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Sociology Revision Essay

FUNCTIONALISTS

They look at all the positive sides of education and benefits. They believe that every institution in society performs one function or the other in order to help society run smoothly. Durkheim (1925) – he saw education as a transmission of society’s norms and values. It helps to unite and creates a sense of belonging, which he sees as social solidarity. We are taught subjects like history in order to learn more about our society. He saw schools as society in miniature, which helps us to interact with others, and prepares us for later life. School also teaches us specific skills needed in the industrial society, which can’t be taught by parents. Parsons (1961) – Education has 3 main functions:

A bridge between the family and wider society
Socializes children into the basic values of society
Selects people for their future roles in society

He believes that education makes the transition from the family to society as a whole possible by getting people used to the universalistic values and achieved status. It makes us believe in equality and individual achievement. The exam system encourages these values because it judges people fairly and motivates people to be successful Davis & Moore (1945) – They view education as a means of role allocation. It sifts and sorts people according to their abilities so that the most able gain high qualifications and progress to do functionally important jobs. The most important jobs are highly rewarded, thereby motivating the able and talented to work harder. They see education as meritocratic. That is, people are judged according to their ability and effort rather than who they are.

CRITICISMS

Marxists argue that it benefits the ruling class. They see it as promoting the values of powerful groups. Hargreaves (1982) believes it promotes competition and individualism rather than shared values. Feminism sees it as benefitting men.

MARXISTS

Bowles and Gintis (1976) argue that education is controlled by capitalists and serves their interests. There is a close relationship between schooling and work, because schooling helps to prepare children for work in capitalist businesses. This is seen as the correspondence principle. Capitalism requires a hard working, obedient work force that wouldn’t challenge the management. They believe that education prepares a workforce through the hidden curriculum. Conformist pupils are awarded higher grades than those who try to challenge the authority or are creative.

Pupils are motivated by external rewards after exam success just like workers are motivated by wages Both work and education are fragmented so that workers and pupils have little overall understanding of production or society. They see the idea of meritocracy as a myth. In reality, a person’s class and background is what influences how well a person does but because people believe that the education system is meritocratic. This legitimates the system, making it seem fair.

Neo – Marxists
Henry Giroux (1984) argues that:

Working class pupils do not passively accept everything they are thought but actively shape their own education and sometimes resist the discipline imposed on them by school. Schools are sites of ideological struggle for different classes, ethnic, religious and cultural groups. Capitalists have more power than any other single group but they do not have all the power. The education system possesses relative autonomy from the economic base; that is, it has some independence and is not always shaped by needs of the capitalist economy. Paul Willis (1977) conducted a study involving a group of boys (the lads) using interviews, observation and participant observation in the school. He found out that They saw themselves as superior to staff and other pupils

Not interested in getting academic qualifications
They formed a counterculture, which was sexist and racist.
They valued traditional working class masculinity and despised weakness

Social Democratic

Governments should play a major role in providing welfare through the state for its citizens in order to promote the well being of members of society. Society produces inequality of income and wealth, which creates inequality of opportunity. Those from advantaged backgrounds tend to do better in the education system. The state should make society more meritocratic. Success should be based on effort and ability.

New Right

They believe in private enterprise, based on competition between businesses, is the most efficient for running any service. Services provided by the state tend to be inefficient. People do not have any incentive to work hard since, unlike business, there is no competition. There are no customers paying for the service, meaning that state education is unresponsive to its customers. The main focus of education should be training the workforce which requires a new emphasis on vocational education.


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