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Families--United States; Education--Social aspects--United States


Virtually any statement made about the contemporary American system of education can be subjected to infinite documentation. What the school should accomplish, what is has accomplished, what its curricula ought to be, how far it should or has become a kind of surrogate for the family, church or other institution, emerge as vital questions for the professional educators, questions, clearly, for which there is no single answer. Judgments become normative, ameliorative, critical, and certainly, nearly always fraught with overtones of emotionalism. This leaves the non-specialist who attempts to gain an over-view of the nature and image of the educator and his field in the dilemma of adequately finding his way. Still, the school is a social institution. As such, it can be subjected to analysis in quite the same behavioral terms as any other human group activity. Rather, therefore, than to move into the areas of the ideal-what a school and the system associated with it ought to be---it may be possible to consider the educational institutions in terms of their structure and function, thereby analyzing the interrelations between school system and other institutional facets of contemporary society.

This paper is written from the point of view of the behavioral sciences, specifically, from the vantage point of the anthropologist whose concern lies in the comparison of the various aspects of human behavior at all times and places. For indeed, if a society seeks to learn about itself, it gains perspective only through an observation of alternative solutions to human problems which have been reached by human groups possessing different historical backgrounds and whose view of man, his nature and destiny, is couched in fundamental assumptions and premises different from those of Homo americanus.

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