The Role of Education in Society: Marxist Approach

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The Role of Education in Society
Marxist Approach
Marxists challenge the functionalist approach. Althusser disagrees that the main function of education
is the transmission of common values. Rather, he argues that education is an ideological state
apparatus. Its main function is to maintain, legitimate and reproduce generation by generation, class
inequalities in wealth and power, by transmitting ruling class or capitalist values disguised as common
value. He argues that this is done through the hidden curriculum: the ways that schools are organised
and the way that knowledge is taught means that working class people are encouraged to conform
to the capitalist system, and accept failure and inequality.
Bowles and Gintis argue that education serves to reproduce directly the capitalist relations of
production- the hierarchy of workers from the boss down- with the appropriate skills and attitudes.
Education ensures that workers will unquestioningly adapt to the needs of the system, without
criticism. They suggest that what goes on in school corresponds directly to the world of work.
Teachers are like the bosses, and pupils are like the workers, who work for rewards.
Bowles and Gintis point out; however, that success is not entirely related to intellectual ability. Those
pupils who fit in and conform rise above are those who challenge the system. Functionalists see
education as turning pupils into model citizens, whilst Marxists argue that it merely turns working
class pupils into conformist workers.


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