Studying school cultures through a cultural framework

Lorraine Mae Hale, Fordham University


This study focused on the culture of three Catholic elementary schools in Australia. A modified structural-functionalist anthropological perspective of culture was used to analyze the three schools. The values in cultural elements of rituals or celebrations, stories, heroes and heroines, and the rewards and punishments were compared with the values contained in the schools' mission statements. In addition to participant observation, the researcher supplemented her work with interviews of members of administration, staff, and students. Additional data were gathered through questionnaires and the study of archival material. The effects of the many recent changes in church practice were reflected in the cultures of the three Catholic schools. Many former school rituals such as processions and crownings have been replaced by the weekly school mass. The many saints who were role models for students have in most part disappeared from the schools. Story telling which used be a key part not only of the life of the school but also of religion teaching is minimal in the three schools studied. The schools are clearly Catholic schools but one could ask if in the embracing of change the schools may have lost some of their challenge to society. It would seem to be an appropriate time for the parish community, parents, and the schools to carefully evaluate their schools in the light of their aims and desires for their schools. Some school practices which do not support the espoused values of the schools need to be adjusted so that the cultural values and espoused values are in accord.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education|Religious education

Recommended Citation

Hale, Lorraine Mae, "Studying school cultures through a cultural framework" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109232.