Institutional Structure and Culture in the Transmission of Social Values, Part 3: A Theory of Institutional Value Transmission


Part 1 of this essay (posted March 23, 2016) reviewed some of the significant literature and theories emerging from the relatively new field of evolutionary psychology in regard to cultural transmission and intergenerational transmission of values. Part 2 (posted April 30, 2016) explored the sociological literature for theories or partial theories of institutional transmission. Much of the literature of part 2 related to education, as formal education is the primary institutional context (outside of the family) in which values transmission takes place. Part 3 outlines a theory of institutional value transmission based on empirical field research in education and discusses that in relation to the above-mentioned literature. It begins, though, by outlining the basic theory underlying this research, a deductive hypothesis of the nature, function and transmission of values.

In a previous essay (posted August 22 and September 12, 2015) a philosophical analysis of the concept of value from first principles was undertaken, in light of perceived problems both within axiology and the usage of the term within the social sciences. The analysis concluded that, contrary to the mainstream of academic philosophy, values were real and their nature and properties describable. It found that values are semiotically related to symbols in having a structural duality and phenomenologically related to treasured personal items in being an experience of emotional attachment. Outwardly, values are linguistic signs denoting abstract concepts, while inwardly they relate to strong feelings. As part of normal language, value concepts pepper our everyday discourse and communication, either in their primary nominalised form or in lexical variations (verbs, adjectives, etc.) and are able to permeate society through the normal linguistic pathways of communication. Experientially, however, like symbols, a particular value is only truly meaningful within a (theoretically) closed social group for whom the value attains utmost significance, for example faith within a religious group, justice for a campaigning group, safety for a military reconnaissance unit or accuracy for a scientific project team. This idea has resonance with, but is not derived from, Tajfel’s (1974) concept of ‘ingroup’ and ‘outgroup’ as categories of identity through inclusion and exclusion. From either aspect values are inherently social, and this lead to one of the more surprising conclusions: that there are no private values. Values are just words on one level, but at the experiential level they are social and communal, that is they denote a shared experience, not a private experience. I can create a word for an intensely personal experience, but it could only become a value by being shared and finding an appropriate social context in which it can function. The idea of values as shared experience is not the same as, it is the exact opposite of, the idea of intersubjectivity, as that was conceived of by Habermas (1984). For Habermas individual subjectivity emerged from a collective recognition of signs; shared experience presupposes individual subjectivity as the basis for empathetic recognition of others’ interior worlds.

The function of values was not addressed at length in the original theory, which focused on the ontological question of the nature of values; however, the main line of an answer is fairly clear. If values acquire their significance in a communal setting, then a primary focus is to bind social groups together. The primary institution for human lives is the family, and though the family must be considered the cradle for our basic values, it is also an institution which is bound together by common values. Society is a multiplicity of social groupings – familial, tribal, ethnic, religious, professional, vocational, economic, political, leisure and interest – and all of them can be understood as defined by shared values. It is this aspect of values which in some respect renders them problematic. Values not only define the core of the group, they also define the boundary of the group, where the group becomes the non-group because of non-adherence to the particular values of the group (Tajfel, 1974). Values, therefore, are not only a cohesive force in society; many, possibly all, conflicts in society can be understood in terms of competing values. In complex modern societies the quest for common values, embodied in social institutions, is paramount. A second function of values is to embody the essential attributes and goals of the group. Values are not the same as attributes or goals, but they are clearly related. For example, values underlie goals; goals are more specific to a particular event or situation, but values transcend the particular event or situation to give continuity to the group beyond the immediate attainment of goals (Rokeach, 1973). A third function of values is to structure and give purpose to individual lives (Mandler, 1993; Barth, 1993). In modern societies in particular it is common to be multi-valued as a result of multiple belonging, the overlapping of different interests, commitments and loyalties. It is paradoxically both a condition and an outcome of open societies that such multiple belonging occurs; it is one of the guarantees that society does not fracture along narrow monocultural lines, defined by religion or ethnicity (Huntington, 1993, 1996).

