Work Socialization Messages in Late-Soviet and Post-Soviet Schoolbooks: a Content-Analysis of the Features, Occupations, and Roles of Working Personages
Personality research Institute of Sociology (Russian Academy of Sciences) Moscow, Russia
Background. Textbooks are considered to be important socializing media providing schoolchildren with numerous socio-cultural messages. Underlying messages of textbooks (the so-called hidden curriculum) reflect the most typical norms, roles, and stereotypes approved by an educational system and official culture. This normative mainstream is highly resistant to change, although ideological and socio-economic transformations are likely to affect what children are taught at school. In 20 years, drastic institutional changes in Russia resulted in significant normative changes which affected the educational system as well. School curriculum has been substantially revised, and its normative focus has shifted.
Methods. We conducted a content analysis of Soviet elementary school textbooks (published in 1982-83), and matching post-Soviet textbooks of the 2000s. 30 books were coded. Our analysis focused on work socialization messages, including work roles, motivations, achievements and occupations represented by textbook personages.
Results. Both Soviet and contemporary Russian textbooks emphasize the values of work and diligence. Working individuals are prominently represented, all with positive connotations. In Russian pedagogical tradition, work is mostly done either for altruistic reasons, or as a household duty. Monetary compensation is not a typical reason for somebody's work efforts. Work is mostly portrayed as a masculine and adult activity, with the prevalence of manual labor. In general, we found apparent continuity between contemporary textbooks and their late-Soviet predecessors.
In comparison to the 1980s, present-day curriculum has slightly diminished its emphasis on work values: only 35% of texts contain work images (compared to 46% two decades ago). Patterns of achievement (i.e. extraordinary efforts associated with risk, innovation, initiative, and urgent and complex tasks) are less common. Many heroic and highly ideological stories were removed from the curriculum, but few alternative materials were generated to compensate for this wash-out. However, work for individual welfare (and not for community) is portrayed more often, as well as paid jobs and entrepreneurship.
Content selection strategies in textbook production are formed by changing normative climate and shortage of available cultural material (appropriate for contemporary educational needs). Educational system's rigidity prevents textbooks from marginal insertions and slows down their renewal.