tcr_social_skills.pdf - To Teach or Not to Teach ‘‘Social’’ Skills Comparing Community Colleges and Private Occupational Colleges REGINA

tcr_social_skills.pdf - To Teach or Not to Teach...

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To Teach or Not to Teach ‘‘Social’’ Skills: Comparing Community Colleges and Private Occupational Colleges REGINA DEIL-AMEN Education Theory and Policy, Pennsylvania State University This article examines the approach to teaching social skills in two kinds of colleges: community colleges, and private for-profit and nonprofit ‘‘occupational’’ colleges, with a focus on college credit programs that lead to applied associate’s degrees in a variety of business, health, computer, and technical occupational programs. Nearly all occupational faculty at both types of colleges believe that employers in these fields require certain social skills relevant to professional support occupations. Community college staff—with the exception of health programs—provide three reasons that they neither demand nor teach these social skills. In contrast, the ways in which private occupational colleges make these skills an explicit part of their curriculum is discussed. This study suggests that schools differ in whether they teach and cultivate social skills, which suggests a potentially important way that schools may shape students’ oppor- tunities in the labor market and their social mobility. Contrary to Bowles and Gintis, these findings raise the disturbing possibility that community colleges may be actively contributing to the social reproduction of inequality by avoiding instruction in the cultural competencies and social skills required in today’s workplace. INTRODUCTION In high school, Ron Gonzalez was a gang member and a hip hop b-boy. He gave schoolwork little attention, took six years to finish high school, and was a few feet away from getting shot—or as he says, ‘‘popped’’—by gunfire from an opposing gang in his neighborhood. One of his closest friends did not survive the attack. Ron’s father works as a supervisor at a Keebler factory, and he says the pay is decent. But, you look at the workers though, and it’s a hot ass factory. I mean, I work there in the summertime and it’s hell . . . . All the kids that like Teachers College Record Volume 108, Number 3, March 2006, pp. 397–421 Copyright r by Teachers College, Columbia University 0161-4681
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drop out go work over there, you know, Steinmetz or Keebler or Bakeline. They go there to work, and this is like a nasty job. That’s why I decided, nah . . . they’re working there, you know, but not me. If I get my degree, I’ll be just at my computer doing my stuff, you know, getting paid for doing nothing. No sweat. I’m in my own chair, you know. Nobody to scream at you. Nobody, you know, ‘‘Get your work done.’’ At his family’s urging, Ron was just about to be sent off to the navy when he decided to use his artistic graffiti skills and apply them to a two-year degree in information technology with a specialization in Web design. However, his style of clothing—‘‘G-clothes’’: Dickies, bandanas and hair nets, goggles and Adidas—clashed with the dress code at the business college he decided to attend. ‘‘A lot of these were typical styles, you know that I was around. In
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