August 22, 2012 by

Social Learning Begins at Home (1950)

Social Learning Begins at Home” (PDF), from the February 1950 Educational Leadership, is a fascinating glimpse into the files of author Elizabeth H. Brady, then a staffer at the Center for Intergroup Education at the University of Chicago. Brady makes the claim that “the influence of the family in determining children’s social behavior is frequently ignored by the schools in planning programs of social education.”

Brady notes the discrepancy between the demographics of teachers and students in many schools—a discrepancy that persists to this day. She observes that “gaps in social learning are less obvious to teachers when children have mastered the behaviors that teachers value.” Thus, Sally, a profiled student who is unfailingly polite but lacking in social skills, is less likely to receive attention and concern than 1st graders from Lincoln High, who have trouble sitting still and saying “please.”

Overall, Brady’s message is a positive one: that the diversity within a school can supplement for the better the social learning each student receives at home. But she stresses the importance of teachers taking time to understand where their students are coming from. “It is worthwhile to allow for the informal chats, papers written about feelings and personal concerns, the opportunity to talk about things that happen to people even at the expense of other aspects of the program,” Brady writes. Such priorities have been the subject of recent controversy, making this look back especially timely.

In “My Back Pages,” we look at important issues through the historical lens of the Educational Leadership archives. ASCD members can access EL issues from 1943 to the present by logging in.