Functionalism: role and function of education

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  • Functionalism: role + function of education
    • Key sociologist: Durkheim
      • education system must ensure that everyone has similar norms and values (cultural homogeneity)
      • Societies depend on shared values for their survival; if people value different things they will clash
      • education is necessary to create commitment to society and to control each individual's selfish desires
      • education is a key institution in secondary socialisation
      • function of education is to create social harmony
      • history is the most important subject at school because it gives students a sense of shared interests and common identity
      • schools act as a social microcosm. in school we learn to mix with others and interact with new people
      • education is where individuals learn to obey and conform to social rules
      • creates a skilled workforce. students must be trained by teachers and the role of education is to create these workers
    • Key sociologist: Parsons
      • school is a vital institution in modern societies because they are organised on meritocratic principles
      • students are treated equally by the education system regardless of their background
      • schools help to transmit the values of achievement and equality of opportunity
      • education creates value consensus in society
      • education must ensure that occupations are filled by those most suited to them
    • Key sociologists: Davis and Moore
      • role allocation
        • 1. it is possible to identify the functionally most important occupations in society
        • 2. education must select the talented and allocate them to the most important positions
        • 3. this benefits everyone, including the less talented, as the social system is able to progress since it's led by the best
    • Evaluation
      • assumption that students will passively respond to the education system
        • in reality, there are pupils that smoke, play truant, and do not hand in homework, despite the demands placed on them by the education system
      • is there actually a common set of values in contemporary society?
        • argued that these values are an imposition on people and a form of brainwashing which suits powerful groups
      • great deal of evidence to suggest that the education system isn't meritocratic
        • there are vast differences in attainment between class, gender and ethnic groups
        • meritocratic order isn't always desirable. those at the bottom are constantly battling to reach the top and those at the top are constantly looking over their shoulders for competition from below
          • this isn't a happy and harmonious society, and causes alienation and psychological trauma

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