Socialization and the Power of Schools as a Social Agent

Socialization is an essential part of every child's development. It is the process by which we learn the norms and values of society, and it plays a significant role in shaping our behavior and personality. As children grow and develop, they are influenced by several agents of socialization, including family, media, and schools.

As we explore the primary agents of socialization, it becomes clear that schools play a critical role in shaping the experiences and outcomes of children, particularly those of different races. We typically see schools as the great equalizer- a way to increase social mobility and access. However, a closer look reveals that schools and education can also be powerful in shaping children's attitudes, beliefs, and values and perpetuating inequality and discrimination.
Preschool Statistics about Black Boys
Studies show that Black boys are suspended and expelled from preschool much more than their white counterparts. African-American boys are three times more likely to be suspended than white boys. According to a U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights report, Black children represent only 19% of preschool enrollment, but 47% of preschoolers are suspended more than once. This disparity is often a result of implicit biases and stereotypes about Black boys. It sends a message that Black boys are seen as "troublemakers" and need to be controlled rather than as children in need of guidance and support.
Discipline Disparities
The discipline disparities continue throughout primary and secondary education. A U.S. Government, Accountability Office study found that "Black students represented 15.5% of all public school students but accounted for 39% of students suspended from school." The disparities in discipline often lead to an unequal educational experience, leaving Black students feeling marginalized and excluded.
How Black Girls are Viewed and Treated
Black girls also face unique challenges in schools. They are often hypersexualized, stereotyped, and punished more harshly than their white peers. The National Women's Law Center found that Black girls were 5.5 times more likely to be suspended than white girls. Additionally, they are more likely to be disciplined for subjective offenses like "disobedience" and "disrespect."

Racial Discrimination in Choosing Books
The books chosen for classroom reading and discussion can also contribute to the problem of racial inequality in schools. Studies show that many books used in schools do not accurately represent the experiences of children of color. This lack of representation can negatively impact their self-esteem, socialization, and education. Choosing books that accurately reflect children's experiences of all races and cultures is essential. It provides a narrow incomplete understanding of the world and contributes to a culture of discrimination and bias.
Sadly, this pattern of discrimination continues throughout their educational experience. In many schools, Black students are disproportionately disciplined, and the discipline they receive is often more severe than that of their white peers. This harms the individual student and perpetuates harmful stereotypes about Black people as violent and threatening.

10 Ways the Teachers Can Help
  1. Teachers are the most influential agents to aid in addressing the problem of racial inequality in schools. 
  2. Engage in ongoing anti-bias and anti-racism training.
  3. Create a classroom environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all students.
  4. Be aware of and challenge your own implicit biases.
  5. Make sure that discipline policies and practices are fair and equitable.
  6. Use culturally responsive teaching practices that honor and value students' cultural backgrounds.
  7. Make an effort to include diverse perspectives in classroom discussions and assignments.
  8. Select books and materials with various cultural, racial, and ethnic characters and views.
  9. Be creative in finding projects and opportunities that celebrate different cultures and traditions.
  10. Create classroom practices that encourage empathy, kindness, and understanding.
Work to create partnerships with parents and families to ensure everyone is actively engaged in student success.
As we consider the primary agents of socialization, it becomes clear that schools and education profoundly impact shaping children's attitudes, beliefs, and values. For children of different races, schools can be a place of both opportunity and discrimination. By creating inclusive and equitable learning environments, teachers can help ensure that all students have a fair and positive educational experience.

Valarie Chavis
is a cultural fluency educator who helps individuals and organizations develop the skills and knowledge to understand and navigate cultural differences. With years of experience in the field, Valarie is passionate about creating inclusive and equitable communities and believes that everyone has a role to play in creating a more just and equitable society. Her work focuses on building cultural competency, creating safe spaces for dialogue, and fostering understanding and respect across cultures.

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