AS Sociology Unit 2: Education

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An Idiot's Guide to The Education.
1. The function or role of education
Functionalists say it does 3 important things
Teaches the skills needed for a job (so helps the economy)
Sorts the clever people from the thick for the right jobs (allocation function)
Is secondary socialisation (so helps people fit into society).
Durkheim said the last one is done by passing on norms and values and this continues shared
values ­ a consensus. Thus we have social order.
Parsons adds that schools prepare children for the adult world too ­ and prepares them for the
competition they face as adults since schools are competitive (you have to compete with others
to do well).
Davis and Moore say we have to have unequal rewards (pay) to motivate the cleverer students
to stay on in education to learn and to be willing to do the harder jobs.
Functionalists see society as a meritocracy ­ people get what they merit/deserve in jobs based
on how well they've done in school.
Marxists say education does 3 things too
Helps capitalism by teaching kids what they need to work for the capitalists
Justifies inequality because the working class kids fail exams and look `thick'
Passes on beliefs that all is fair in society (passes on a ruling class ideology).
Althusser says it produces a docile and obedient workforce ­ they failed exams and accept
they only deserve a poorly paid job.Classbased inequalities just carry on generation after
generation because children grow up believing capitalism is normal, just and fair. Education is
part of the ideological state apparatus m
Bowles and Gintis say at school kids learn to accept a hierarchy (people in charge of others) ,
they accept getting a reward for doing something boring, they get used to a `working day' with
a lunch break, and they learn you get rewarded for following the rules. All this prepares you to
accept a boring job in capitalism.
Willis said not everyone accepts school ­ some kids cope by mucking about and they cope
with a boring job the same way too.
Bourdieu used the idea of cultural capital ­ middle class kids have a language, skills, attitudes
and knowledge which fit in with middle class schools.
Radicals like Illich want to get rid of schools. He says they simply look after kids so parents can
go to work, sort pupils in top job roles, pass on dominant values and teach skills. Just like the
functionalists really ­ but for Illich this isn't good enough. He wants to get rid of schoold and

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­ mainly all we need is training and this can be done at work ­ most of
what you learn at school isn't necessary!!!!
Criticisms of Functionalists :
Doesn't look very meritocratic when you see different achievement according to class,
ethnicity and gender! You can't really believe working class `deserve' to do badly! They
can't all be thick ­ something fishy is going on!!
Nepotism is still important ­ it's who you know, not what you know ­ hardly a meritocracy
­ I might be…read more

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Class and Differential Achievement in Education
Some important facts..…read more

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Halsey found working class didn't stay on at school mainly due to lack of financial
Douglas found children from poor conditions ( damp houses, poor food, overcrowding
etc) ­ working class! did worse in exams
Poorly paid jobs or unemployment (working class!) leads to less money for books,
computers, trips, less space to work at home etc. Rich kids can go to nurseries, private
school and afford university.
Poverty can cause health problems and absence from school.…read more

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Marxists say this is an important part of the cultural capital they have. Interactionists would
say this is partly what makes teachers label them as thick too ­ it sounds like you're
clever if you don't use posh words!
Criticism ­ there are lots of middle class kids who don't use elaborated codes and vice
versa. Anyway, they're just different, one's no better or worse than the other.
Bourdieu emphasised the cultural capital middle class kids have.…read more

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Some people believe some ethnic groups are simply cleverer than others and this explains it ­
but there's no evidence for this when social and economic factors are taken into account..
On the other hand, we can't blame it all on social and economic factors. In other words, when
we take into account social class by just looking at the working class, there are still some ethnic
groups who do worse.…read more

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Swann report found language wasn't in fact a problem for later generations
Driver and Ballard found that Asian children's language was as good as whites
by age 16
Interactionists say that nevertheless, dialects and accents will lead to labelling
and teachers will assume they're English isn't very good and put them in lower
classes and selffulfilling prophesy again!
Family Differences
Driver and Ballard say closeknit extended families and high parental
expectations of Asian families increases their achievement.…read more

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Men have more success at higher level courses at university and get higher beter
qualifications there
Girls go for communications subjects like English and Sociology and boys for technical
ones like Maths and Physics.
Girls did underachieve until about 15 years ago and these were the reasons given.....
Girls matured physically earlier than boys so did well in early education but boys caught
up and overtook by age 16.…read more

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Boys see women being independent, men not being the breadwinner anymore, high
male unemployment etc. Why bother doing well in school? You're not likely to have
to support a family ­ you might even get a job! This leads to antischool
Interactionists say teachers now label boys negatively. They see boys not bothering
­ especially with coursework. Selffulfilling prophesy again.
Feminisation means boys don't have so many role models any more. They see
women being in charge all around them.…read more

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In areas where there were more Grammar schools, more children could be `allowed' to
pass the exam.…read more


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