REG. NO: 2012/4018
COURSE: SOCIOLOGY OF EDUCATION
COURSE CODE: EFC 705
COURSE LECTURER: DR A.O. K. NOAH
What is Self Fulfilling Prophecy and how does it affect educational outcome?
Robert K. Merton (1910 – 2003) Professor of sociology invented the word self fulfilling prophecy to help make tangible and popular the idea that some pronouncement or statement positive or negative can alter peoples action to bring about fulfillment of same pronouncement. It is, however a tragedy of human nature and experience that negative thoughts, ideas statements and actions bond more easily than positive ones. The word self fulfilling prophecy conveys an impression of a prophecy/statement that alters action and in itself is laden with the power and potentials of causing own fulfillment In actual and practical sense it is a prediction and a prediction has a probability of either coming to pass or not. In absolute term the prophecy depends on the powers that define whether it is errant or inerrant; in other words its ability to be beyond manipulation or interference. Wagar W.W (1963) posits that “the ultimate function of a prophecy is not to tell the future but to make it”.1 According to Wikipedia online dictionary @ en.wikipedia.org/wiki, Self Fulfilling Prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly cause itself to become true by the very terms of the prophecy, itself depending on a positive feedback between belief and behavior.2 The idea or the principle behind the self fulfilling prophecy had for long being part of human experience and implied in the thoughts and writings of early disciplined and observant minds like Bishop Bossuet in his seventeenth century defense of Catholic orthodoxy; Mandeville in his eighteenth century observations on the paradox of the human society; Karl Marx in his revision of Hegels’ theory of historical change. In the Literary world the principle of the concept was relayed by William Shakespeare in the tragic play “Macbeth” believed to have been written between 1603 and 1607but most commonly dated 1606. The play depicted Macbeth a Scottish Lord and general acting out a self fulfilling prophetic declaration of three witches he encountered, that one day he will become the king of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and prodded by his wife in a sequence of events and on the basis of the prophecy he murdered the king and took over the throne. Also in the science and techno world what came to be known as the Moore’s law was from the observation by Gordon Moore co-founder of the Intel Corp in a 1965 Electronics Magazine that the number of transistors per square inch on a microprocessor chip had doubled each year since the intergrated circuit had been invented. He projected in 1968 that this doubling continue into the foreseeable future and this proved essentially correct, with subsequent data density doubling about every 18 months.3 However, Robert Merton coined the concept essentially from the background and theoretical positions of Professor W.I Thomas that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.”4
The question Merton set out to address is can you convince people that something is good merely by telling them that other people like it? He believes it was indeed possible.5 The Self Fulfilling Prophecy is in the beginning, a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the original false conception come true. The specious validity of the self fulfilling prophecy perpetuates a reign of error. For the prophet will cite the actual course of events as proof that he was right from the very beginning.6 .The crux of the concept then is the falsity of the perception that sets in motion a negative course of events until its fulfillment. Merton gives a sociological parable of a rumored insolvency that eventually led to the crash in 1932 of the Last National Bank headed by Cartwright Millingville. The...