Role of Education

Theres 10 pages of the pespectives of education : marxist, functionalist, and new right. There is a summary at the end, and any key point is highlighted

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The Role of Education
Functionalism is based on the view that society is a system of interdependent parts held together by a
shared culture or value consensus ­ an agreement among society's members about what values are
Each part of society, such as the family, economy or education system, performs functions that help to
maintain society as a whole.
When studying education, functionalists seek to discover what functions it performs ­ that is, what does
it do to help meet society's needs?
Durkheim (1903)
Social solidarity
Society needs a sense of solidarity; that is, its individual members must feel themselves to be
part of a single `body' or community
Without social solidarity, social life and cooperation would be impossible because each individual
would pursue their own selfish desires
The education system helps to create social solidarity by transmitting society's culture ­ its
shared beliefs and values- from one generation to the next
School also acts as a `society in miniature', preparing us for life in wider society. Similarly, both in
school and at work we have to interact with others according to a set of impersonal rules that
apply to everyone.
Specialist skills
Modern industrial economies have a complex division of labour, where the production of even a
single item usually involves the cooperation of many different specialists.
This cooperation promotes social solidarity but, for it to be successful, each person must have
the necessary specialist knowledge and skills to perform their role
Education teaches individuals the specialist knowledge and skills that they need to play their part
in the social division of labour.
Parsons (1961)
Sees the school as the `focal socialising agency' in modern society, acting as a bridge between
the family and wider society
This bridge is needed because family and society operate on different principles, so children
need to learn a new way of living if they are to cope with the wider world.
Within the family, the child is judged by particularistic standards; that is; rules that apply only to
that particular child.

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In the family, the child's status is ascribed; that is, fixed by birth.
Both school and wider society judge us all the same universalistic and impersonal standards
In both school and wider society, a person's status is achieved, no ascribed
School is preparing us to move from the family to wider society because school and society are
both based on meritocratic principles.…read more

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The New Right is a conservative political perspective.
Its ideas have influenced both Labour and Conservative policies.
A central principle of New Right thinking is the belief that the state cannot meet people's needs and that
people are best left to meet their own needs through the free market. For this reason, the New Right
favour the marketisation of education.
They do not believe that the current education system is achieving these goals of meritocracy.…read more

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Chubb and Moe base their arguments on a comparison of the achievements of 60,000 pupils
from low-income families in 1,015 state and private high schools, together with the findings of a
parent survey and case studies of `failing' schools apparently being `turned around'. Their
evidence shows that pupils from low-income families consistently do about 5% better in private
schools.…read more

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Marx believed that ultimately the proletariat would unite to overthrow the capitalist system and create a
classless, equal society.
However, despite this potential for revolution that capitalism contains, it is able to continue because the
bourgeoisie also control the state. A key component of the state is the education system, and Marxists
see education as functioning to prevent revolution and maintain capitalism.…read more

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A key myth that education promotes is the `myth of meritocracy'. Meritocracy means that
everyone has an equal opportunity to achieve, that rewards are based on ability and effort, and
that those who gain the highest rewards deserve them because they are the most able and
Evidence shows that the main factor determining whether or not someone has a high income is
their family and class background, not their ability or educational achievement.…read more

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Morrow and Torres argue that society is now more diverse. They see non-class
inequalities, such as ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, as equally important.…read more

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· Marxists - values transmitted
are not society's shared
values, but rather those of
the ruling class
· Not meritocratic ­ schools
discriminate against some
groups and don't give them
an equal opportunity to
· Hargreaves (1982) ­ schools
place more value on
competition and developing
individuals than on a sense of
social solidarity
The New Right Chubb and Problems resulting
Moe 1990 from state
The state takes Propose that each
a `one size fits
family be given a
all' approach,
voucher to…read more

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Marxist Althusser The ideological
1971 state apparatus ­
controlling people's
Social beliefs
The repressive
state apparatus -
inequalities state uses force to
repress the
working class
Bowles and Correspondence
Gintis 1976 principle
between social
relationships in the
class and those in
the workplace
correspondence is
essential for social
The reproduction of
new generations of
schooled to accept
their roles in
capitalist society
Willis 1977 Studied working
class boys who did
not accept the…read more

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· Postmodernists
· Marxism is out of
date and
principle no longer
· Class divisions are no
longer important
· Feminists
· Schools produce not
only capitalism, but
· McRobbie ­ females
are largely absent
from Willis' study
· Disagree among themselves
· Bowles and Gintis
assume that pupils
passively accept
· Willis rejects simple
`brainwashing' view
· Romanticisation
· Willis has been
criticised for
romanticising the
`lads', presenting
them as
working-class heroes…read more


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