Social Norms

Social Norms

A Chapter by Debbie Barry

An essay, written for SOC 101: Introduction to Sociology.


Social Norms



The norms in a high school environment include many formal norms, since rules of behavior need to be spelled out for the safety of the children who are entrusted to the school.  If I had to serve temporarily as a high school principal, there are several formal norms that I would expect from my students:

·      Safety:

o   Students will not possess or use alcohol or illegal drugs on school property.

o   Students will not possess prescription or over-the-counter medications on school property; all medications will be secured in and dispensed by the school office.

o   Students will not possess or use firearms, knives, or other weapons on school property.

·      Academic:

o   Plagiarism will not be tolerated.

o   Excessive unexcused absence will not be tolerated.

o   Cheating will not be tolerated.

·      Social:

o   Racial and other hate language will not be tolerated.

o   Revealing or provocative dress will not be worn by students on school property.

o   Students will not use MP3 players during classes; students will not use cell phones, text, or email during classes.

o   Informal norms are generally set by the student body, or by groups within the student body, rather than by the administration.  However, I would use incentives to encourage the student body to reinforce desirable, informal norms.  These would include:

o   Students will "go green" at school by using recycling containers, and by turning off unneeded lights and water.

o   Students will practice good citizenship by helping each other.

o   Students will practice stewardship by taking responsibility for cleaning up their own messes, and by cleaning up messes that they find.

In general, it seems that formal norms are those that tell what one may not do, and that provide consequences for failure to comply.  It seems that informal norms are more often those that encourage and reward desirable behavior.

Formal and informal norms for college students are not that different from the norms for high school students, or, at least, they were not very different at the community college I attended in the 2008-2009 school year.  Because college students are usually legal adults, while most high school students are minors, some formal norms that would apply in high school might not apply in college.  From the list above, for example, high school students cannot be allowed to carry medications in school, because they are children, but adult college students may carry prescription and over-the-counter medications for their personal use.

© 2017 Debbie Barry

Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Initial reactions and constructive criticism appreciated.

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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: essay, sociology, social norm, society, social rules

A Journey through My College Papers


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..