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To Teach or Not to Teach "Social" Skills: Comparing Community Colleges and Private Occupational Colleges


by Regina Deil-Amen — 2006

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' opportunities 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.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 3, 2006, p. 397-421
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12330, Date Accessed: 12/16/2017 9:45:52 AM

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About the Author
  • Regina Deil-Amen
    Education Theory and Policy, Pennsylvania State University
    E-mail Author
    REGINA DEIL-AMEN is an assistant professor of educational theory and policy at Penn State. She is the author of several articles and a forthcoming book based on her research exploring how community colleges and private postsecondary vocational colleges structure students’ educational experiences and prepare students for sub-baccalaureate careers. Her research interests include sociology of education, educational stratification and inequality, college aspirations and persistence, race/ethnicity, and social class. She is currently a NAE/Spencer postdoctoral fellow studying the transition to college among low-income students.
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