The transmission of values is based on the twin concepts of invocation and evocation as a way of understanding the mode of existence and propagation of values in a community and of the genesis and maintenance of the community. Invocation, based on the idea of value as a symbolic type of entity, is the ritualistic utterance of the value sacred to the group, with the purpose of reinforcing their commitment to both. While this may seem too overtly couched in religious terminology, the contention is that values actually take on aspects of the sacred (Eliade, 1957), which is most explicitly demonstrated in religion, but is actually part of all aspects of human life and experienced by everyone. Evocation can be thought of as the effect that invocation has on the listener, that of opening up a realm of experience associated with the value, referred to as the moral universe of the value, but that moral universe most readily conflated with the immanent community and its obligations; for this reason ‘evocation of the moral universe of the value’ and ‘evocation of the moral community’ are essentially identical. Participation in the moral universe of the value is a grounded existential certainty and sense of belonging that Eliade (1957, p.21) refers to as the experience of the sacred, as ‘a fixed point, a centre…equivalent to the creation of the world’.

The theory outlined here is a deductive argument derived from a consideration of the meaning of value as that has been analysed in terms of phenomenological and semiotic categories. Its extension into a consideration of the function of values, and particularly the transmission of values, is only partly developed. In the following section this theoretical picture is filled out and refined by empirical data derived from field research in actual schools, as mentioned above, developing an understanding, in particular, of how values are transmitted in real-world institutional contexts. The deductive theory plays a role in this process: the concept of value informs in particular the analytic methods used, functioning as what Blumer (1954) referred to as a sensitising concept.

Empirical research-based theory of institutional value transmission

The field research was carried out in three secondary schools, with contrasting forms of governance: a faith school, an independent school and a community school (total number of participants 150). A two-tier qualitative approach, having both an inductive, theory-generating phase of data capture and analysis, and a deductive, hypothesis-led evaluative phase, was used. The inductive phase used a multiple case study format and cross-case analysis, providing data for analysis and for testing the hypotheses in the deductive phase. The case studies were each modelled on three structural aspects: an authority hierarchy; an interiority/exteriority duality in the institutional lived-experience; and a system hierarchy. Multiple data collection and analytic methods were employed in each case study, in order to build up a complex snapshot of the transmission of values in each school. Only the findings of the research are reported here. The source for details of the research is given in the references (Trubshaw, 2014).

In any consideration of values transmission in schools the central relationship has to be between teacher and pupil, which is the institutional nexus between the generations in terms of behavioural modelling, socialisation and enculturation, as well as the more mundane and well-understood conduit of information transmission (Parsons, 1961). (The two aspects are not different at one level, as values are, as explained above, in some respects just another form of information). As this theory deals with institutional transmission, rather just interpersonal transmission, though, on one side it must deal with the power relationships within the school, and even beyond the school in the influence of national policy-making and local authority implementation, whereby the values agenda – if, indeed, there is such a coherent entity – is set, and on the other the moral agency and developing moral cognition of the individual pupil subject to any attempts at values education.

The model for institutional value transmission arrived at through this research consists of four conceptual categories – institutional value permeation, institutional authority, resistance to institutional authority and transformative experience – which is best thought of as the interaction between two partial models: a permeation-authority model of institutional inculcation and a resistance-transformation model of moral autonomy. Each of the conceptual categories will be explained over a number of sub-sections, drawing on theoretical concepts derived from the data, illustrative examples from the field, the hypothetical model and the academic literature of values education and social transmission.

