Teachers who teach beyond the knowledge society develop not only intellectual capital in their students but also social capital: the ability to form networks, forge relationships, and contribute to as well as draw on the human resources of the community and wider society. Francis Fukuyama defines social capital as “a set of informal values or norms shared among members of a group that permits cooperation among them” and that establishes a basis for trust. Drawing on the work of James Coleman, who was responsible for bringing the concept of social capital into broad use, Fukuyama describes how the norms that produce the social capital that underpins cooperation include truth-telling, meeting obligations, and reciprocity. In modern societies, the challenge is to expand the radius of trust beyond the immediate family. For Fukuyama, social capital “is critical for the creation of a healthy civil society, that is, the realm of groups and associates that fall between the family and the state.” He contends that, “[w]ithout social capital, “”there would be no civil society, and . . . without civil society there would be no democracy.”

Social capital depends on social learning—much of it informal. Children who move schools a lot or who live in urban neighborhoods where the jobs and businesses have disappeared find it hard to gain access to or develop social capital. Isolation and polarization within society destroy social capital and limit the educational opportunities and learning capacities of young people. Social capital supports learning, feeds it, finds an outlet and a purpose for it. If teachers, schools and communities do not cultivate social capital, students generate their own in inverted and perverted ways—in the subcultures of the smoking pit, the washrooms, and other dark corners of the peer group where friendship consolidates failure and economic opportunity is denied through shared social and educational exclusion. Social capital is foundational to prosperity and democracy. Developing it is educationally essential.

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