Your Hidden Curriculum

What do people learn from you about the Christian life? Sometimes it's what you never intended to teach.

Many years ago I heard a great teacher make a distinction I never forgot. Every educational institution, he said, has two kinds of subject matter. There is the formal curriculum. And there is what might be called a hidden curriculum.

The formal curriculum consists of agreed-upon topics. Algebra, geography, English lit, history, physics. Faculties and school boards and parents decide on—sometimes war over—what makes up the formal curriculum.

The hidden curriculum also involves learning, but no school board ever sets it. The hidden curriculum consists of questions like: Which students get called on and which go ignored? Who do other students want to sit next to in the cafeteria and who sits alone? How do the groups stand on the great Chain of Being from jocks and cheerleaders to chess club members to the untouchables? Whose jokes get laughed at? Whose body is shaped right? Of what does "cool" consist, and who possesses it?

  • The formal curriculum is intentional.
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