The institutional permeation of values

Permeation as the name implies is the extent to which a particular value has been identified throughout an institution, specifically at all identified levels and each demographic sector. In the field research these were identified as the three main levels of each school: the official, the pedagogical and the learner as represented by data from documents and interview (Head), classroom observation and field notes (teacher report/feedback sessions), and pupil survey and focus group, respectively. Permeation, it should be pointed out, is not the same as transmission. First, it would be impossible to establish causality of any sort without a longitudinal study far beyond the scope of the research undertaken. Secondly, institutions like schools are highly permeable to multiple influences and the espousal of a value is not necessarily indicative of its acquisition within its confines. What the analysis attempted to discover is the degree of commonality of experience within the lived world of the institution, the recognition of common semiotic structures which carry the value meanings, and the link between these semiotic structures and the strategies for values education (Downey and Kelly, 1978; Plunkett, 1990) that exist at the official level, however informally those are formulated. Through the cross-case analysis, a core of values that seemed to permeate the institutions investigated had been established. This was only indicative of a snapshot view of the schools, though it was verified in principle in report/feedback meetings. The point is not to argue for absolute veracity, but for theoretical plausibility on the basis of methodological reliability.

In a consideration of the hegemony of ideology in society and schooling in particular, Apple (1979, p.22) makes use of the term ‘permeate’ (in a somewhat pleonastic manner) to describe a state of ‘saturation’. The concept of permeation has been taken up to describe the extent of transmission flow though the institute, the extent to which values are transmitted through the institutional structure and recognised by the erstwhile recipients of values education. That such a flow occurs seems to be taken for granted by the schools: ‘In our mission statement we talk about everyone being treated with dignity and respect…that everyone should be treated as of equal worth…Saying it and doing it at times is difficult…But I think it does permeate through’. It should be pointed out that the use of the term ‘permeate’ in this quotation, which includes the idea of acceptance, does not quite correspond with its use here, where it means solely ubiquity.

Permeation can then be thought of as a conceptual field in which, however tenuously, there is common awareness of the preferred values of the institution transmitted either directly through verbal indication or indirectly though suggestion. As outlined in part 1 this communication of value concepts is not the transmission of values in the sense of acquisition but only the possibility for  conceptual grasp, that is, the ‘awareness stage’ of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) and Schönpflug’s (2001b) two-stage process of ‘awareness’ and ‘acceptance’. The analysed research data gave a snapshot of the state of permeation and established that common values are found at all levels of the schools. Moreover the surveys established that there are significant levels of pupil awareness of the schools’ attempts to teach certain values and attitudes.

In this context, it is necessary to evaluate the two-stage process of ‘awareness’ and ‘acceptance’. First, these have to be considered stages in transmission and not a mechanism for transmission, certainly not in the sense of ‘mechanism’, understood as a causal explanation. Secondly, Schönpflug’s (ibid) two stages are of limited utility for grasping institutional transmission; they are appropriate in interpersonal transmission, but within an institution even if acceptance of a certain value can be shown, unless it can also be shown that inculcation, awareness and acceptance form a causal line within the institution, to speak of institutional transmission is not permissible. Establishing permeation is easier: indications of student awareness of being taught and of staff awareness of the ethos, both of which were evidenced in the data, are enough. Permeation means simply that there is a value discourse occurring in every sector of the institute, in this case at every one of the three levels of the schools. But while there might be institutional awareness, it requires something more to create the conditions for acceptance, or ‘acquisition’, the preferred term here.

Transmission and the institutional structure of authority

Permeation, as just noted, takes place as easily as people communicate, either informally through casual interaction, or formally as in the teacher-pupil interaction or in official documents and publications circulated through the school. Values are embedded in such modes of communication either consciously or unconsciously and therefore reach to every part of the school. However, to move to the stage of acquisition requires a very different process. This process involves the authority structure of the school.

To understand why this is so, it is necessary to go back to the basic theory outlined above, in which value has a dual structure. One is its external aspect of simply being a conceptual word, easily communicated and assimilated. However, this is not the whole or the essential nature of a value, which lies in its internal aspect of being a shared experience of the moral force of the value. For this aspect of the value to be acquired three things must happen: a communal context must exist; the value must be explained or modelled in some way; and the intended recipient as a moral agent in their own right must move to acceptance. The first two imply the existence of a source of authority. Each of these will be dealt with separately; this section will deal with the first two, under four sub-sections: a) invocation and evocation, the processes by which the community of the moral force of the institutional values (or ‘moral community’) is established; b) power and control, as aspects of authority; c) institutional authority structures, at the administrative and pedagogical level; and d) the value cycle, the self-sustaining interface between permeation and authority in the institutional ethos.

