils with teacher guidance need to set objectives for responsible behavior and evaluate, as time goes on, if improvement in being responsible is in evidence. Learning opportunities are there to guide pupils to shoulder responsibility for tasks, assignments, and chores. Pupils need to realize if progress is being made. If not, reasons for the dilemma need to be sought. Continuous progress is necessary in having pupils become increasingly responsible.

Parents need to be involved in all goals being emphasized for attainment. Joint responsibility of teachers and parents in guiding the young to achieve, grow. and develop Is needed. The socialization process for the young needs to move from where the pupil is to a more desirable level of achievement.

Using Proper Health Habits

Good physical health is necessary for people to achieve as optimally as possible in school and in society. There are pupils from poor homes who need eye glasses, hearing aids, physical examinations to detect problem areas, treatment for allergies, among other problematic areas of health. Too frequently, problems in health continue for the pupils due to a lack of money in the home setting. The pupil then does not achieve well in school. Later on in society, the individual does poorly at the workplace.

Feeling well physically, receiving enough sleep and rest, having appropriate clothing, and feeling safe in the home setting are needs that must be met. Too frequently, pupils do not feel well enough to tackle school work. Or they are not dressed properly for the ongoing season of the year. Learners may come from poverty level homes and are kept awake at night from vermin and insects. Feelings of security are lacking due to parental neglect of pupils.

The school can do much in these cases and situations. Quality breakfasts and noon meals need to be served to all pupils so that more optimal achievement can take place. It certainly would not hurt for schools to consider an after school program for desiring pupils with a suitable evening meal accompanying the extended day of learning.

Becoming Proficient in the Acquisition and Use of Subject Matter

Certainly, pupils should have ample opportunities to obtain and use subject matter in school and in society. Each curriculum area has its valuable content for pupils to acquire. Securing subject matter is not adequate; use has to be made of what has been learned. Thus problem solving skills are important. Problems should be real and worthwhile. Deliberation and time is necessary in problem solving experiences. Analytical thought is needed to evaluate content as to being worthwhile to use in the solving of problems. Higher levels of cognition are then being emphasized. Unique. ways of thought also should be stressed since problems generally require novel ways of thinking.

Knowledge achieved when used will be retained longer as compared to what is not used. Problem solving requires that content be used and applied, not learned for its own sake. There is so much information to be learned that it is difficult to anticipate what can be of use. However, when individuals face problems, subject matter is necessary in order to arrive at a necessary solution. What is salient then is what solves the problem. Subject matter may not have use many times outside of problem solving. Higher levels of thinking are always important. Problem solving tends to stress that which is salient and valuable.

Being Knowledgeable and Skillful in Computer Technology

Technology is all around us. Monthly bank statements for customers are computerized and show when checks were written and money deposited, among other things. Computerized printouts at supermarkets show the itemized items purchased as well as the total cost of these purchases. Printouts of items charged when using credit cards come to the buyer once a month. The company where the item was charged as well as the date of purchase are totaled on the printout, coming from credit card use. Microwave ovens, answering machines for telephones, fax, word processors, e-mail, fuel injection systems in stead of carburetors, and electronic distributors on automobiles, have made for major changes in society.

I believe that one of the greatest changes from technology use is replacement of the typewriter with the word processor. When I started teaching on the university level in 1962, there were no word processors in evidence. Even in typing classes, the traditional typewriter was used. Today, not a single traditional typewriter is to be seen on the campus. Word processors are truly in abundance!

Change has certainly come at an accelerated rate and, no doubt, will even come at a more accelerated rate. I rode on a rumple seat of a Model T Ford, the first year I attended a rural grade school. Model T's had no starters and no electrically operated windshield wipers. The human hand was used to have the wiper move across the windshield to remove raindrops. The first automobile that I recall my parents owned was a Model A Ford which came out in 1929. The car had a starter but no heater. Driving at a rate of 40 miles an hour caused the automobile to vibrate. Next, my parents owned a 1937 Plymouth. This car had a heater, a defroster electrically operated and could drive about 50 miles per hour. The next car owned by my parents was a 1948 Plymouth with an automatic drive! The heater and defroster operated well. In 1955, being president of the local county teachers' association, I rode with the County Superintendent in her car to a state professional conference for teachers. The car had an air conditioner, but the windows needed to rolled up immediately after the car was started, after which the cooler air started coming in after five minutes. Before the air-conditioner worked, it was extremely hot for five minutes inside the automobile. The rest is recent history in terms of the automobile with its extras and conveniences. Very rarely, does one see a stalled car on the roadside or someone fixing a flat tire, when this was all common place growing up as a child. There seems to be nothing real except more change in society. Computers and technology have completely changed our values, beliefs, and ways of living.

Computers are necessary In schools to give students skills which they can use during their school years, and on which they can build later. Surprisingly, though, an even more important reason is that computers, when used effectively, change the nature of teaching and learning.

In a recent experiment involving the writing of stories using hypertext, not only were elements of new teaching practices introduced, but the experience encouraged reflection of traditional methods by the participating teacher. She wrote in her report that "hypertext use in schools raises questions about the possible substantive effects on the writing process, both positive and negative. As long as we are simply word processing, the use of technology is simply an add-on."

Another example is provided by a long term study on the use of lap top computers. In this study, changes in teaching and learning were reported. Teacher perception and classroom observations revealed that students had learned to work more collaboratively with other students as well as with their teachers ... (Russell and Russell, 1997).

There is, of course, a downside to the modern explosion in communications, as many are beginning to recognize. For every worthwhile site on the internet, there are dozens that cater to unsavory tastes ... Others are simply filled with out of date, unreliable, and inaccurate information. Separating the wheat from the chaff is a time-consuming effort, although a cottage industry has grown up in the form of websites describing other websites, created by individuals who do the electronic leg work to find quality resources..

The increasing complexity and variety of technology applications has created a further challenge ... how to conduct systematic evaluation of products. Indeed the term "product" is too narrow; perhaps one might use the term "environments" (White, 1997).


Teachers and administrators need to study that which makes for problem areas in society. These problems might well provide worthwhile problem solving situations for pupils in the school curriculum. It takes a variety of learning opportunities in order that pupils may secure necessary information to arrive at needed solutions.

Problems need identification and viable solutions sought for individuals to become

1. contributing members in the home setting.

2. good citizens in society.

3. positive consumers of recreation.

4. informed and proficient in the vocational arena.

5. ethical members in the societal arena.

6. habitual in using proper health habits.

7. proficient in the use of technology.

Schools and education should not be separated from the societal arenas. What is useful in the school curriculum should be applied to what exists in society.


Dewey, John (1915), Democracy and Education. New York: The MacMillan Company.

Camoni, Gene A., and Linda McGeehan (1997). Peer Buddies: A Child to Child Support Program. The Principal, 76(3), 40-43.

Ediger, Marlow (1996), Elementary Education. Kirksville, Missouri: Simpson Publishing Company, 248-249.

Ediger, Marlow (1991). Relevancy in the Elementary. Curriculum Kirksville, Missouri: Simpson Publishing Company, 95-99.

Phi Delta Kappan (May 1997 issue devoted entirely to Work Based Learning) 78(9).

Russell, Glenn, and Neil Russell (1997). Imperatives and Dissonances in Cyberspace Curriculum: An Australian Perspective, Education, 117(4),587.

White, Charles (1997). Technology and the Social Studies. Social Education 61(3),148.

Dr. Marlow Ediger, Professor of Education, Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Marlow Ediger, Route 2, Box 38, Kirksville, Missouri 63501 - 9802.
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Article Details
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Author:Ediger, Marlow
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
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