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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