a. Invocation and evocation

The concept of invocation, explained above, is the clear link between the permeation of the institutional structure with value concepts and the beginnings of the process of the institutional inculcation of the values of the institution’s ethos. In invocation, though, the function of the value term switches from conceptual to symbolic and the particular institutional values deemed significant assume a sacred dimension and collective binding force in the institutional discourse and pedagogy. Within the classroom that is going to be supplied by the teacher’s use of a value-term in a meaningful context (Hawkes, 2010), perhaps supplying examples, in this way, more than just by definitional precision or extension, deepening the understanding of the term, and hopefully by being an example of that value and modelling that value in the behaviour they demonstrate to the pupils in the class and others. There was evidence of this type of discourse in each of the schools studied in the field research; sometimes it did in an explicit way relate to the religious tradition of the school in question, but values were implicit in secular concerns, activities and policies as well, such as the concern for inclusion, and after Eliade (1957) I have interpreted the sacred broadly as that which is existentially foundational.

According to the theory, as shared experience values have a communal aspect, the creation or maintenance of which is referred to as the ‘evocation of the moral community’. ‘The moral community’ is an abbreviation of – or better thought of as – ‘the community of the moral force of the value’, as values are definitionally a form of the good and operate as such within a value-oriented grouping. In the research two types of distinct evocation were witnessed, referred to as intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic evocation identifies the moral community with the community defined by the addressed group itself; they become, as it were, the experimental laboratory for the practice of the value. Extrinsic evocation is more an exercise in remote empathy, where the group experience vicariously, communally, the circumstances of others in a value-laden narrative.

Logically, evocation must follow invocation, but the precursor for both within an institution is that the actual physical group must exist in which inculcation of the value can occur. Evocation requires the group to be transformed into the moral community, but it is not yet the moral community. In a similar manner, invocation requires the as-if modelling of invocation, even though the value has not yet been acquired by the group. Where there is clearly some gap between the theory and the reality, both evocation and invocation can be thought of as principles for action, or activation principles, rather than as straightforward descriptions of what happens. In both the cases of evocation and invocation the issue of authority arises: the authority of the school to organise young people into classes for the purpose of learning and specifically for the transmission of values; and the authority of the teacher to stand in front of a class of morally autonomous individuals and hold the attention of the class and undertake pedagogy in order that they can acquire a particular value or values. In other words the authority of the school over the moral autonomy of the individual must be brought into play, and such institutional authority needs to be thoroughly examined.

b. Power and control

In part 2 of this essay, I considered three models of institutional transmission, that of Talcott Parsons’ view of the school class as a social system (Parsons, 1959), Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of cultural reproduction through pedagogy (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977) and Basil Bernstein’s synthesis of linguistics and politics in a theory of educational transmission (Bernstein, 1975). Of the three, Bernstein has probably most shaped my views on institutional authority, power and control. While the definitions that I arrived at through analysing the data from the schools differed ultimately from those Bernstein employed, his use of ‘classification’ for a spatial boundary between curriculum subjects and ‘framework’ for the temporal rhythm of the syllabus, shaped my thinking on how control is realistically exercised in an institutional setting.

