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So why is culture in schools so important?

Well, why is culture so important? It’s important because it defines character, and sets standards and expectations for behavior. If our kids are spending a third of their waking lives in a space devoid of culture- or even worse, in a space with negative cultural values- we do them a grave disservice just by taking them there in the first place. All they may learn is anti-social and negative attitudes and behaviors if steeped in it for so long. In other words, what they experience becomes what they know.

Social psychologist R.S. Barth writes, “A school’s culture has far more influence on life and learning in the schoolhouse than the state department of education, the superintendent, the school board, or even the principal can ever have,” (Barth, 2002). His peer, sociologist Nancy Watson, warned that, “if the culture is not hospitable to learning then student achievement can suffer.”

Studies routinely show that highly rated academic schools also have positive school cultures that value high academic achievement. These schools do more than simply value it, though: they expect it. It is a standard to be strived for simply because it is a cultural value. You can tell any place’s cultural values by their accepted, normative behavior.

IMG_0908It follows, then, that if a school community- including teachers, administrators, parents, and support staff- all value academic achievement, students will strive to fit in accordingly. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true- if an establishment doesn’t value and expect high academic achievement, then no one will learn. Culture is so important, especially to young, impressionable children, because it establishes behavior- it simply becomes what they know.

So, again, why is culture in schools so important? In short, the culture of a school can make or break a child’s educational experience. That’s why. So let’s make a good one- on purpose!


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