Most experts agree that we tend to think about social change in three ways: (a) as a result of significant events such as a war or a terrorist attack like that of 911, (b) in a macroscopic level suggesting that wide-scale trends enable us to view patterns, and (c) in social institutions that affect the lives of the population as individuals, groups, families, in various situations, and in work settings (Harper & Leicht, 2011). So what drives these changes? Journalist David Bornstein (2007) simply states it is the barriers that were once impeding that is disappearing and at a staggering rate (p. 6).
One of the three areas of social change that continues to have significant impact is that of education. According the article Social Change (n.d.), experts agree that education is a powerful platform for bringing about changes in society. Although changes appear to come slow, they are constant and tend to have an enormous impact than those brought on by revolution, incursions, or any other unforeseen events. French sociologist David Emile Durkheim purports that social change in education is important for the younger generation (Social Change, n.d.). In the 1960s, President Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson shared these sentiments and asked the federal government to shift their focus toward education when they lobbied Congress for more federal aid and the creation of new programs.
Studies reveal that the majority of the middle class have received higher levels of education following high school. A trend toward greater tolerance of religions, cultures and politics is widespread partly explained by the increasing levels of education in America. Individuals for instance, that continue to expand their levels of knowledge, tend to be less fearful of others with different views. We can illustrate this by observing sects of devout Christians who believe persons outside their religious faith are condemned to an afterlife of misery, cruelty and suffering. This information is very confusing to Christian youngsters educated in the traditional brick and mortar school systems where they are exposed to multiculturalism and the variety of belief systems apart from their own as they bond with fellow classmates. The classroom is where young learners are exposed to a hodge-podge of input that can be very confusing from what their church teaches or is viewed as the norm in their family environment. It is up to each individual to discern between that of what they are taught in their spiritual practices to the experiences in the classroom intermingling with peers of different faiths. These experiences in an educational environment can encourage children to expand their views as they begin to comprehend each other more and ponder the new information. With higher levels of education, friendships that are built and the sharing of views with others from various spiritual belief systems can encourage more tolerance and understanding.
Religions greatly differ from one society to the next; each one is sacred and beautiful, with their own set of moral rules. Social change is ushered when the structural properties of a social system evolve that determine the degree of inequality and power (Noble, 2000). Education is one avenue that can tear down the walls of prejudice and misinformation. The more individuals are educated and empowered on specific topics like religion, government, and history, the more understanding and tolerance we can hope to expect and experience as a society. Social change is a redeeming feature in human society and education is one key component that continues to help shape and steer mankind’s ever evolving world.
Bornstein, D. (2007). How to change the world: Social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Harper, C., & Leicht, K. (2011). Exploring social change American and the world (6th ed.). Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Social Change. (n.d.). Retrieved January 6, 2012, from Questia.com: http://www.questia.com/library/sociology-and-anthropology/social-organization-and-community/social-change
Noble, T. (2000). Social theory and social change. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.