Power has a number of manifestations, but in this model of value transmission, only two functions which are of importance: one is to create roles that function to distribute power; the other is to licence control. It is in the first of these functions of the role that power reveals its capacity to give rise to a self-replicating hierarchy, though one of vertically diminishing power. All power is symbolic and the appointment of someone to a role is a secular anointing accompanied by the symbolic trappings, such as the certificate, the office and the desk, for example. In developed economies appointments to important or professional posts – such as a teacher – are made on the basis of having met certain formal requirements that demonstrate sufficient skill to carry out the role. Once conferred, a role then gives the appointee the right in turn to confer power. A role, though, does more than just confer power; it also limits it through regulation (legal, organisational and ethical). Power takes two forms, that of empowerment and disempowerment. The role both empowers and disempowers (although, it can be seen in context that the role only disempowers by empowering in the first place; therefore, empowerment and disempowerment are relative) and by empowerment confers the power to empower and disempower in turn, though the nature of the conferred empowerment and disempowerment may be curtailed by the limitations of the role. Whether and to what extent limited, however, the power to employ empowering and disempowering methods, known collectively as ‘power distribution’, to alter the dynamics of a system such as a classroom, is fundamental to a role and one of the four areas of control conceded to a role in an institution. It seems that this power – the power to distribute power – is reproduced throughout the hierarchy, and is not a form of control which is a feature of personal charisma. Power distribution is not a creative shaping force as control is; it is essentially a reproduction of the forms of power being transmitted through the hierarchy, embodied in the assigned role. As discussed above, the role empowers through a certain space for action – a space in which charismatic control can be exercised – but also disempowers by placing limits on that space and curtailing the freedom to act by imposing mandatory requirements and responsibilities, prohibitions and taboos. Although the exercise of power distribution may appear to be undertaken spontaneously at each level, in reality the freedoms and limits, say, employed by a teacher in a classroom, are determined higher up the hierarchy and manifest in the legal and bureaucratic burdens that accompany the role.

The exact relationship between power and control is complex, because control also involves the use of coercive force, if not physical force in these times at least some form of ‘symbolic violence’ (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977; Foucault, 1979). Happily, such considerations lie outside the scope of this theory; in regards to the transmission of values, coercive force would be entirely unproductive. The forms of control that are of interest lie in a form of authority that transcends the role, which could be referred to as ‘character’, ‘personal magnetism’ or ‘charisma’, and for which the role is either unnecessary or necessary but not sufficient. (The latter seems intrinsically more realistic; even if an individual has personal magnetism, unless they have the authority to stand in a role they cannot exercise this control in a formal setting.) Power creates the context in which control can be exercised and, in that sense, unleashes it, but it is not the origin. Unlike power, which is conferred and hierarchical, control is either innate or learned and is unique to the individual.

c. The institutional expression of authority structures

At the whole school level there is an axis of authority (the authority for the school to exist, authorisation to administer education and recruit teachers, and mandatory requirement for the running of a modern school including the contents of education and pedagogies) which acts as the basis for three areas of local control relevant to values transmission: the internal structuring of the school, both in terms of its architecture and its management structures, and the limits of the school’s writ, which collectively are referred to as the bounding of space; the organisation of the syllabus into a timetabled curriculum, and the other aspects of school life into a set of routines, called collectively the periodisation of time; and overseeing a system for the permeation of values throughout the school, including strategic planning, signing, signposting and signage (semiotic marking), broadcasting and the cultivation of the school ethos, collectively known as the symbolisation of value concepts.

At the classroom level the axis of authority is manifested in the role of the teacher, which reproduces the mandated power distribution of the higher authority. So, for example, the teacher has the authority to empower and disempower students but only within the parameters mandated by the school board (or increasingly by the government). The role is the basis of the teacher’s control that they are able to exercise in the class, but only in the sense that it legitimises their position; it does not constitute it, however. Control is a manifestation of the personal charisma of the teacher, which can be either innate or learned. While this charisma (as the name suggests) may in some sense be an ineffable quality, it has tangible dimensions through which control is exerted: as the shaping and structuring of space (physical, social and behavioural) through creating boundaries; as the rhythmic structuring of time (through rhetorical devices, lesson planning and the continuity of contact with the student body) referred to as periodicity; and as the shaping and manipulation of images through the spoken and written word and through performative acts, known as symbolisation. The relationships between these concepts are summarised in the table below.


At the level of abstraction given above, the structural similarities between the two levels (whole school and classroom) and their point for point correspondence become clear. Evidence was gathered in the case studies that these attributes of power and control are ubiquitous throughout the institutional hierarchy; power distribution, though, is reproduced directly and hierarchically, whereas the other aspects of control – boundary, periodicity and symbolism – emerge spontaneously. The nexus between the two levels of transmission occurs (potentially) at several points: a direct link, as mentioned, in terms of authoritative axis and role, although this plays no decisive part in transmission but rather ensures the stability and continuity of the institutional structure; the critical nexus occurs in the area of pedagogical control, as teachers participate in and build on the institutional strategy for their own classroom strategy, appropriate the institutional semiosis, suitably adapted for their own classroom pedagogy, and both draw upon and contribute to the school ethos.

d. The value cycle

Up to this point permeation and control have been discussed in isolation, as if these processes or states were unrelated to each other. On the route to value acquisition, though, in the process of initiating and maintaining institutional value awareness, they are intimately related. As discussed above, control manifests itself through the persuasive manipulation of language, patterning time (periodicity), space (boundary) and image (symbolisation), in effect to create a controlled environment and conscious state in which individuals can be empowered or disempowered.

In the cross-case analysis of observational data from the field a causal relationship was identified that could be simplified to four categories: authority (power and control), strategy, sign, and participation. This represents the interface between the structure of institutional permeation and the structure of institutional authority. Teacher classroom strategy in the transmission of values, as previously mentioned, draws upon the institutional repository of the ethos and other sources of values and projects the message through a semiotic display in the classroom combining signs for control and embedded signs for a value, this pathway from strategy to sign being the process of invocation. The signs now permeate the consciousness of the pupils empowered and tasked to participate in the moral universe of the value. This pathway from sign to participation is the process of evocation. Participation in the moral universe of the value is also, for reasons already discussed at length, participation in the moral community, where the ‘sense of community’ is experienced. This leads naturally to an intensification of participation through value-based strategic action and semiosis at every level of the institution. The completion of the cycle from participation back to strategy equates to acquisition. At each stage of this cycle charismatic control is exercised; through the distribution of power pupils can exercise a measure of control over themselves and one another in maintaining a stable, value centred community. This process is shown in the following figure, where P = power, R = role, CC = charismatic control, St = strategy, in = invocation, Si = sign, ev = evocation, Pa = participation and ac = acquisition.

value cycle

The value cycle


Resistance, moral autonomy and transformation

The explanation outlined up to this point offers a hegemonistic and deterministic view of value transmission, in terms of permeation and authority. It describes the mechanism of value transmission from the inculcatory perspective of the institution and the teacher, but has not considered from the acquisitive perspective the recipient, the pupils, as autonomous moral agents (Grusec and Goodnow, 1994; Barni et al., 2011). To the extent that it has considered them, they have been viewed as blank canvases and as output, albeit the output from a rather more sophisticated process than that considered in many theories of values education. What has not been explained is the trigger to value acquisition; for inculcation or the attempt to inculcate is often met by resistance and for those cases something must ameliorate that resistance. This final part of the outline of a model of institutional values transmission will look at the nature of resistance and the transformation that needs to take place for values to be acquired within an institutional setting.

Resistance takes on different forms varying in intensity, from questioning to outright rebellion. Cases of the latter were only encountered in the literature (e.g. Willis, 1977); the cases from the research field were limited to a range between questioning and robust criticism. It would be wrong to think, though, that resistance is either limited to students or necessarily an expression of antisocial tendencies. The data exhibits examples of resistance across the institutional structure and towards varying targets: criticism of government policies by head teachers, criticism of teachers and head teachers by pupils, some criticism of teachers by other teachers, implied conflicts over policies, criticism of local authorities, other schools and other agencies by head teachers, and criticisms of sixth formers by younger pupils.

When individuals encounter the boundaries established by rules and regulations and limitations on their freedom they usually resist to some degree, either actively or passively (Brehm, 1966). In this state of resistance it is impossible to acquire the values promulgated by the institution, which raises a dilemma for the institution: it cannot relinquish the principles that bound the form of life (Pring, 1986) that the institution embodies, for in this case the institution would lose its identity and its raison d’être; neither can it simply reaffirm its principles, nor affirm them more vociferously, for this is only likely to strengthen the resistance. In order to seek the resolution of this dilemma it is first necessary to understand the nature of resistance in greater depth.

