How the Criminal Justice System Educates Citizens
20 Pages Posted: 8 May 2013
Date Written: May 1, 2013
The modern democratic state interacts with citizens through various paths, but at least two are central: public school systems and criminal justice systems. Rarely are criminal justice systems thought to serve the educational function that public school systems are specifically designed to provide. Yet for increasing numbers of Americans, the criminal justice system plays a powerful and pervasive role in providing a formal civic education that mirrors, in the reverse, the education that public schools are supposed to offer. Deploying educational curriculum theory, we analyze three of the primary processes of criminal justice systems — adjudication, incarceration, and policing — to demonstrate the operation of two parallel curricula: a symbolic, overt curriculum rooted in positive civic conceptions of fairness and democracy, and a hidden curriculum, rooted in empty or negative conceptions of certain citizens and their relationship to the state. We conclude with a few observations and recommendations that grow out of seeing the criminal justice system as a source of civic education.
Keywords: education, curriculum theory, citizenship, legitimacy, procedural justice, democracy, criminal justice system, adjudication, jury, incarceration, policing
JEL Classification: I20, I21, K40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation