Sociological investigation of "The Simpsons" with respect to the institution of education
Master of Arts
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Operating from the premise that episodic television comedy The Simpsons is perceived more as a living culture than as a symbolic artifact, this thesis uses a qualitative approach to examine the program's education system and compare it to those of contemporary western industrialized nations with respect to intents, means and outcomes. This is achieved by melding sociological theory and substantive pedagogical studies to explore two interweaving dualisms : organizational efficiency versus social variability and a functionalist perspective compared with a critical viewpoint. The data suggest that the consumeristic individualism of the Simpsonian culture and the authoritarian mode of its education system are antagonistic to its socialization role. The educational bureaucracy does not fulfil its organizational mandate of service and accountability to the maximal benefit of society. As well, teachers do not fulfil their ethical responsibilities to students, independent of administrative goals. The equitable treatment of students is precluded by the existence of a hidden curriculum by which students are tacitly judged by their congruence with and acquiescence to the dominant cultural perspective. Other than hope-inspiring indications that positive social change is occurring though the actualization of feminist ideas in the locus of the working class family, the data present a grim portrayal of a traditionalist culture, one in which the education system serves to rigidify class and gender relations into preexisting socioeconomic categories.