What is common to the examples of resistance given above is the reaction of moral agency to the perception that authority is encroaching on the space in which it exercises moral autonomy, something explicitly voiced in the research data. What can overcome that resistance is the calculation that a benefit is to be had by trading a degree of moral autonomy for something that authority has to offer; that is the moral community, evidence for which was encountered in the field. Therefore, resistance should not be viewed as something pathological, but as an intrinsic psychic mechanism for the protection of moral integrity, which is, nevertheless, at the same time, negotiable. From the perspective of authority the process of transmitter inculcation/recipient acquisition can only be completed through overcoming this resistance; from the individual acquirer’s perspective resistance is an asset which creates the possibility of testing the integrity of the moral community before acquiescing to the merging of their moral identity with the collective. In our complex and relatively open social world individuals rarely become identified with a single form of life, but enjoy multiple identification and belonging. But for each belonging there is a concession of moral autonomy. Objectively, from a neutral perspective, we can speak of the necessity for a transformative experience. Many things can trigger that transformative experience, but to be meaningful to the idea of institutional transmission they should be institutionally contextualised, i.e. things that occur or are witnessed within the school.

In the deductive theory the nature of value was analysed and exposed as a conceptualised shared experience. It seems logical, therefore, that a transformative experience within an institutional context must underlie the transformation from resistance to the acquisition of a value or values. The evidence from schools and the data collected in this research is circumstantial but suggestive of a typology: the acquisition of values is always accompanied by a turning inward. Indeed the conceptual aspect of values logically requires that acquisition should be accompanied by a more reflective attitude. I have already suggested above that this inward turn is accomplished through a process of negotiation between moral autonomy and belonging to the moral community. It is ultimately to find in the community something sufficiently compelling and attractive that the boundary, the encroachment of authority on moral autonomy, becomes invisible or irrelevant. It could be something explicitly inward, such as spirituality, but also a pride in the school or the tradition of the school, or learning to take responsibility for others, and again there were examples of all these in the data.

These things describe the nature of acquisitive transformation, but not ultimately why it occurs, what triggers the transformation that allows the acquisition of values within an institution. The reasons may ultimately be ineffable and idiosyncratic, yet a common phenomenon appears in two anecdotes from the field. It is difficult to put one’s finger on it exactly, but I have decided to refer to it as ‘the slipping of the mask’. The pupils in one of my focus groups told me, almost in hushed tones, of their admiration for the former Head, who had spent an entire break time with one of them, ‘sharing a bag of crisps and talking about TV and stuff’ and on another occasion had participated in a snowball fight. What is not significant here are the actions themselves, which are mundane, but the dissonance between the mask of authority and the humanity beneath. A similar dissonance, on an institutional as well as a personal level, occurred between the hierarchical, tradition-bound structures of an independent boarding school and the glimpses of warm communal life. During an interview, the Chaplain related his amazement at the care shown by a housemaster to his charges, deeply grounded in intimate and detailed knowledge of their likes, dislikes and background, something that will probably have as lasting an impression on those pupils as it obviously has had on the Chaplain. As Heidegger (1962, p.243), quoting an ancient Roman fable, reminds us, ‘Care’ is ‘that to which human [Being] belongs ‘for its lifetime’’.

There is one final aspect of transformation that needs to be explored, which is replication. The essence of values is in a shared experience. Therefore, to acquire a value is to acquire the desire to share the value, both as a way to reinforce the negotiated decision involved in transformation and to extend the moral community. The basis of this concept is deductive reasoning from the nature of value and the symmetry of the model of permeation-authority, outlined in the previous section, and illustrated in the diagram of the value cycle, which entails a new cycle of strategy, sign and participation. Nevertheless, evidence from the data – though limited at this point in time – supports this contention; in one case study pupils spontaneously affirmed values of inclusion permeating through the institution structure from the official levels to classroom pedagogy, and there is circumstantial support for this phenomenon in other cases. Replication links the phenomena of resistance and transformation to those of permeation and authority, by completing the link between participation and strategy. Participation is the end result of the process of transmission, but also stands at the head of a new cycle of transmission. In real contexts this recursive structure is likely to be curtailed by the limited nature of the institution and the downward diffusion of power.


Comparison with models of values education and models of value transmission

Because the model I have presented takes a holistic and integrative view of values transmission, it bears some similarities to other holistic views in the literature. For example, Downey and Kelly (1978) and Plunkett (1990, pp.128-9) put forward similar ideas of values education being approached from one of four possible avenues: through a specialised curriculum, through a broadening of the existing curriculum, through pastoral care or through the school community. Hawkes (2010) has effectively taken all those approaches and combined them in pedagogy of values education. Hawkes, even more explicitly recommends the creation of a vocabulary of value terms to structure pedagogy, an approach essentially undertaken on a national level in Australia which has a list of desired values (Toomey, 2010), around which participating schools can design their curricular and pedagogic approaches. Seeing values education less from a curricular and more from a psychological perspective, Darom (2000) discerns four distinct aspects of education, the cognitive, affective, values and behaviour, which he believes should be integrated for education to have ‘a chance of truly touching young people’ (ibid, p.20). The model of values transmission touches on all those points but explores their theoretical connections, not only as interconnected parts of institutional structure but as aspects of a coherent mechanism.

That mechanism, which I have presented here, I would argue, builds upon, incorporates and goes beyond the mechanism put forward by Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) and Schönpflug (2001a), a two-stage process of awareness and acceptance. Looking at transmission from an institutional perspective, it has had to take into account issues of authority and control which are constitutive of the deontology of institutions, aspects not made explicit in their theories (even if assumed), which make formal education possible and, as I have described, have a central role to play at the stage of awareness. Between awareness and acceptance there is also a hiatus, which they have not clearly addressed, that of resistance and transformation. This theory has provided a theoretical framework that bridges that gap. In some sense the theory of transmission explained here could also be said to extend Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman’s viral transmission model by incorporating the idea of the dual conceptual and symbolic functions of values, allowing them to switch from ‘diffusion’ mode to ‘infection’ mode.

The centrality of the human relationship to transmission

If there is any consensus over the frequently disputed area of values and values education it is the centrality of the human relationship and the quality of that relationship in the transmission of values. As Schönpflug reminds us (2001b, p.132), the contents of transmission are ‘particularly sensitive to the channel’ of transmission, which I interpret to mean that for the recipient of any form of information, and particularly with the case of values, which also need to be activated in the recipient, who the transmitter is, in terms of the perception of the transmitter by the recipient, is vitally important. From a negative perspective, in cases from the schools studied where teachers were not held in high regard, this had a negative impact on academic performance; and in all these cases the cause of the complaint was not their competence as teachers, which in all but a small minority would be taken as given, but their lack of warmth, remoteness or unpredictability. Research invariably backs this observation up. There is a broad area of agreement with various psychological and philosophical views that the quality of relationships is central to the idea of transmission. For Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981) the relationship between the teacher (transmitter) and the taught (recipient) is a key condition of transmission. Although the focus of studies on values transmission has been on the parent child relationship, shifted into an institutional context, all of that which has been predicated of relationships in intergenerational transmission is equally true of the teacher-pupil relationship. For Schönpflug it is (2001a) that is ‘an empathetic style’; for Euler et al. (2001) it is ‘emotional closeness between the generations’; for Barni et al. (2011) it is the ‘relationship’ among the parents and the ‘consistency’ of the value message that is received, as well as the ‘closeness’ of the relationship. These all fit into a pattern of successful parenting, which most now agree is authoritative (Steinberg, et al., 1989), rather than authoritarian or permissive. This also seems a fitting description of the relationship that ought to exist between teachers and their pupils in the context of education in general, but specifically in the context of transmitting values. An ‘authoritative style’ seems a fitting description of the combination of authority and humanity of key figures that I discovered in the data from the schools and characterised as ‘the slipping of the mask’, which I concluded was fundamental to a contextual transformative experience en route to the acceptance of institutional values.


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